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This is a collection of written pieces that comes from things I’ve thought and experienced; occasionally they are illustrated with photos that I’ve taken. They are here because I want people to enjoy them. This is a sort of print performance and as with other kinds of performance it is a meaningless exercise without an audience. So be my audience ...

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

AN UNPLEASANT EXPERIENCE WITH NORWEGIAN AIR


An incident on Norwegian Air Flight DY 7406 from Fort Lauderdale, Florida to London Gatwick. Monday 27 October Departure 23.00.

 

This is a weird one. It was an unexpected rush of aggression that occurred a couple of hours into an overnight flight from Fort Lauderdale to Gatwick. It was all the more unexpected because on the flight ‘over’, from UK to US the standard of service from Norwegian Air had been exemplary, to the extent that I seemed to tell everyone I met how excellent it had been. In an odd way I was even looking forward to the return flight.

 

On the return flight we had been served the ‘Nice and Tasty’ hot meal that with this airline you have to pre-order when you book and pay for your seat. A drink was served with the meal. The system with this airline is, first of all, to get that meal served and so the crew of four did. A problem that results from this is that nobody else gets a look-in on the ingestion front – they have to get those ‘Nice and Tasty’ meals out as a priority. Once you have received your meal, that’s that. No follow-up seems to be possible. And only then can people order something to eat and drink.

 

It’s a confession I have to make, on behalf of my wife as well as myself: at dinner we like to drink a little more than one plastic tumbler of wine. I could see the crew running around, up and down, serving those ‘Nice and Tasty’ meals but we wanted some more wine. We would happily have bought more wine but there just wasn’t anyone free to speak to. My wife and I both used the little blue light that tells the crew that we needed something; we did this in the full knowledge that the crew were very busy and we should not expect immediate attention.

 

When our two little blue lights had been on for about 25 minutes a female crew member leaned over and asked if she could help. We just said that some more wine would be nice - we mentioned that we had been waiting some time for attention - I estimated 25 minutes - she apologised and said she would get a couple of those little bottles of wine much favoured by the airlines. She was a nice woman, understanding and helpful; she didn’t seem to think our request was unreasonable.

 

The next thing that happened was a male crew member bearing down on us with two plastic tumblers of wine. It came as a surprise because we thought the female crew member was ‘seeing’ to us. I guess that the man knew we wanted red wine because he had asked the female crew member what she was doing searching out little bottles of wine. I don’t know why the friendly female crew member didn’t turn up to serve us. I think the man may well have been her senior. Anyway, from the time the tumblers of wine went on to our trays to the time when the male crew member left us there is something of a haze in my mind; the experience that we had in that short time was so dramatic and so unexpected that even as I set this down I feel my heart-rate accelerate.

 

I remember saying that I thought a wait of 25 minutes for an attendant call to be acknowledged was extreme. This was definitely in response to a question from him. He told me that the ration was only one beverage was served with the meal. I said that I didn’t know this and said that it might be wise to tell people this but I was happy to pay for more wine. At about this point the man kneeled beside me (I was in an aisle seat) and he repeated that only one beverage was served and I said again that I would pay for this extra wine and I repeated my concern over the long wait before any crew member responded.

 

We then entered the surreal element of this discourse. The man suddenly told me not to raise my voice. I had not raised my voice. (My wife sitting alongside me didn’t hear a word I said) He then said ‘I need you to calm down, Sir’. I was calm and told him so. I also said that my voice was not raised. He repeated the demand that I should calm down, several times, to the extent that whenever I started to speak he told me to calm down as I was speaking. He was ‘talking over me’ constantly. When, in the course of speaking to this person who was by now very much ‘in my face’ as young people would put it, I turned my face towards his and looked at him.  He told me that this was an aggressive act and if I repeated it he would CALL AHEAD AND ALERT THE POLICE SO THAT I WOULD BE ARRESTED ON ARRIVAL.

 

I still wonder how, in this situation I could have been a threat to him. My face was indeed close to his but I was strapped into a seat and he had made the decision to kneel so putting his face close to mine. I had definitely not used bad language and I had threatened him with nothing. What possible threat could I have been to him?

 

The male steward ended the situation by standing and walking back to the area where stewards gather to do their work leaving me with very little appetite for the drink before me. I’d like to think that he realised that he was the one who should calm down and that his obvious anger was getting out of control and he had gone too far. He flipped the curtain across the area and that was that. I remember noting that the man carried no name identification whereas the women stewards did.

 

A few points come to mind. The call button that illuminates a light above your head is not a request for anything in particular; it simply says that you want the attention of a steward. It could be that you have spilled a glass of wine over your clothes, it could be that you are feeling very unwell. So, obviously, it should not be ignored. If it is because a passenger just wants another drink and it cannot at that time be produced then all that is needed is a brief explanation, perhaps an apology, and for the light to be switched off. Throughout my period of waiting stewards were passing my seat constantly – and ignoring it. I could have been in real distress but they wouldn’t have known about it.

 

If a passenger is really upset about something that the crew member cannot resolve surely all that is necessary is a Complaint Form to be given out with an apology and an undertaking to pass the complaint to Management?

 

Norwegian Air attempts to control the timetable of its service by means of a touch screen in the back of the seat in front of you. There is a menu which includes access to videos and music and also to Duty Free Purchases and Snacks (which includes drinks). This implies that these choices are on offer all the time. They are not. The Snack service is closed down when a meal is being served. So, one’s desire for a drink cannot be expressed unless a steward responds to the call light. It might be possible for the Snack service to carry a message saying that Service is suspended temporarily and inviting orders that will be fulfilled later. The very clever computer system knows the seat number from which an order is made and paid for by means of one’s credit card (a simple slide of the card through a channel under the screen and the deal is done).

                                                                                                           

I also think that Norwegian Air should look again at its staffing. On this night flight I saw only four stewards, two male, two female, working on our end of the plane and with some 240 passengers to see to. Perhaps the man who was so rude and threatening to me was over-stressed?

 

Norwegian Air should also examine very closely the backgrounds and personalities of those they employ. The treatment I received had, I believe, been employed many times before by the man who was so unpleasant to me and suggests either a military or police background – he was not extemporising of that I feel sure; he was far too familiar with the technique he used. He reminded me of ‘Marshall Dave’ one of the men who took control of Gary Mulgrew (of the NatWest 3) after he had been extradited from the UK to the USA. This man forbade his prisoner from speaking at all or replying with anything more than ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ in response to a question and ordered that he should not ‘Eyeball’ him. In terms of customer service this unidentified man might have been an apprentice of Marshall Dave and it does no service to the reputation of what strikes me as being a pretty good airline to allow him to continue in the way I have described.

 

                                                                                                            KEITH DIGGLE

3 comments:

  1. Blimey! What have Norwegian Airlines said about it? I hope something, because this will come to my mind if we decide to use them.

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