Friday, February 18, 2005

On the Move

by AJ/Skald

Survived the flight to Tokyo, 9 hours in Narita airport, the 11 hour flight to Atlanta, the 10 hour drive to Winchester, Va.... made the presentation-- which went great, then jumped in the car and drove another 10 hours back to Georgia: and then crashed and slept with the dead.

Just woke up, head still buzzing. Have a few days here in Georgia and then its back to Bangkok...and then on to Hiroshima.

My first impression of the States was courtesy of Delta airlines. I flew Thai airways from Bangkok to Tokyo and Delta from Tokyo to Atlanta. What a difference! A few examples:

Offered newspapers in English, Japanese, and Thai.

Offered newspapers in English, Spanish, & Portugese?!?! (No Japanese papers on a flight originating from Tokyo. Did they run out? Are hordes of Brazilians flying from Tokyo to Atlanta... I didn't notice any).

A man is having trouble stowing his carry on bag. Two flight attendants rush to help him.

Im sitting in the exit row. The guy next to me has a laptop at his feet. Flight attendant comes by and says with annoyed voice, "You're going to have to stow that sir". He starts to reply, "Yes, but..." She cuts him off, "You must stow that sir".
"But there's no room in the overhead bin", he says. She huffs, "Just put it under a chair in the row in the next section!" .... "Uh, OK", he stutters.

General demeanor of flight attendants: sweet, smiling, eager.

General demeanor of flight attendants: hurried, gruff, bored.

Flight attendant walks to my seat, kneels beside me, and says, "Excuse me sir, did you order a vegetarian meal."

Flight attendant stands in front of my row and belts out, "Did someone here order a vegetarian meal?".

And finally, the worst Delta experience... and the one that pisses me off as a language teacher and expat:
A Japanese man is boarding. He is confused about his seat assignment and is standing in the galley, looking befuddled. A Delta attendant follows him and says, "Sir, where is your ticket?". He just stares at her and looks confused. "Sir, where is your ticket", she huffs. He obviously doesn't understand English and just stands there. She grabs the ticket from his hand and grumbles, "No, not the ticket to Lima... where is your ticket!"

He is now getting embarassed and tries to walk away. She pursues him and almost shouts, "Sir, I need to see your ticket".

I'm squirming at this point thinking, "Goddam it, he doesn't understand English!"

These people are working a Tokyo based flight. Is it that difficult to learn a few (airplane related) words in Japanese? Even I know "Doko" (where) and (ticket) "kippu". Barring that, couldn't she at least try to mime, or draw, or write what she was saying? Why not call a Japanese speaking flight attendant?

Delta is a billion dollar plus company, can't they afford to teach their flight attendants a few words in Japanese? Or at least teach them how to play charades?

What cultural arrogance. What incompetence.


D. S. said...

Is it any wonder Delta's nearly bankrupt? The people still with the company must feel like rats on a sinking ship, and are clearly taking it out on the customers.

AJ said...

Yes, no surprise that Delta is going under. If they want to be cheap and incompetent they should at least go the "budget airline" route and lower their prices.

By contrast, I will be flying Singapore Airlines from Bangkok to Osaka--- am looking forward to the contrast.