Nepali Times
Under My Hat
Earning miles on Air Thrombosis


Ever since prehistoric man sat at his cave entrance gnawing at a mastodon bone and looking up to the sky at birds swooping and frolicking high above the Rift Valley he has wondered: can man ever do the same, can he one day also swoop and frolic like the birds? As it turned out, the answer was in the affirmative.

Recent great strides in civil aviation have meant that very soon there will be multi-storey aircrafts the size and shape of Soaltee Hotel equipped with casinos and jacuzzis where man can realise his dream to swoop and frolic with co-passengers while flying from Point A to Point B.

I don't know about you, but I can't wait for the Airbus A380 to come into service. The plane is so spacious that manufacturers are offering an on-board gym, in-flight astro turfed jogging track along the aisles, and an outdoor soccer field on each wing. And that is just on a two-storey plane. Wait till they roll out the 10-storey condominium megajumbo with its own high-speed lift, penthouse suite, escalators and basement parking.

It's not just size that matters, it's also endurance. They are now making ultra long-distance airliners that can keep flying round and round the world without landing anywhere. Airline operators know that they lose money every minute that a plane is on the ground, that is why they will love this plane because it never needs to touch down.

This week Air Thrombosis and Fly By Night Airlines announced large orders for these new jets which they will use to carry that special breed of airline passenger like me who doesn't really care where he is going as long as he is earning air miles.

There is one small problem, and that is the fidgety passenger who may get bored, drink too much and become unruly. The trick is to keep him occupied so operators on long haul flights are planning special post-graduate courses in marine biology and an option to pursue in-flight doctorates. And if that doesn't work, flight attendants are provided cattle prods to zap rowdy passengers in cattle class. Since these flights are so long, the plane also comes with a fully-equipped flying hospital with diagnostic clinic to treat passengers who grow old enroute.

The other trend in aviation is no-frill airlines which have democratised domestic air travel in Nepal despite regression. It is an unstoppable trend, and the wave of the future. The trick is for budget airlines to go for high volume and slim profit margins by dispensing with most cabin services like food, drinks, in-flight entertainment, seats, tray tables, overhead lockers and lavatories.

I recently took a flight from Kathmandu to Delhi on Rock Bottom Airlines (Mission Statement: 'If you pay peanuts, you are a monkey') and I must say, I didn't miss any of the amenities that I have come to take for granted on normal airlines, like barf bags and life vests. The plane takes off on full power and climbs to cruising altitude after which the captain switches off the engines and glides to his destination to reduce cabin noise and save fuel.

The planes have no seats because hungry passengers ate all the foam padding, so even in economy passengers can relax on 180 degree slumberettes on the cabin floor. Other cost-cutting measures include eliminating the cabin crew and co-pilot, harnessing passengers with chutes and dropping them at designated waypoints to save on airport landing charges, and providing oxygen masks on a first-come-first-serve basis.

But I don't mind all this as long as they credit my air miles.

(11 JAN 2013 - 17 JAN 2013)