Monday, October 6, 2008

Thai Airways

Thailand is without a doubt the Land of Smiles. Most of them are even sincere, they are not simply demanded by a culture of hospitality, but rather are genuine expressions of solidarity: thank you for your smile! here’s one of mine! let’s both have a great day! Life really is better if everyone is actively trying to engender happiness for everyone else. I love Thai people, and I can tell you without reservation that Thailand is a great place to live. Somehow, though, all of this does not make Thailand a great service country.

As in restaurant service, hotel service, any kind of “service” employment. Perhaps it is the absence of tipping in the Thai cultural landscape. No gain, no pain, so to speak. Whatever the cause, Thai service is generally inefficient, and often downright lackadaisical. Oh, the wait-staff is very nice, and kind of friendly, but you can forget anything like fast service, or fact-based answers to your questions, or any intention to get your order right, or even the slightest consideration.

So it’s not surprising that the Thai government has for the last year been trying so hard to convince the cabin staff of Thai Airways to behave better and offer better service. They are, after all, the flag carrier of this great nation, a nation that relies on tourism for much of its prosperity. They are also a very, very expensive airline on which to fly. More expensive than competitors like Singapore Airlines or Emirates Air, airlines where the service makes you happy that the flight is eighteen hours so that you can have more time with the delightful cabin staff, the lavish in-seat entertainment, the great and abundant food, and the free drinks. The food is good on Thai Airways, but the customers and the Thai government are not happy with the level of service.

But somehow, simultaneously, the advertisements for Thai Airways always stress that the service of the Thai Airways cabin staff is so second to none that to fly any other airline is simply foolish, even if it is not a question of money. Do not be misled.

Just another of the world’s conundrums. I recommend Eva Air myself. It’s a Taiwan based company with great aircraft, great pilots, the best safety record in the world, fabulous food and in-flight entertainment, comfortable cabin layouts, and an angelic cabin staff. Plus, Eva is a good bit cheaper than the other top-drawer, long haul airlines.

Singapore Airlines is my second choice. Somehow, every single one of the air-hostesses could tell you that she’d been Miss Universe and you’d just ask, dizzily, what year? A sometime benefit on Singapore is that the prices may leave enough empty seats for you to find a few and stretch out for a good sleep in economy. Another tip for Singapore Airlines: the price comes down as the flight plan becomes less convenient. More stops and longer holdovers equals big reductions in price. Also, the airport in Singapore is a great place to kill eight hours. Lots of comfortable seating to stretch out on an sleep, and lots of police and machine-gun armed Gurka soldiers to keep you safe. The Gurkas keep their fingers safely on the trigger guards and they never actually draw their beheading “Cukri” knives. They only wake you up once in a while, and then only to ask you if you are ok.

My sincerest advice is to avoid the cheapest air fares like the plague, which before a few hours have passed you will wish you only had instead of sitting there, trapped in that little seat, watching nothing, because nothing works, and hoping that the cabin staff doesn’t follow through with their obvious desire to kill you.


Anonymous said...

You might want to keep a plane ticket handy:

"The Thai military announced that it would deploy unarmed troops to help the police keep peace in the days to come." -NYT 10-7-08

Unarmed. Yeah, right.

fred c said...

It's like Thai vegetarian food, there's only a little bit of meat. So they'll leave at home the Browning M1A1 1918 .50 cal. MG's that they are so fond of, and just take along their 7.63 mm H&K battle rifles (assault rifles are for pussies). The King's home is nearby, after all.

I love the King, and I'm being absolutely serious. Buy me dinner and I'll give you the rundown.