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A customer quibble for Air Astana CEO Peter Foster

10 may 2011, 14:26
2

I’ve got a complaint for Air Astana Chief Executive Peter Foster.

Don’t worry, Peter, it’s not one of the standard airline gripes – high fares, poor service or lackluster food.

Peter, old chap, you’re hiring people who are way too smart.

A few months ago, I boarded an Air Astana flight from Astana to Frankfurt, where I was to get on a connecting flight to the States.

Every seat in coach class was taken. That’s a good deal for an airline – it means it’s making tons of money on that flight.

But it’s not a good deal for passengers. To start with, no matter where you sit, somewhere near you will be a bawling baby or toddler; a geezer who snores like a buzzsaw, preventing everyone else from nodding off; and a fat guy with body odor.

I had put in a full day’s work before boarding the plane, and was desperate to rest. A jammed coach section wasn’t going to do the trick. So I began plotting.

I noticed as I walked down the aisle to the coach section that there were a few empty seats in first class.

I harkened back to the day in Tokyo when my friend Bill Glaza, the public relations director of Northwest Airlines’ Far East operation, had learned I was heading to the States for an important conference.

I was a journalist in Japan at the time, and a p.r. guy is always smart to do a favor for a journalist. So Bill did. He upgraded me to first class.

It was heaven. The service and food were superb, the leg room great, and I slept like a baby.

Longing for a repeat of that experience, I motioned to one of the Air Astana flight attendants.

“Yes, sir?” she asked politely.

“Miss, my brother is Peter Foster, the Air Astana CEO. He was supposed to book me in first class, but he didn’t,” I said. “Would you please put me in first class, as he wanted?”

At that point, I dropped my Financial Times in the aisle. I did it deliberately, although I tried my best to make it look like an accident.

The Financial Times has that distinct salmon color, so no one can miss it. Everyone in Kazakhstan knows that Peter Foster is a Brit. I figured that possessing the important British publication The Financial Times would give the story that I was his brother more credibility. Peter’s brother wouldn’t read just any old trash, after all.

But the flight attendant, a tiny Kazakh beauty who looked fresh out of university, appeared skeptical. So I pulled out my passport.

“See, here’s my name – Hal Foster. I’m the journalist and professor. Peter’s my younger brother. The family is awfully proud of him, you know – he’s really made good with his career. But I’m going to have to admonish Peter about this mistake with first class. Either he’s slipping, or his secretary is. Tsk, tsk, tsk.”

The flight attendant glanced at the passport for only a moment, which told me she had already made her mind up about whether to award me first-class refugee status.

At her tender age, I figured, she would worry that I really WAS ole Pete’s brother, and err on the side of caution by leading me straight away to the Promised Land of commercial air.

I became even more hopeful when she suddenly broke into a big smile, although I didn’t like the way her eyes danced as she prepared to speak.

She leaned over my seat and whispered: “Nice try.”

I was crushed. She was so pretty and so polite as she was sticking the dagger in my ribs that I couldn’t say a thing to her.

That’s why I’m complaining to you, Peter.

Those of us who fly a lot want airline staff with some smarts, of course. Otherwise, we’ll be getting free Cognac with our meals when we’re supposed to be paying for it. Now that would be terrible for us passengers, wouldn’t it.

But, Peter, please, don’t make ‘em too smart.

Drop-dead gorgeous or hunky handsome would be fine.

If I wanted Einsteins, I’d fly Lufthansa.

 


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