Backpacking 2 months between Malaysia and Singapore, I finally reach KLIA2 airport in Kuala Lumpur to take a flight back to India.
Next destination is Chennai, flight is AK011, on 11 Oct 2014.
I am at the airport 8 hrs before flight schedule.
Spent some time working on my laptop, looking for charging points, tasting some food and well, standing in a short queue for long long time.
“Finally, the time has come for check-in and I can happily get some well deserved sleep in the flight”, I thought to myself.
The queue is not long, but seems like moving slow, just too slow.
Oh wait! what’s happening.. where are you guys .. oh my! Did you just cut queue!!! (A young Indian origin Malaysian man cuts the line with 4 female members of his family)
1.5 hours later still in queue, as I alternate my stare between the yellow line “Don’t cross”, and the family that is still in front of me at the counter.
Why does it take so long to process 5 people I think.
Few more minutes and I check-in, got 10F assigned and I move away (takes less than 3 minutes for my check-in. There is a system problem.. airlines check-in crew is writing things up by hand)
Walking in, eyes glued to the seat numbers … Aha! 10F, I open the cabin baggage compartment .. It’s already full!
But wait!, there is space just enough for my thin laptop bag to slide in. Cool.
Lock the compartment, look down “Wait a minute! was this man here sitting in my seat already?”
His face seems so similar like I’ve seen him before.
Before I open my mouth to ask him, 2-3 people from the row 9 start demanding the steward beside me “He (the person in my seat) HAS to sit here”
The steward shows me 11F, I obliged.
A little not impressed that the steward didn’t ask me if I wanted to give my assigned seat to the person who somehow has already claimed it.
Neither did the person want to ask me, or even look at me (people generally atleast take a glance at the person whose seat they might have taken).
Somehow he lets people in row 9 do the talking for him.
I wonder where have I seen this face. And why are people popping out of their seats to take a look at him.
I can understand bits and pieces of Tamil and seems like people want to take selfies with him. But no one went on to take one.
Now at 11F, a person’s face gets too close and I go like “What the”
Oh he’s trying to look out of the window. Both he and his friend 11 D,E
Their constant inquisitiveness to what’s outside aircraft tells me they are probably new to flying or new to Malaysia’s airport.
I offer them my seat and let them have fun. I feel happy that they were happy too.
I am now at 11D, trying to settle in but life has other plans.
“I want this seat”, shouts a woman over my head. I turn back in surprise to what’s happening!
She is talking to the steward. She wants the seat where I’m sitting now.
“And I want my father to sit with me”, she says (She wants 11D and 11E, but the row is already occupied)
The steward asks me to get up and move to another seat he shows me, 12E.
Strange, and yet again you don’t ask if a person wants to change.
I feel a bit irked, but I let go because I hear the adamant lady again “I am pregnant and I want this seat and I want my father to sit with me.”
She is still not talking to me, or talking to me indirectly but facing the steward. Strange people.
As I get up, I notice no baby bump (so well, probably early stage of pregnancy), but anyway the lady is pregnant so I oblige again.
Oh boy, there is no space to move around and get to 12E. Why am I surrounded by 4 people looking at this lady with their bags in hand.
They are looking at this lady and then at the cabin baggage compartment over 10 and 11 (DEF) row. Surely there is no space there.
I look around and I see empty space in cabin baggage 2 rows ahead and suggest them to park their luggage there.
To which, I get a cold shoulder glance and denial of existence. I figure out they were family of this lady and well, forget being thankful for giving up the seat, they probably also want me to remove my luggage and create space for them or something.
Even if I did remove my thin laptop bag, there isn’t space for the bigger bag they were holding on to.
Alright, let’s move to 12E.
“Hi Uncle, can I get in”
I get stared through the glasses of a mid-aged semi-obese (not fun, just describing… I’m bit fat myself) man, who had his right palm glued on the empty 12E seat, didn’t move an inch of his leg to let me in and kept staring.
The very body language that says he’s not happy to see the empty seat beside him fill up.
I later took a picture of him, as you see below. His foot planted onto the empty seat for some comfy sleeping time, his hand takes rest on his thigh. Next time you’re flying AirAsia AK011, you know that 12E seat was foot planted by this uncle :)
So I stand and see if the steward can help. But dude is busy trying to accommodate the pregnant lady and her demands.
I watch helplessly as I see him getting bullied around by the passengers for seats.
This seems so much like an Indian state travel Bus!
I get a small smirk smile on my face as the image of what’s happening overlaps with an image of Crowded bus in India where people are standing, REQUESTING others for seat (oh yeah requesting, AT LEAST in Indian stage buses people talk to the people in the seat for a swap), and wondered to myself if soon there will be a state of life where you would travel airlines standing crowded like a local Bus/Train.
Smirk on my face wipes away as I hear “I was all these 6 seats, I want my family to sit with me” from the pregnant lady again!
She now wants 11 (DEF) and (12(DEF) or 10(DEF)), and I take an imaginary facepalm to myself.
I lose a bit of patience and I try to move into 12E while the steward is still busy attending your highness “man with familiar face” and “early pregnancy stage lady”.
As I almost decide that I will settle down at 12E, I hear the steward “Sir you can sit here” (He’s wanting me to move to 11D again!!!!!).
Why? Because the pregnant lady suddenly changes her mind that she will move 2 rows forward into row 7 with her whole family who was still there standing and staring at all of us (ie., any six passengers in and around where the lady demands her seat to be).
I lose my mind now.
But I don’t want to show anger. I haven’t been angry in the last 2 years. I want to stay calm.
The only words I say are “Is this a bus or a plane”? To which the steward’s response is “Sir please you can go back to 12E)!!!
I close my eyes, grind my teeth a bit, say “enough is enough” to myself and decide to STAND.
Yes, it’s been 17+ hrs I’m awake. I was carrying an effing heavy backpack before boarding, not rolling suitcases/trolleys.
It’s time I rest, but I decide to stand.
It is my way of peaceful boycott, to the whole mess they made up at AirAsia today leaving very less difference between a scenario in a crowded bus in a 3rd world country to an Airline.
Between this whole process, the plane takes off almost 1+ hrs late
But standing right now is both going to cause discomfort to passengers who are fighting for seats and also I need to be seated during take off and landing.
I take 11D for few moments, let it take off, and then I boycott by standing at the rear end of the plane.
I keep moving left and right to not hinder the crew taking out their trolley boxes in and out.
When that’s done, I still need to keep moving to not cause discomfort to people who are in-out of the lavatory.
Once the steward was done running around, I try to strike a conversation with him about the situation and he is LEAST interested.
Between my one line of sentence being obstructed 4 times, with his conversation with the stewardess and finally he turns to me and says “I gave you a biiiiig seat with leg room(with a hand gesture of biiiig), you didn’t take” and he doesn’t even bother to listen to my response.
His logic was, as long as I gave you a seat, I could have you move any number of times as I want.
Someone please tell AirAsia that not everyone is in greed of big seats and leg room.
Some people care about the class you maintain in an airline. The amount of professionalism you carry and most importantly “self-respect”.
The other steward comes in to have a conversation with his mates, and takes a glance at me.
I tell him the reason I’m standing here and that I might write this up in my blog when I land. His response “No problem, you can do that”
(with a flat face of I dont care!)
WoWZa! Slow claps for AirAsia.
I spent my time moving left to right (Oh! I already said this), overhearing conversations of the cabin crew (which included some random numbers and topics of ex-boyfriends of the stewardess in a language I didn’t understand[probably malay]), playing Peek-a-Boo with a small cute kid, feeling hungry and wondering if I should buy Uncle Chin’s chicken rice (but couldn’t stomach to eat in front of toilets) and being plugged into music; and of-course taking these pictures.
Immediately as I land, I leave tweets to @AskAirAsia and @AirAsia and head off to their office at Chennai Airport.
@AirAsia handles the issue of passenger standing in airlines by asking me to fill up an e-form!
Also, Figured out the man sitting in 10F, the seat assigned to me, was an actor who appears in supporting roles of South Indian movies, named PonnamBalam.
I submit a hand written complaint, and get promised that I WILL receive a call about this the next day (Sunday) without fail.
I head off to Chennai Station for the next destination – Hyderabad.
I have no time visit my friends houses now, thanks to late landing and time spent at AirAsia’s office).
A complete 32 hrs later, I get my first dose of sleep in the train (which also ended up starting 2.5 hrs late).
Sunday, I’m in Hyderabad and there is no call, no email from AirAsia.
As monday too starts to pass by, I wonder if @AirAsia doesn’t even bother. I tweet to them, and their reply is
My dear travelers, backpackers, and everyone. Did you know Standing seats could be a reality in future of Airlines?http://edition.cnn.com/2014/07/10/travel/standing-cabin-plane-study/
However, if you are eager to experience standing in an airplane travel even before that happens, you should try AirAsia!
Yay! I’m promoting them .. AirAsia, if you are seeing this you should send me a gift. (sarcasm, if you don’t get it AirAsia)
Tough luck that you cannot be the first, because they already helped me become ‘The first passenger in the World to stand in an Airline’. Yippie!
If you do try, please don’t forget to order a Coke and drink it while facing the lavatory.
The sugar and Caffeine in Coke helps you stay awake a bit, and helps soothe the numb sensation in your legs (esp if you have been awake like me for 21 ish hrs before landing)
I’m wondering if their slogan will soon change from “Now Everyone can Fly” to “Now Everyone can Fly Standing”
Tuesday goes by too, and now it is Wednesday and I haven’t heard from AirAsia yet.
Super Slow Claps and the reason why I ended up publishing this blog post.
Because AirAsia doesn’t give an eff about it’s passenger’s concerns.