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Rate your Life, er, FLIGHT

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By Andrew Biggs

“Thank you for flying AirAsia. Please rate your flight.”

This message popped up on my mobile phone after my latest return trip to Chiang Mai last Sunday night.

I was the first one off the plane, and it was the first thing that bleeped at me upon leaving my Hot Seat and hitting the Don Mueang people mover that assists passengers traversing the 15.4 km distance to the luggage carousel.

Rate my flight? It’s not enough for me to “like” my friend’s pics of Starbucks coffee or videos of baby’s first steps, is it? We have progressed past that. I cannot simply experience a life experience any longer.

My cellphone now knows, without prompting, when I have gotten off the plane. That is worrisome enough. More sinister is it asking me to “rate” the experience.

Like you, dear reader, I get bombarded with cellphone messages from companies. Grab is ceaseless in its promotion of its food delivery service. Line keeps sending e-coupons for spa treatments. Me in a spa? The closest I got to one of those was the KKK Foot Massage place I wrote about last week — and that was 200 baht for an hour-long massage. At that price who needs coupons?

And now AirAsia is asking me to “rate” their flight — on a scale of one to ten.

How does one “rate” a flight? I don’t rate my experience buying somtam from the lady halfway down my soi. Nor do I rate my experience in public toilets when the need arises.

This extends to flights. I mean I went online, purchased a ticket, quietly chose the more expensive Hot Seat without telling my accountant and put it on the company account. In return I received a service, namely, being jettisoned through the air at 600 km an hour from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, and then back again. End of story.

I fulfilled all that was required of me within that process. I checked in, resisted the temptation to carry anything elicit on board, and even gave cursory attention as the flight attendant explained how to buckle and unbuckle a belt as if I were a retarded child.

I turned my cellphone onto flight mode. Throughout the flight I didn’t make too much noise, which can’t be said for the Chinese tour group seated three rows down in the Cold Seats.

I didn’t smoke in the toilets. I admit I didn’t purchase any of the embarrassing merchandise peddled halfway through the journey by unenthusiastic flight attendants. I don’t blame them. If I had to spend my life explaining belt-buckles and holding up lackluster purses, I too would not be engaged.

I did not steal the life vest, since an on-board announcement told me such behavior was “a serious offence”. I’d never thought to steal the life vest before; that announcement has now got me thinking.

(That voice, by the way, is that of my friend Patcharee Raksawong, who has one of the most beautiful English accents. It is music to my ears following the last one, who pronounced “masks” as “macks” and “whistle” as a “vizzle”.)

When the plane landed I didn’t use my new-found knowledge about how to unbuckle a belt and jump up before the plane had come to a complete halt. I waited patiently for the seatbelt sign to go off then gathered my belongings and disembarked, which is the proper term for what Americans have bastardized into “deplaning”.

In summary: I was a model passenger. I didn’t see any AirAsia staff taking the time to rate my behavior. Why, then, should I rate theirs?

Like you, dear reader, I lead a busy life. I am tied to my cellphone for all manner of communication, with the exception of the face-to-face verbal kind, but who does that anymore. It is a never-ending process of sending and receiving data, including correspondence via Line, Whatsapp and Messenger and updates to Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Myspace. I threw that last one in just to wake you up.

On top of all that I am now being asked to rate my flight.

Look, the flight was fine. It got me safely to my destination and for this I am grateful. Is this the criteria for rating a flight? If so, why bother with increments of one to ten? There can only be a rating of 10 (that is, safely arriving at one’s destination) and the more catastrophic alternative — zero — and how on earth would I be in a condition to make that value judgment?

Or is this a rating for service on board? If so it opens up a whole new hornet’s nest.

You see, I didn’t receive any service. This was not for any mistake on the behalf of the friendly AirAsia Flight Attendants. It’s just that I had no need for them, and I am sure the feeling was mutual.

How do I rate that? A ten for doing absolutely nothing? Or a zero, since there was no opportunity for me to experience their service? I can’t give them a five, as that suggests their service was not up to standard, and that would be unfair.

In my eyes, my flight to Chiang Mai and back last weekend was a transaction. I paid money and I got a service. I’m sure AirAsia was happy about that, as I was. Can’t we just leave it at that? Why ruin the experience by having me rate it?

It’s not the first time. Last week — just days before my Chiang Mai flight— I went to Soi Thonglor to drop off some documents. The recipient was at a restaurant call Art Sabai and I was there for all of five minutes.

Upon leaving the establishment I received a similar SMS to the one AirAsia sent me. “Please take time to rate your experience at Art Sabai. Click here!”

I grabbed my cellphone by its neck and threatened to throttle it: “How did you even know I was there?” I screamed at it.

My experience at Art Sabai? It was awful. Literally as I walked in, clutching documents under my arm, I got a call from the bank because my accountant had forgotten to pay my credit card — again — and when would I be making a payment?

On top of that I was late in sending those documents. It was all my fault. The recipient was unimpressed with this tardiness.

So how was my experience? I felt belittled, and frustrated, and revengeful. My experience at that restaurant was a one or two out of ten. No, I didn’t order a thing, but hey, you asked!

I have one further issue that needs to be brought up. If, on the off chance, I did choose to spend my valuable time rating my flight experience, just who would read my review?

Nobody. That’s who. My rating gets thrown in with the other tens of thousands of figures, to be instantly collated and analyzed deep inside the inner machinations of the AirAsia computers. A rating of ten elicits no praise from grateful AirAsia execs. Nor does a zero result in fawning public relations officers knocking on the front door of my mansion in leafy Samut Prakan.

So why should I feel bad about pressing that little x in the top right-hand corner and dispatching that unsolicited request to trash oblivion?

I didn’t do that. I rated the flight a ten. I didn’t want the computer to feel bad.




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