Cracker by Damian Christie



Warning: The following anecdote is a thinly disguised attempt for the author to complain about the demise of customer service at our National Carrier. The tale's only redemption is found at the end, where a popular phrase is re-coined beautifully by an immigrant cab driver. Otherwise it's basically just a big whinge.

You have been warned.

Remember that ad where the guy had his wife’s car keys or whatever it was, and only realised once he’d boarded the plane, so he gave them to the flight attendant, who passed them on to the pilot who then “threw them out the window” (to a waiting tarmac jockey who passed them on to the wife or something)?

It’s worth remembering that ad was not for Air New Zealand, but Ansett. RIP.

For various reasons, both business and pleasure, I fly quite a bit. Recently it seems to be every week. Because of that, I have a Koru Lounge membership, which means I can eat, check email and after a long day’s work, have a beer before the long flight home. It’s good, and when flights are delayed like mine was the other night, for an hour and a half, life saving.

Today I was sitting at the slightly inaptly named New Plymouth Koru Lounge (which is really just a small room with a telly, a minibar fridge and some sammies), I decided to avail myself of the multi-brand cellphone charger. “Knowing me I’ll leave my bloody phone there” I thought, as I plugged it in.

As I take my seat on the plane, I realise that my prophecy has indeed become one of those self-fulfilling ones. I wonder whether they’ll let me dash off and grab my phone, or perhaps send a tarmac jockey (I don’t know if that’s what they’re called, but if I keep saying it, it’ll stick) to do it. But I decide against it. I’d rather not inconvenience anyone, and anyway, it should be easy enough to get them to chuck my phone on the next plane and I’ll drive out to the airport and get it.

Somewhere over the Manawatu the flight attendant returns to my seat after calling the airport on my behalf. “We can’t do that any more” she says, “it’s a liability issue.”

The same reason is given to me when I repeat my request at Wellington airport. They can’t take responsibility for getting my phone to me. I suggest that if they can safely land a plane with two hundred people on board in a howling Wellington Southerly, they can probably get my cellphone to me. And if not, I’m fine with that, I’ll sign a waiver, just give it a good old-fashioned kiwi go, eh?


I have to say to any non-Aucklanders out there, yes I know it’s just a cellphone, but two small points.

a) It’s Friday. The weekend waits expectantly and I have no memory for my friends’ phone numbers.
b) I’m expecting some very important work-related calls to my mobile over the weekend.

But the main point, c) I guess, is that surely it’s just a pretty simple thing to ask, for what is essentially a service industry. Yes it was my fault, but if I’d spilt a drink on myself in a restaurant, would it be unreasonable to ask for a cloth?

Speaking later to one of Air New Zealand’s communications people, I’m told another story. It’s not about liability in case my phone gets lost. It’s a CAA regulation that prohibits sending unaccompanied cellphones, unless they’re processed as freight. Please. If you gave the cellphone to a flight attendant, it wouldn’t be unattended now, would it?

So I realised I would be spending the weekend without my phone, and would have to make my own arrangements to get it back, such as a courier (who would presumably pick it up, put it in a bubble-wrap package and put it on the same plane) on Monday.

Frustrated, I told the story to my fairly recently arrived Tongan taxi driver as we left the airport. He considered it for a minute.

“It’s PC gone stupid."

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