Thursday, December 26, 2013

Air India's customer service: love for white and inherent racism against their own

As I sat over my Air India experience on my travel home (yay!) I wonder now, if they do in fact embody the 'spirit' of the country more than I do?

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There's an 'uncomfortable' Air about Air India pic via



I was sitting in the economy class with a couple of Punjabi gentlemen who were enjoying their conversations while I sat in the middle. I offered to sit on the aisle seat to have them continue their conversations at ease. But then I discovered the TV screen wasn't working at this new seat. I asked the air hostess for help who didn't really seem forthcoming but then I live in Germany, so all I did expect was her to solve it and just that. She reset the screen and it didn't work. I called her back again, but she scolded me (almost) saying these things are done by 'maintenance guys'. Of course I seemed to be asking her to help me on something that was beneath her work status level. I asked if there were another seat empty. There were a couple, she said she would transfer me, and when I asked (everyone was seated by that time) she said the boarding was still on. I know it wasn't. Later, I requested the guys to let me get back to my original seat because I can sit through a 7 hour flight with no movies. They did and I almost felt guilty for one of them having to look at the black screen and the air hostess ignored his situation throughout.

In the morning at 6, we had water dripping from the air conditioning that woke up the other passenger sitting next to me. He told the air hostess who proceeded to get a tissue and of course couldn't do much else. He couldn't sleep with this massive water pouring and started talking to me about how he felt the planes needed maintenance since we had first experienced a faulty screen and now the water dripping. At this point, the air hostess heard us. We were close to landing, and she had been already seated on her crew chair. She instantly got up and in an animated fashion, started off, 'if you would have known some science and used your brain (pointing at her head here and rolling her eyes), you could see this is a normal process of condensation and wouldn't blame air India'. It took me a few seconds to realise this was happening for real. I immediately responded saying 'perhaps she could learn to quit being rude to customers'. I spoke for that guy next to me that she had talked down to. He didn't speak much English and I felt she almost used that against him. She kept looking at him and pointing and basically telling him that he was dumb. Two Germans in front of us also felt the water and joked about a 'water shower' to which she proceeded to join the joke with them and gossiping with them on why they were in India and spirituality in India and everything else you expect to talk to white, blond and good looking foreigners who are talking in accented European English.

Rewards of good customer care
Rewards of good customer care Air India doesn't realise Stats & pic via


It hit me at many levels. I mean poor customer care was just the basic. But I also felt it was deeply rooted in an attitudinal problem which said non-English Indian speakers are much worse off than anyone else. It didn't matter if we had perhaps all paid more or less the same amount for the same service and had the same things to complain about. It was racist!

The guy next to me, who was spoken to so badly, didn't like it, but also didn't react saying 'ab kya kar sakte hain' (what can we do now- resigning to the fact that it was ok). I didn't think it was ok. Before getting off I spoke to the head of the crew and wrote down a written complaint against this girl mentioning her behaviour. The Air India (older) air hostesses heard me talk and whispered how 'girls these days could not control their temper referring to the girl I was complaining against'. How were they training, I wondered. I told them that for a national airline it was a disgrace to talk like this with people from their own country (even if they were at fault, which wasn't the case here, but still).

Today I woke up thinking maybe she really did define the Fair and Lovely India, I refuse to accept. And like I'd never buy Fair and Lovely, I'm quite convinced Air India is well off my radar too.

6 comments:

  1. So much like PIA (Pakistan International Airlines)

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  2. I refuse to be associated with this junk honestly!

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  3. But then us Indians are much more racist than we would actually admit. We have also been getting away with it. Of course this does not justify the behavior you (your fellow travelers) experienced from a 'travel' and hospitality enterprise!
    btw I have had the most amazing experience with Korean air where despite the quite obvious language barriers, the staff and crew has always been polite and well behaved, never ever losing it.

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    1. i really believe that Indians tend to criticise others while not looking at their own selves. it's so deeprooted this white skin fetish we have! And Japan/ Korea are another level of service- nothing better in my opinion.

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  4. WOW! I would be fuming too ... And I agree with nightflier - We sure are way MORE racist than we would like to admit.

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    Replies
    1. exactly! we always find it easier to blame someone or something else!

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