On a London flight sometime mid-September, it was another hellish flight for me. As usual, it's not the passenger (well maybe partly) to blame, but I'd rather blame it on the crew members I was working with that day.
On long-haul flights like these, we usually serve two meals, the first one having a choice between Korean food (bibimbap or sometimes it's ssambap) and Western food (usually beef steak). As I approached the last row of my zone, I ran out of the steaks. Panic mode. People don't usually like having no choice especially if they're not that adventurous on food. Serving the last two Australian passengers, I was stuck with one steak and a bibimbap tray. Unfortunately, they both wanted steak. I gave the steak to the lady and asked if the man wanted to try the Korean food. No, of course. I go back to the galley and recheck that we have absolutely nothing else. Turns out, we do have the steak, but the side dishes that come with it, we don't. I'm asked by my senior to offer the steak on a tray of Korean side dishes.
They look really upset, and I'm surprised, as Western people are usually more understanding than demanding Koreans. And it's not like I did not apologize for the choice shortage in American English. Turns out, they've been irate for days already. Their original flight was cancelled so they had to take the flight that was three days later; that day was the man's 60th birthday and they had to cancel his 60th birthday party in Sydney all because their original schedule was cancelled. Also, they were told they'd be upgrade to business class as compensation. Obviously, I'm serving them so they're in economy. Then of course they got the last seat and now not a decent meal he can eat. I sigh, told him I'll see what I can do and head back to the galley.
I looked for the economy class senior and told her my dilemma. This couple is really upset and I know that a complain would soon follow. I am not afraid of complaints, it's just that I understand where these people are coming from and they're helpless. My senior reiterates offering the steak on a Korean tray. Absurd. I asked her if she could at least get a tray from the business class or some fruits or bread. Anything. She shrugs, gets the interphone, talks, hangs up and tells me all the business class trays/china/cutleries are used already. Unbelievable. Business class would always have 120% of what they need.
I head back to the passenger, so sure he won't take what I kept on offering him. Sure enough, I get shouted at, his eyes rolling like a slot machine and how I knew my face was already beet red and wished I could open the door at 36,000 feet and jump out of the plane. I go back to the galley, with every other person's eyes on me of course. There's not a word to explain how I was feeling.
At the galley, my senior asks me what happened. I'm so furious I can't even say a word, I was just taking really deep breaths. I wanted to tell her, I wouldn't be shouted at and humiliated in front of a hundred people if she'd just listen and understand why this is just not about the food. She even tells me that the passenger can't expect special treatment just because today was his birthday. I told her, "That's not even the point!" I was like an angry customer and I was looking for our cabin manager. Like magic, he appears from behind the business class curtains. One more time, I relay my story, his story and orders--yes order--my manager to get something from business class. Anything. I told him, "I am very sure you will get a complain today if you don't." That seemed to do the trick, they're so afraid of complaints, especially from non-Koreans as they won't be able to follow what an irate English-speaking passenger would be saying.
Poof, in a couple of minutes, the manager was holding a business class tray complete with wine glasses. I shot my senior a what-the-fuck-did-you-do-earlier look and walked out of the galley and to the passenger. I apologized one last time that there are no more of the side dishes that he wanted and instead I got him something from business class. He was appreciative and sighed as I wished him a happy birthday despite everything.
When I got back to the galley, I needed a minute to stay composed as I was so mad at my senior for lying to me that there's nothing she can do when I know too well that that's impossible. She had the nerve to ask me, "Is he okay?" To which I nodded once and proceeded to do what's next. I was serving coffee and I saw her approaching the passenger telling him, "I hope you're okay, if there's anything I can do, please let me know." I looked at her with my eyes saying, "After doing nothing, you'd tell the passenger that?" Kapal ng mukha.