My first commercial flight I think was from KUL (now SZB) – MKZ and then onto JHB. That was in 1974. Yes, they used to fly to Melaka (Batu Berendam) too those days. Going on a plane used to be a big thing that some people would even go to the tailor to make a suit just for the purpose of going on a flight to somewhere, even a short haul one. And I remember Malaysia Airlines System (now Malaysia Airlines) used to give away blue sling bags with the old red WAU logo – ones you could fit in a nightstop kit plus some clothes. I used to use them as my schoolbag and my classmates would look at the bag with awe. Those days too you could take away the in-flight meal. I don’t remember what they used to serve back then but I know it was something delicious. Even back in the 1980s people would still dress up to get on a flight, and I wore a three-piece suit when I went off to England after the SPM exams.
Then came Richard Branson and Virgin Airlines. And it was so much cheaper to cross the Atlantic. Soon, the dress code was done away with and everyone could fly. And with the advent of Air Asia, everyone truly could fly…albeit virtually everyone.
Air Asia at a point of time did not have seat numbering and you could sit anywhere you liked. But with security issues becoming more serious, and to ensure passengers queued in a more orderly manner, they introduced the seat-numbering system, and with that, introduced hot seats where they could charge passengers for those seats for a fairly bit more.
Wifey and I were on an Air Asia flight very recently, flying back to KL. When the announcement came on air that the plane that was to take us back to KL had just landed, the passengers rushed to queue. For the life of me I have no frigging idea why. The plane was still going to take-off whenever it was ready, and each passenger is assigned a seat. So, why the rush? I guess since everyone could fly, it also means that every idiot with enough money to book a seat could get on board too! Or, is it just a Malaysian thing to rush?
Once we were seated, these passengers seated across the aisle were like first timers on a plane. When the purser announced that it was a no-smoking flight and that the use of mobile phones is prohibited, the man got his phone out and made a call. Then, both of them (they were husband and wife, apparently travelling in a family group) got up to change seats once the safety demonstration was completed. First, the husband got up and found an empty seat in the forward section. The wife looked worried being left behind, rushed to the rear section to find an empty seat nearer to her kinsfolk. As the aircraft taxied to the runway, she rushed to her husband to pass him his bottle of mineral water. The husband never wore his seat belt because as the engine was powered up for takeoff, I saw him got up half way to signal something to his wife, or to one of his relatives behind us.
Once the aircraft was in the air, and even before the seat-belt sign was switched off, one of them rushed to the washroom forward.
Then when we were already at cruising altitude, another man got up from his seat, and sat in the seat where the couple originally sat. He put up all the arm rests, and lie down to sleep. But sleep he did not. A little later, he got up and opened the overhead compartment to get his carry-on luggage, took out a book, got back to the seat and started reading.
Then, there was the sound of a bird chirping. Apparently, three rows in front of me, a guy was playing with his PSP. I’m sure he could have used an earphone, or turned down the volume, but he did neither. Dinner was soon served, and once that was over, everyone of us was in the mood to catch a nap as we were still two hours away from our destination.
Soon, the man who was reading the book got up again and went for his carry-on luggage. This time he took out this little bristle so he could brush his teeth while reading the frigging book. The act of brushing and flossing was coupled with the hissing sound of him trying to suck out food fragments from between his teeth or inside his cavities.
I fell asleep, but not for long, when one of the kinsfolk of the couple mentioned started to talk and joked in the most annoying and coarse voice that reverberated inside the cabin. This went on for almost another minute more when a very annoyed Wifey, whose sleep was disturbed, did the loudest
Then the cabin fell quiet again.
And that chirping sound came on again. Bloody annoying, but I was already too tired by then to pay any attention.
Somehow, one can never be in a deep sleep as one could when not everyone could fly. The guy who brushed his teeth while reading his book got up again, kicked my foot in the process, went for his carry-on luggage again and got something else out. I shut my eyes again.
Did I get to sleep? No! Soon, I heard the sound of someone shuffling on his seat. Apparently, the guy, whose ass was on seat ‘C’, was leaning against the window next to seat ‘A’ and was pulling a piece of cloth from his ear! He looked at the already yellow tip of the cloth, and stuffed it into his shirt’s pocket. And he took out the bristle from the same pocket and brushed his teeth again. I thought only Mr Bean would be capable of something like that.
Soon, it was time for us to land. In preparation, the purser told all passengers to put their seat upright, tray tables secured, and to turn off all electronic equipment. Then, the cabin lights were dimmed for landing.
Then, that chirping came on again. I saw a faint glow emitted from the seat three rows in front of me. I suppose while everyone could fly, not everyone understood either English or Malay, even though they are Malaysians.
The plane continued to dive on finals, and at the last moment, the engines were throttled back, and the aircraft flared, bringing it into the nose-up position. Everything fell silent while we waited for the undercarriages to touchdown onto the runway.
Then, the undercarriages touched down. Simultaneously, a woman’ exclaimed, breaking the deafening silence:
“MA HAI CHEE BYE!”
I remember how hard I tried to control myself from bursting out laughing. Wifey was already in tears controlling herself from laughing out loud.
The plane soon slowed down and taxied to the parking apron.
And the idiotic chirping never stopped…