Pressing my face against the glass window I gazed at the aircraft, it was my first sight of an airplane. That was the day we were taken to see off our Uncle who was an executive for Indian Airlines. His homecoming meant a prospect to visit the airport—an otherwise rare opportunity to meet famous people.
As we stepped out, we kids were eager to notice some attractive young ladies dressed in identical sarees and carrying matching handbags. They looked no less than heroines. Holding driver Moideen’s hand, we asked, “Who are these people?” Moideen answered with a bashful smile, “They are flight crews.” As time passed by, there grew a trend of young ladies joining airline jobs. We always wondered about what these people did inside a flight.
I fancied flying some day, but never realised that a meal was an integral part of it. It was only later that I found those elegant girls carried meal trays to passengers. Sometimes it’s funny to observe people eating in aircrafts—some appears as if they have starved for days or are making best use of the money spent for the ticket. And the limitless offer of complimentary alcohol in international flights only adds to its charm.
Subsequently, as a frequent flier, I began to explore further the factors concerning flight meals and the way service was provided in mid-air. Choosing our national carrier was more like being a loyal citizen, other than food there was nothing to be enthused about them. So I chose to travel regularly in a popular Middle Eastern airline, apparently voted as the best in air travel that carried a multi national crew which added to the advantage of many languages being used in the cabin.
Responding to my complaint against in flight vegetarian meals, my agent once hinted, “Why don’t you try the Hindu meal this time? It’s a new choice in the menu.” That was a lovely news and I pondered on how a foreign carrier could reflect on something our national airline couldn’t even envisage for
thousands of vegetarian travellers.
You may find it hilarious but my entire trip was converged around this dream meal, not that I have been ravenous before the flight, I just wanted to appreciate the airline’s care for vegetarians. After the flight was in the air, I could see people impatiently waiting for the food trolley.
As I slept off watching a sunset that led to an exquisite cosmic radiance, a soft hand tapped on my shoulder. “May I serve your meal please?” the Philippine hostess Monica asked gently waking me up from the slumber. Returning the starter, I requested, “Can I just have the main course?” I closed my eyes in anticipation as a meal of rice, stir-fried vegetables and a curry in creamy yellow sauce arrived. Before eating, just out of curiosity, I asked Monica whether she knew the dish. “You asked for Hindu meal, which is chicken curry and rice,” she said with a childlike naivety. So that’s what they call Hindu meal, I learned!
Desperate to get home this winter, I managed to get a seat only in our national airline. As I travelled with my countrymen, I again hoped for a nice mid-air meal. I have heard service had been improved—thanks to the new administration and ever-forgiving compatriots!
I was interested in the meal as usual. Enduring the nuisance of fully drunk French tourist next to me, I intently waited for dinner. To my disappointment, food was boring and both the entrée and mains included poorly made dishes of paneer, as if there’s no choice for vegetarians besides this dairy product. The food was substandard as always, and seemed as if they were determined not to improve their bad reputation.
In retrospect, I perceived two significant facts, to improve service we ought to be better patrons, appreciate and reciprocate. On banquets aboard, I believe they can undeniably improve a great deal. Airline companies must realise that imaginative and quality food would definitely make a huge difference to many passengers and their feedback.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain of restaurants