Australians travel again. Sometimes our luggage even comes with us. But too often, particularly for those flying Qantas, the humble suitcase thinks we let it break too soon and prefers to continue social distancing, at least with its owner.
I am as horrified as the next passenger that our stingy national airline has outsourced so many jobs. And while that’s not an excuse, I wasn’t surprised yesterday to read Alan Joyce’s apology to frequent flyers, whom he clearly feared would be less frequent.
But yesterday I also read about an Ethiopian Airlines flight where the pilots fell asleep, forgot to land and, according to the herald of aviation, “they were awakened by an onboard alarm that began to sound when the aircraft passed the descent point and the autopilot disengaged.” Good job, they didn’t put it on repeat.
It has happened more than once recently. In April, the captain of a transatlantic flight also allegedly fell asleep while at the controls of Italy’s new national airline, ITA Airways.
Such alarming stories should placate passengers upset about the loss of their bags. Commercial aviation has become a mundane miracle, and it is a compliment to the industry when passengers complain about flight delays and lost luggage.
Airlines rarely make the news for good reason. Just like banks and telecommunications companies, we throw them away whenever possible. And while they’re all worthy of criticism at times, particularly when profit is prioritized at the expense of service, I can’t help but think that we’re often too quick to condemn those magnificent men and women in their flying machines.
I was flying from Singapore to Sydney when the captain announced a 40-minute delay. This otherwise nondescript man with shoulder stripes was transporting several hundred souls in a class-conscious rocket across oceans and deserts, but when he announced a minor delay, we groaned in unison. We may have been pushed around like sardines, but there was still enough legroom for a knee jerk reaction.
When we’re jet lagged, flatulenced, and fed up with Styrofoam food, we sometimes forget the operational complexities of flying people around the planet. Given the enormity of the task, something will invariably affect the perfect journey from A to B: if not a delay, then a seat that can’t recline, dodgy headphones, a leaky toilet…