Airline Announcements

OK, I fly a lot. Not as much as pilots or flight attendants, but I have no problem qualifying for Elite level in at least one program each year and often two programs. Which means that I get to experience a lot of different announcements on planes. But this post is not a rehash of the announcements heard on a plane, amusing though they are. This is a complaint about the inconsistencies between flight attendants on different planes and they way they implement “laws”.

On some airlines (United) you are encouraged to wear headphones during taxi and take-off, as they have an arrangement where you can hear the air traffic control announcements for your plane. In fact on one flight approximately half the cabin I was in appeared to have noise-cancelling headphones of one sort or another. On other airlines (KLM) it seems to depend on the time of day- early morning flights (when everyone is trying to go back to sleep) it is OK to wear them, but sometimes in the evening you might be asked to remove the offending cans. Then it gets confusing: KLM Cityhopper (the regional airline of KLM) request that you remove the headphones on every flight, no matter what time of the day. No, I have no idea why 2 parts of the same airline would have different policies, but there you go.

Even more confusing is Air Canada where it seems to depend on which province the flight attendants are from: Get a flight crew from out west and headphones are not a problem. Get one from Quebec and someone (generally undefined, but announced in a menacing way) will be fined $1500 if you don’t remove them. The way I figure it, if it is not me getting fined, what do I care? But if you take that attitude with a French Canadian there is a good chance they play hockey and I have seen what happens at hockey games.

Then finally we come onto the budget airlines: At least these guys are consistent: Damned annoying because they all ask you to remove the headphones for about half the flight, but at least consistent.

Except that on the budget airlines, it seems that mobile (aka cell) phones generate inconsistency. Pretty much all countries require you to turn your phone off once the doors close. Unless there is a delay, in which case you will be allowed to turn them on again. On landing sometimes you can turn them on whilst taxiing, sometimes once parked and occasionally not until you are inside the terminal (which is a real bitch as these are the times when you are most likely to have to catch a bus to terminal. Yes we are back with the budget airlines again).

And then we come to being in the air and the advent of ‘flight safe’ mode. This is obviously a real problem for airlines: unless the flight attendants know which phones have a flight safe mode and how it is indicated, they are basically hosed. So some airlines still refuse to allow anything, some just say “Flight safe mode once the seat belt sign has been switched off” and then the most peculiar one I heard: The only devices that were allowed to be used on the plane: Blackberries. The announcer specifically excluded Nokia, Sony and Samsung and confirmed that only Blackberries were allowed. Almost immediately I heard a voice behind me say “I wonder how much Blackberry paid to get that endorsement?”. And what made it all the more confusing was that this particular announcer appeared to say that this was the law, he was going to enforce and by God, no-one had better get in his way. Mind you, he did try to tell a joke later, so maybe he was just auditioning for his local theatre troupe. By the way, on the joke front; no-one laughed.

To be quite honest, I don’t really care what the rules are- obviously I would like to wear my noise cancelling headphones for the entire time I am on a plane, because they really do make the experience so much nicer. But what I really want is for the airlines to be consistent. Off on, flight safe or Blackberry; I don’t care. Just apply the rules consistently across all airlines. And don’t make out that you know the law when I was on another plane less than 24 hours earlier that had a distinctly different approach.