Spice Jet fiasco: So, you think you can dance?

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 21, 2014 05:15 hrs

Okay, so, Spice Jet did a fun thing. A bunch of airline crew decided to occupy the very narrow aisles, wave their arms about, swish their hair at passengers, and do a jig to celebrate Holi.

This was apparently so amusing to the rest of the crew that the pilot decided to step out of the cockpit, do some heavy duty videoing and photographing on his mobile phone, wearing sunglasses to shield himself against the flash (I presume), and eventually joined the jig. A flight attendant stood by, beaming like a mother at her child’s kindergarten performance.

This one time, passengers were allowed to whip out their phones en masse, without being told off by a posse of flight attendants. You know, flight attendants, those smiling dictators who will try their best to keep you away from the toilets when your bladder is about to burst, if the flight is five minutes away from “beginning its descent”, and forty minutes from landing? Who will insist that your mp3 player has to be switched off because it is an electronic item, when it seems to you that the infant bawling away is more likely to interfere with radio frequencies?

And all this happened as most of the world is frantically scouring the seas for the remains of an international flight that has been missing for over a week.

Ummm, do we see why this was probably not the greatest idea anyone has ever had?

Sure, Finnair has done it. And sure, Air Asia and Virgin Blue and Southwest Airlines have had impromptu celebrations.

But I don’t remember ever seeing a pilot filming the action.

I am not an anxious flyer. I take at least one flight a month, on average, and quite enjoy takeoff and landing. Of course, I can’t say I’m entirely unaffected by reports that pilots tend to fall asleep on duty. I don’t like reading that pilots are severely overworked.

Like most other passengers, I do occasionally think about what would happen if the flight were to crash land. But rather than gory visions of my own death, I worry about the prospect of my laptop and mobile phone being ruined, and my passport, which finally has enough visas to grant me hassle-free entry into most countries, being lost. In other words, I don’t seriously believe that I’m in any real danger while flying.

I would like to think that the worst things that can happen on board are noisy children, neighbours who spill into one’s seat, and someone with a cold and cough disseminating germs with the pride and benevolence befitting an act of charity.

While everyone rages against the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for playing spoilsport, I don’t see how the DGCA could look the other way when a pilot has been filmed outside the cockpit.

While Spice Jet claims it had extra crew on board to ensure that passengers were safe, and that there was no compromise on alertness, it hasn’t mentioned the pilot. Was someone monitoring the flight? Was the co-captain inside the cockpit? Is it safe for the door to the cockpit to be left open mid-flight? And were these extra crew members on board going about their regular duties, oblivious to the action on board? From the video, it appears that everyone was gawking at the dancing stewards and stewardesses.

It is clear that Spice Jet has not sought permission from anyone before carrying out this little experiment. I am not sure this is the case with any of the other airlines in question. If these so-called treats for passengers were unplanned, and done without the permission of a regulatory board, every one of the airlines in question could be taken to task for compromising on air safety.

With increasing competition among airlines, and – if the pink papers are to be believed – a looming crisis, with passengers on the constant lookout for cheaper alternatives to flying, any innovation could set off a trend. Given that there is some cause for celebration, and a religious or national festival every few weeks, the in-flight live entertainment may well become a staple.

I would not want to be on board a flight on which the management has decided to entertain me, at the cost of my safety. God knows there doesn’t seem to be a lot of regard for it as is.

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Nandini is a journalist and humour writer based in Madras. She is the author of Hitched: The Modern Woman and Arranged Marriage. She sells herself and the book on www.nandinikrishnan.com