When Jollibee is better

The legacy of flying budget

By Stanley Palisada

In the 2003 Gwyneth Paltrow starrer “View from the Top”, Candice Bergen who played accomplished Flight Attendant Sally Weston said “Gone are the days when people traveled in style”.

In the era of budget airlines, people take a plane as though it was just a bus. Flying today is like riding a pedicab or a PUJ where comfort or service does not matter as long as the airline delivers its promise to “get you there”-- and in one piece (literally, as you’re dead broke per additional baggage).

In the age of legacy airlines, air travel was a holiday in itself. People looked forward to flying to experience pampering in the sky, courtesy of well-screened flight attendants who exude the warmth and hospitality of the countries or cultures they represent. They made the flyer fall in love at 30,000 feet in those days (and I mean that in the most non-mile-high-club way).

In-flight meals were prepared by top (Frenchy) chefs and the aperitif, selected meticulously to please the most Britishly-discriminating traveler. Linen sheets, hot towels, newspapers of all sorts and in-flight entertainment were all part of the legacy airline experience.

Today, flights take off as unceremoniously as the printing of the eTicket. People are loaded up in packed cabins as airlines value profits in “seat cost per mile”--- more than passengers succumbing to Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) after being held for hours on an indecently cramped seat built for people with no legs. Travel is nowhere near “tranquil” as their safety card suggests.

Blame it on the fuel crisis, terrorism and the airlines’ unrelenting hunger for survival.

Passengers these days can only be thankful that their planes did not slam into iconic buildings or explode mysteriously over the ocean. Thanks to well-maintained planes (there goes your in-flight lunch) and the invasiveness of today’s airport security whose x-ray machines are built to detect man’s biggest (or smallest) secrets. Add to that the frisking and occasional “cupping” which makes me want to sue for acts of lasciviousness or slight physical injuries (for rough searches). As a frequent traveler, I go through all these airport molestations habitually.

And gone are the days of full service airlines as everyone’s going for ultra low fare. Again the fuel crisis has severed many of the privileges travelers once enjoyed. Planes need to fly light to save on fuel thus passengers should either be stick-thin or they travel naked.

Baggage allowance has decreased to almost nil. Okay, I know Filipinos are not light travelers but promo fares that only allow 7 kilos of baggage (which weighs just about as light as the nation’s self-esteem) is blatantly un-Filipino.

Nowadays many are forced to travel light or they “pay per succeeding kilo” upon check-in, which actually stalls the long queues in that yellow airline’s counter. On another airline an Econolite passenger’s seat gets a round sticker to indicate (with utmost humiliation) that his ticket is super cheap. The stickers tell flight attendants not to give newspapers or serve snacks that are exclusively for those who paid more.

But not to worry, the snacks they’re serving would really cost less than 20 pesos from a neighborhood sari sari store (you may buy on the way to the airport) as it’s merely soda crackers and water--- or menu befitting yoyo dieters and anorexic super models.

The other airline also does not serve free snacks. One has to buy from their trolley-full of Jack n Jill products (big fan of Chippy here but not at airborne prices) or a very expensive bottle of C2--- unaffordable even to their supposed budget-challenged guests. Apparently this low fare, great value airline wants to promote its other products at passengers’ expense. Literally.

Meantime the other emerging orange juice airline serves—well---orange juice (in doy pack) to its passengers, free of charge. It’s reminiscent of yellow airline’s free chiz curls and pepsi days when it was just starting up. Orange juice air serves free juice in-flight to attract a following. And it’s been a while since I last saw their juice brand outside a memorial park. It’s finally refreshing to have that brand associated with happier times!

Now back to that legacy airline also dabbling in budgetry… I once took its noontime flight to Cagayan De Oro and a group traveling on Econolite brought meals knowing that they will not be served anything on the plane.

The cabin reeked of Chicken Joy for the entire duration of the flight. The rest of us watched (mouth watering with envy) as the Econoliters devoured their lunch of 2-piece-fried-chicken-with-rice-coke-and-peach-mango-pie--- while the rest of us reluctantly finished off our sachet of Happy peanuts, gulping it down with a cup of coffee as bland as sugar crisis.

Passengers in the age of budget travel can really fight back at some of the airlines’ inequities.

After lunching the Econoliters handed over to the flight attendants their trash, plastics, spoons, forks, straws, empty Jollibee upsized cups, styrofoam packs with piles of chicken bones and dripping gravy.

Afterall Econolite does not mean airline will not take your trash as well. Mabuhay!

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