By Mansor Puteh.
I am sure many people especially Malaysians would like it and will enjoy it if they get to fly in business class or better in first class.
But it is not fun to do that because you are in a small group of people who are mostly to themselves doing their own things and especially those flying first class who are basically trapped or locked in their own small cubicles all the way from the airport where their plane had taken off to their destination which can be five to ten hours or more long.
Flying in the economy class is what flying is all about where you have to line up in a long queue and anxiously wait for your turn to be served and given a boarding pass or to enter the plane to take the seat you have been allocated for.
And waiting for meals to be served can also be daunting and suspenseful when you see the in-flight staff pushing the trolley from way down at the beginning of the aisle slowly serving the passengers at the front rows before they come to your own and handing a tray of food to eat.
But in-flight entertainment today is much better than it was before that you can choose which programs to watch instead of being served one that you had to watch or be distracted with.
In the beginning there was this Super-8mm projector that the plane had which was bulky; then it was changed to the VHS-player and now there is a monitor at the back of every seat that has many channels or programs one can choose to watch.
And it can be fun if one gets to sit in a row of two other seats that are vacant all the way on the trip.
I had never flown in business class before. But had to when I was told that there were no more seats for the flight I had to book and fly to go to Amman in Jordan in September, 1999.
And it seemed that the best offer was from Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) an airline I had flown many times before the first time was from Kuala Lumpur’s Subang Airport to New York City which took me on a transit at Karachi Airport where the airline offered a day’s stay at their airport hotel since there was no connecting flight to New York City.
I took full delight in this since I was able to stopover at Karachi and visit the city and Pakistan for the first time. I took a cab and paid the drive for five hours to show me around the city where I took photos and stopped at some interesting places.
It cost RM1,600 for the one-way flight then.
I had to fly on PIA again the second time to go to Amman, but it turned out to be a nasty experience. Fortunately for the airline I had no prior experience confronting the problems I had to face so I did not know how to take action to rectify the remedy, for which I could benefit immensely from.
Maybe I was forgiving then.
The ticketing agency I went to in Kuala Lumpur said all economy seats were booked so I had no choice but to buy a business class one since I had to go to Ramallah in Palestine where the Khalil Sakakini Cultural Center there had planned to show some of my earlier films and television programs at their center.
I was delighted to be invited to such a function as it would also allow me and to give me a good reason to visit the City of Ramallah and Palestine for which I had to get special permission from the government to allow me to go there.
Malaysians are allowed to visit Palestine especially Baitulmukaddis, but they have to get such a permission.
And I was given the permission and managed to go on the trip.
However, on the flight I saw many vacant seats in the economy section. And in the business class were four persons.
I thought they wanted to force me and the others who comprised of Japanese and non-Pakistanis to buy business class tickets.
And as soon as the flight takes off, Pakistani passengers from the economy section rushed to grab seats in the business class section.
I was going to Amman in Jordan. And on the flight back, the business class counter was opened to economy class passengers and I had to line up with the rest.
When I complained, the PIA counter staff changed the luggage tag of my luggage not to Kuala Lumpur via Karachi but to Karachi and Lahore in Pakistan.
So when I landed at KLIA I discovered my main luggage missing. I dutifully lodged a complaint at the counter and they located my luggage in Lahore and ordered it to be sent to KLIA where the airport staff finally delivered to the house twelve days later.
If I had been petty and wanted to seek revenge I could take this case to the consumers’ complaint tribunal and get a full refund for the ticket and also some compensation.
But my worse experience flying long distance was on Northwest Airlines from KLIA to Los Angeles, return, where the staff gave me what they thought was halal food on the Los Angeles-KLIA sector.
The food was vegetarian food and it was stale and I vomited a lot and filled the bag and another one.
I sought advice from a lawyer who brought the matter to the airline who offered a business class return ticket to Los Angeles, which I declined to accept since they admitted to the mistake.
That was a mistake because I still could take the offer and fly to Los Angeles and make another trip on the Greyhound around America which I did in my last two visits to the country and enjoy flying business class on the airline or any airline for the first time to be able to write about it later.
It was a mistake which I realized much later when the offer had been forgotten as I had told my lawyer then not to pursue the matter.
Or I could have also asked to be given two economy class return tickets to Los Angeles, one I could give to the lawyer who probably did not have any use for it.