Yeeees. I’ll admit to fantasies of climbing seven silver steps in a mustard box-pleat skirt and shirt with a neck-tie, clambering aboard and waving said neck-tie in the light breeze as the flight staff usher me inside and say something like, “Your freshly squeezed orange juice is waiting for you, Sneaky Sneak. You also have a guest today her name is Aubrey Plaza, she’s sitting in 1B next to you and she told us she wants to be your best friend. She also bought stickers.” “Right,” I’ll say, “Thank you ever so much, and where was it that we were going, again?” “Today’s flight is anywhere you’d like to be in the world.”
As you can tell I haven’t really given this much thought whatsoever.
I’m not sure if it’s the allure of celebrity involvement and star treatment in my life, the friendship stickers or the fact I own a private jet which feeds this recurring dream. But every time I wake I’m never quite confident enough to sport a neck-tie.
There’s just something about getting on an airplane. That moment you step from the plastic alien suction thing connecting the plane to the terminal, when you take your first breath of heavy pre-air-conditioned air, when you remember you’re flying Jet Star and might not get your bags at the other end… It all just adds to the mystery. It doesn’t really even matter for me where I’m going, I would fly across suburbs if it meant I could make use of those neck shaped blow-up pillows. You could use that in the car, I hear you say. Don’t be cynical, that’s not the point. Being on an airplane is special. Being able to fly anywhere and the possibility that brings, is exciting. And more than anything else, the wave of being on a plane and in the air, sitting in a not-so-comfy chair, talking to no-one, or meeting a stranger for a captive-audience chat, I would not change one iota of that.
Except that it is changing.
Hooray for apple iPads and their techy behind the scene brains, who have programmed apps to make sure no customer is treated the same. I do not like this creepy app at all, and I think it could be British Airline’s down-down-downfall.
So, take my getting on a plane fantasy, imagine its little old you. You’ve packed your socks, sandals and your copy of holidaying for dummies; you’re ready to jump on a plane and forget work, forget what was, temporarily forget here-and-now life. Basically you’re doing a Blair Waldorf minus the oversized carry-on bag and death-defying glare. You can’t wait to get on a plane and head to someplace different. Your skin already feels less albino.
At the terminal gate, you’re addressed by a perky member of ground staff, her name is Cindy. She bounces towards the dressed-down-I’m-getting-on-a-long-haul-flight-and-want-to-be-comfortable-you, platinum peroxide hurting your eyes, and twinked white teeth fixed in a smile from when she won Miss Onehunga 1997. You realise then that the time you spent waking up, getting changed and making it to the airport this morning, she curled her hair in. Function before form you keep telling yourself. She stops, slides a purple manicured finger across a paper- thin tablet, and pauses momentarily to recall her name and corresponding passcode. But mostly for her name. Now, without completely wanting to blanket stereotype the flight attendant profession, I’m trying to paint a picture which will adequately stage the information I came to realise this morning:
So Cindy finally unlocks the iPad 4s-dual CPU-whatever version they’re up to now, and begins casually questioning you about the kind of morning you’ve had, how the workload is faring, what the traffic was like along your preferred route to the airport, whether you enjoyed your morning’s orange juice before assuring you there’s some waiting on your tray in the plane. Yes. Cindy knows where you live, your occupation, current work schedule and has updated information on that and anything that changes right up until the plane takes off. I think what’s most important to recognise here is that she knows you love orange juice! And not just that, but slightly chilled and ideally freshly squeezed! Cindy has pre-discovered data on the thing that is supposed to be a happy coincidence if they have it. On the one little question that she is supposed to use as customer interaction after the in-flight peanuts. What is the point of asking if I’d like anything to drink when you are obviously already aware of my mild O.J. addiction, Cindy? No, no, no! I don’t want you to know everything about me because you know how to operate an iPad. That’s creepy.
It’s creepy, but it’s a reality. A creepy one. British Airlines have poured one million pounds, (NZD$1.9 Million), of investment into iPad 2s since a three month trial in November last year where 200 of their senior staff were set to engage with what they’re calling CIP - “Customer Investment Policy”. Try Creepy Invasive Product. Said app will give the Cindy’s, the Rick’s and the Shelly’s of British Airlines across the board access to all that passport/immigrationey information pertaining to you, as well as a sort of built up personal profile based on your likes and dislikes of which all are noted. It’s like Facebook for highflyers. Your home address and contact information are of course stored in case google maps pulls a Sneaky Sneak on you and you miss your flight. The more you fly, the more conversation topics are generated based on what worked well in the past. And once again – they know if you like orange juice. All in the name of being able to provide “optimum customer care”, where no two customers are engaged with in the same fashion. Because, quite frankly, I know I’d be horrified and irritated if the guy boarding in front of me got a “Hi” and I too, also received a “Hi” not say, a “Hello.” Gone are the days of basic human interaction. I prefer meeting people when we’re meeting on a somewhat equal playing field. Not when Cindy knows what sort of juice I’m sippin’ on and I know nothing beyond her name badge.
So instead I’ll dream forward with my fictional fancies, sticker-book swapping with Aubrey and wearing colourful neck-ties, not an iPad nor a Cindy in sight. Because we don’t need maps when we haven’t quite decided just where we’re headed yet.