The Meanderthals

Out of luck on Air EuthanAsia

Alert! Alert!

There’s an oxygen failure at 37,000 feet that’s affected our flight staff on the Air Asia bumble from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney.

What else could explain the spiritless pronouncement from the flight attendant that they were not only out of food but also water. On an eight hour transcontinental flight. On an airline which charges extra for everything on board except for the air you breathe (stay tuned for further developments on that heretofore unexploited source in incremental revenue for “the world’s best discount airline.”)

Welcome to Air EuthanAsia.

Discount, as in off-price? Off-price, as in off their rockers? Discount, as in disinterested in customer service, which is routinely affirmed by Air EuthanAsia’s maliciously non-intuitive website. Airborne, however, incompetence seemed to have reached new heights by the time the nattily attired robots somnambulated through 90% of the passengers when they reached us.

There we were, blasting along towards Sydney after an 11:40 p.m. departure. It was 7:30 a.m., Australia time (roughly four hours after departure) and the uber friendly purser woke the sleepy passengers with the morning food gong. Which, as it turned out, was akin to inviting Cinderella to the ball and after she got all gussied up and made the schlep in a coach, telling her the dance was already a sellout.

Initially, I’d thought I’d pass on breakfast – it was still the middle of the night by my internal clock. But after reading the “No Outside Food Allowed on Board” warnings from Air Asia we hadn’t brought anything to eat on board. Besides – sleep was no longer an option, thanks to the purser’s announcement and the bright lights that suddenly made the cabin  sleepy interior blaze with solar intensity.

I took a quick look though the SkyShop & Café brochure (“Xplore & Xperience! “The slick marketing xtolled, getting me all xcited) and I briefly considered asking for a Mo Far Kor,  which is 16 grams of some Chinese stuff that will remain a mystery to me. I just thought it might be fun to say it really fast (try it!) when ordering.

I spotted pancakes on the menu and decided to pony up. It was, after all, breakfast time, as alertly pointed out by the Air EuthanAsia service crew.

Not so fast, Mr. Traveller.

I waved to the attendant as she made a beeline past my seat,  apparently bent on reaching the end of the row so she could dust up her nails. She was tugging a cart loaded with bottles and cans and the like, typically a sign of sustenance on most flights.

I said I’d like to order some food, which seemed to me like a perfectly reasonable request. She looked me square in the eye and ignored me, moving on to the next passenger and fixing him with a similar blank stare as he uttered something to him that seemed to please her synapses. She blinked.

I tried my luck with the one on the other end of the cart. “May I please have one pancake order, a coffee and a water?”

She looked at me, dumbfounded, a shell-shocked look of incalculable confusion beneath the pancake makeup. The one who had ignored me took this as her cue for action and jumped back into the fray.

“Oh, I sorry sir. No food. This flight only pre-order only.”

“Excuse me. No food? Are you serious?” I said to both of them.

“Yes.” They both answered, brunette twins in bright red tunics suddenly rejoining humanity for a brief attempt at interaction.

“That seems incredible to me. An eight hour flight and you have no food for purchase?”

(No answer.)

“OK, I’ll just have a coffee and a water.”

“Oh, sorry, sir, we run out of water. It long flight with many people.”

(Now it was getting interesting.)

“No water? This is an airline, right, and you do perform a pre-flight passenger headcount, right? And Air Asia’s policy is to prohibit any outside food, right? And you woke us up, basically to tell us that unless we had pre-ordered (and pre-paid) for food online we were out of luck?”

Now, keep in mind that during the course of the restless evening, these bobble-headed brunettes in crimson hadn’t made so much as a guest appearance in the aisles. Gawd knows what they did in the galley for the long hours of flight, other than avoid customers and fail to keep the toilet paper dispenser filled in the loos.

They stared at me. I continued.

“I’d like to speak to the purser. And I’ll take the coffee.” I resisted the temptation to inquire whether creamer was extra, knowing that the sarcasm would fly 30,000 feet over their heads.

A few minutes later a wonderful young man appeared at my side, as incredulous as I to learn that this restaurant in the sky was out of food and water.

“We have food, sir.”

“They told me they were out of food.”

“I don’t know why they told you that. We have food.”

“They also said you are out of water.”

“Out of water? We have, sir. I don’t know why they told you that. I will speak to them.”

Stunned, Gabi and I stared at each other in disbelief. Having lived in this part of the world for nearly three years, we’ve become accustomed to any manner of service mishaps which are typically handled with profuse apologies and earnest efforts to make things right.

But these women were as interested in serving customers as the Uzi-loving NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre would be helping President Obama enact tougher gun US laws. There was plenty of giggling and chit chat between them as they moved at glacial speed from customer to customer, dispensing packaged snacks and ostensibly pre-paid and pre-ordered food. There must have been a huge run on bottled drinks and hot coffee, which must also have taxed their frighteningly limited abilities to the max.

Having lost my appetite – mostly for forking over so much as one dollar more to the yawning maw of the Air EuthanAsia cash vacuum – I turned down the purser’s offer to buy food and instead asked for a water for Gabi.

It was without question one of the most baffling and awful customer service experiences in this frequent flier’s time in the sky. And I haven’t even mentioned that they also ran out of (for sale) blankets and “comfort packs.” I’ll save that for another time.

But there was one pyrrhic victory out of the intriguing conversation – we got a free bottle of water in compensation for the inexplicable lack of mental acuity on the part of the staff.

Never did get the pancakes, though.

One comment

  • I’ve just come across your blog through one of the expat blog directories. Really good stuff. If it’s any consolation all the worst flights in the world are out of KL. I think the staff are so sad to leave Malaysia that they give up on customers. No matter which airline I’ve flown and to which destination – they’ve always been terrible. I had the flu on Gulf Air (a flight to Saudi via Bahrain) and couldn’t get a glass of water for 4 hours… It’s a shame really because I love KL but it always makes me hesitate about visiting.

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