Having been a frequent flyer for the last 28 years for business and leisure, I have got used to accepting all levels of service quality (good and bad!) from Airline staff. I also very quickly forget them. However there have been a couple of instances that I will not forget and can recall as truly memorable experiences - and one of them was last week on a Sri Lankan Airlines flight from Singapore to Colombo.
I was flying on economy class, and this being the month of Ramadhan, I was fasting. Due to the flight timings, I was scheduled to breakfast immediately after landing in Colombo. About an hour into my 3 ½ hour flight, drinks and meals were served, and I declined without providing an explanation to the flight attendant.
Approximately 45 minutes before landing, a passing flight attendant suddenly stopped and asked whether I was fasting. A bit confused, I nodded and told him that indeed, I was fasting. "Why didn't you tell me?" he responded and walked away. After a few minutes, he hands me a bag filled with fruits and a drink and says that it was for my Ifthar. Since the flight was preparing to land, our conversation was cut short and I was unable to get the flight attendants name. His actions left me pleasantly surprised and the fact that he was a non-Muslim made my experience even more unforgettable.
This flight attendant gave me hope that the Airline industry is getting more and more aware of the needs of its Muslim passengers and is willing to go the extra mile! This incident will stay with me for a long time and will come to mind whenever I think of Sri Lankan Airlines.
Cathay Pacific is another airline I will remember for a long time due to a similar experience I had a few years back. This time I was flying from Colombo to Singapore and as soon as I had boarded the flight, I fell asleep. When I woke up, the flight was about to land and I had missed the meal served during the flight, leaving me hungry and thirsty.
The flight landed and as usual, everyone lined up on the aisle, anxious to get to their destinations. Understandably, the flight attendants were very tired after their strenuous work of operating everything peacefully during the flight. You know that their thoughts are on getting the passengers off the plane and getting some rest as quickly as possible, and you cannot blame them for having such thoughts after hours of balancing food carts during turbulence or handling some passengers who aren't always the most pleasant of people.
Where I was standing in the aisle happened to be near the front of the cabin where a stewardess was standing, ready to exchange pleasantries with the passengers as they start moving out. What happened next was out of the ordinary; she asked me how I was, and as usual I said FINE - which most often means "Feelings Inside Not Exposed"! It was definitely the case with me, since I was extremely thirsty having had nothing on the flight. Suddenly, came the most memorable moment in my years of flying: She asked "Can I get you a glass of water sir?" I was in desperate need of water and of course, said yes. She managed to get me some, even with people anxiously lining up on the aisle. Again, it happened to me as such a surprise, that when I realized what had happened, I had already started moving up to get off the plane and could not get a chance to really thank her!
It is possible that my thirst was visible on my face but for her to make an effort, ask me if I would like some water and then serve me water at a time when flight attendants are usually earger to rush passengers off was truly beyond my wildest expectation! After all of these years, this is still the memory I recall when I think of Cathay Pacific.
Although in-flight airline jobs look glamorous from the outside, I think it is probably one of the most taxing jobs in the service industry. Being on your feet for most of the time, serving even when there is (mild) turbulence, having to do it all within a certain time, and to deal with all types of passengers with a smile!; it takes a strong sense of work ethics to handle this on a daily basis and for extended periods of time! Of course, this is not an excuse for the not so impressive in-flight service that you sometimes get...and I have had a fair share of those instances as well.
The flight attendants in the two incidences did not have to do what they did, and that is why it stands out (at least for me). When some of them go beyond the "normal service" and surprise a passenger with an unforgettable moment, they do a great favor not only to the passenger but to their Airline as well.