Fiona Fernandez: Excess baggage

Our national carrier needs to give their uniforms and its wearers a complete overhaul

It was one of those typical summery mornings in early June – mugginess in the air and an overcast Mumbai sky. There was a general sense of purpose and urgency all around. We were at the arrival section at T2. A few yards away, a bunch of kids from an NGO were spending their Sunday listening to the virtues of being eco-friendly in today’s world. Cool shades, Batman-printed pajamas, anxious grey-haired aunties – the airport, as most of us would agree, is a perfect laboratory to observe human behaviour of all kinds, with no real prototype.

Most of the flights that arrived in the hour that we were around, were from the Western Hemisphere – New York, London, Paris et al. Boots, tweed jackets, moccasins and an assembly line of fluorescent sneakers (what is it with Indian fliers [male and female] and sneakers!) made their way, ears plastered to their smartphones or headphones. Many, particularly flight pursers from other nations, were spotted taking off their work jackets, as soon as they got a whiff of the sweltering humidity. Nattily turned up, and with a sense of purpose, they appeared proud to wear their country’s colours on their sleeve.

And then, all of a sudden, it felt as if we were transported to a lakeside, where a cackle of geese held session; representatives of our national carrier were heard first, and later seen, in the most unappealing and disappointing tribute to India’s rich heritage.

With no real colour scheme that represents the nation, and a lackadaisical attitude, this bunch could have been mistaken to be sales reps at any standalone saree shop in Dadar. Worse, the sloppy gait and I-care-a-damn vibe didn’t win them any points among visitors at the arrival section. It didn’t paint a pretty picture at the world-class airport.

We wondered. Is this what it has come to be? A recent title on Indian advertising by ad guru Ambi Parameswaran offered amazing insight into the thought that went into creating India’s national carrier. The country’s pride was showcased, and utmost care was taken to ensure that flight attendants were the true ambassadors of India in another country — and this reflected in their appearance, communication skills, and uniform.

This was in the 1950s, and continued for a few more decades until the slide became all too obvious on land and in air. Don’t get us wrong – we aren’t taking the body shaming route here.

All we’d like to know is if the powers that be will ever sit up and take notice at this apathetic attitude towards one of India’s most prestigious brands. Starting from the uniforms; heaven help, the current cuts and colours need a total overhaul. The lesser said about passenger care, the better. And we won’t even attempt to get into flight timings. Time and again, we’ve heard frequent fliers’ rants like, “The food was great but how about service with a smile?”

Smiles, we’d like. But, the Maharajah days for our national carrier seem like a faded footnote in a travel magazine, especially if things continue at this pace.

mid-day’s Features Editor Fiona Fernandez relishes the city’s sights, sounds, smells and stones...wherever the ink and the inclination takes her. She tweets @bombayana. Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

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