That is simply the nicest thing I can say about United Airlines' first class service to Hawaii. They give you a cup of warm nuts. And to let you know that I don't just fly off the hook willy nilly, I felt the exact same way LAST YEAR when we flew to Kauai, and I exercised remarkable restraint in not blogging about the utter disappointment of the entire flight.
I realize this is a definite First World Gripe, and therefore expect to receive absolutely no sympathy, but unlike most others who might complain simply because their every precious little need was not seen to IMMEDIATELY, I am complaining because of how horrifyingly depressing flying has become...start to finish. And because every precious little need was not seen to IMMEDIATELY!
Gone are the days when flying was FUN! When you could even dash through the airport like a pre-slashing, pro football player, gleefully jumping over luggage and gate seating as you raced for your flight. Now, it is slow, methodical, monotonous, and just deeply disappointing.
Rise of the Machines.
The computer kiosk greets you. Once upon a time, you checked in with a smiling agent. Now it's a computer kiosk. An agent won't even speak with you until you have dutifully punched the stupid screen with your confirmation number, bag totals, birth date of first born child, etc. Then the non-smiling, distracted agent weighs your luggage, checks your ID (that thing you don't need to participate in selecting the world's most powerful man), and waves past you to the next in line. Move on.
Of course, we all know by now that the next lovely experience in your flight will be the groping by the TSA agent. I refuse to go through their Radiation Ray Gun Machine, and besides, I find that there are entirely too many blue shirts just standing around doing nothing but wasting my tax dollars, so I always request that someone come over and do. their. damn. job. Which is to ensure that I am not carrying high powered explosives. Besides, it gives me the opportunity to have a discussion on the merits of Constitutional rights and the limits of federal power.
After that exciting interlude (if I shut my eyes and fantasize, it's almost worth the trip!) we are off to our gate to find our "lane" and line up under the correct sign, like the good little lemmings that we are. Once boarded, I plunge into my seat, hand outstretched for that lovely, lovely cocktail -- and it is not there.
And here I break into my "In My Day" rant.
In MY day, first class was an "experience." It was intended to be luxurious, not utilitarian; you weren't merely being transported somewhere when traveling first class, you were flying. And when you flew to Hawaii...well...all bets were off. You were greeted with a fresh flower lei, there was cheesy Hawaiian music playing, and the flight attendant had a drink in your hand as soon as your coat was off. Which he or she helped with and hung up for you. Now? There wasn't even a flight attendant in the cabin as the passengers boarded. They were both up front in the galley, probably warming their nuts. After we all stowed our carryons, found closet space to hang jackets, got into our seats...and waited...and waited...and waited...a flight attendant finally appeared with a tray of -- GOOD GOD! ARE YOU KIDDING ME??? -- water. Fucking water to sip as we waited on the tarmac for the rest of the flight to board.
I was holding it together. Still smiling. Mostly because my husband had a somewhat meaningful grip on my arm. Okaaaaaay! I'll be good.
In My Day dinner was served on white linen with linen napkins and china, crystal and silverware. Your tray was set for you and a flower placed on each place setting. Then you received your menu, printed on quality stationery with your various choices for appetizers, salads, and a main course. There was always a selection of meat, fish, or chicken. Thankfully this was before the onslaught of the violent vegetarians. When your dinner was served, it was from a rolling cart, also draped in white linen. If you'd ordered chateaubriand, for example, it was carved for you at your seat. After dinner, the dessert menu was brought around, complete with a full selection of after dinner drinks. Lovely.
Shall I share with you what we were offered, kittens? Yes, of course I will.
Hoisin beef and vegetarian pasta. That's what they called the selections, anyway. In reality they were gelatinous mystery meat in brown sauce and Chef Boyardee. I ordered the pasta, because how can you screw up pasta? Well, there is one way, and they managed it. You don't cook it. Crunchy pasta with tasteless red sauce. I would have preferred ACTUAL Chef Boyardee. Then I could have stuck the soft, little round circles on my nose and had some fun.
There were chocolate chip cookies in paper baggies for dessert. Imagine my delight.
That was it. Other than the larger seats and the warm nuts we received in lieu of an appetizer, we arrived in Hawaii not one bit more indulged or spoiled than anyone else on the entire plane.
In My Day we were expected to meet your expectations...and we spent enormous money on raising them through advertising that promised a wonderful experience. You were treated as a special guest. Your comfort was a priority. Every possible detail was important to create an experience that left you feeling welcomed, refreshed, and even spoiled. Of course, I am perfectly aware of how seriously this idea has been degraded over the years, but I was holding out hope that on a vacation flight like San Francisco to Kauai, first class, there would still be a noticeable effort to offer something more than just a seat and a movie. Now, it seems, there is simply no amount of money that will get anyone to treat you as anything more than a warm body that is, frankly, cutting into their chat time in the galley. I don't suppose this is one of those rants that strikes a cord in anyone else, but having been a part of the industry when it was still vitally important that you made every flight a pleasant experience for everyone on board, and a LUXURIOUS experience for those few in first class, it just sucks that the loss of customer service as a true SERVICE has completely disappeared in flying.
I'm glad I worked for the airlines when I did. It was fun to treat people special. And people were sincerely appreciative of the effort. I don't imagine it would be much fun to hand out crappy beef in slimy sauce and cold, undercooked pasta and call it your best effort. I would be embarrassed.