Saturday, 16 July 2011

Fair Fare

We flew from Manchester UK to JFK with American Airlines.  My daughter and I sat together.  That meant two special meals: I am diabetic and she is stridently vegetarian.
My meal arrived as soon as they started serving.  Only when the cabin attendant arrived to offer the choice of chilli or chicken did we realise there was a problem.  Yes: several vegetarian meals had been ordered but there were none left.  The stewardess was apologetic, but  the vegetarian meals had all been given out.
To be fair, she did rush off and arrive back within minutes with items cannibalised from several other meals.  A better than half-decent meat-free repast was provided after all, so full marks to her for that.
AJ said it happened all the time.  At University, whenever a special celebratory meal was organised in Halls of Residence, the vegetarians would order their meals in advance.  Then when the time came, some of the meat eaters decided the 'veggie option' looked the most appetising and helped themselves.  That left the vegetarians without options.
She thought that had probably just happened again. 
It seems very odd to me that diabetic meals are delivered directly to named passengers, whilst vegetarians seem to be served according to some other system.
It is a big deal for vegetarians.  If they order the meal, they should get it.  Guaranteed!

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Somewhere to Lay My Head

A hotel doesn't need to do much just to be OK.  If it is clean and warm and has a comfy bed and decent ablutions, most guests will be content.  The food doesn't even have to be brilliant; in many places it's room-only anyway.   Location might be a consideration, though I'm guessing that most people check this out when choosing where to stay.  That and the price.  Get those things right and your guests should go away happy.

Most places go beyond the basics these days, so expect to find free toiletries and a tv set.  Perhaps there will be other personal appliances like hair dryers and irons too and, of course, the makings of a hot drink.  These should make guests even happier.
So here's my problem.
If you're going to go to the trouble and expense of putting multi-channel tv into your hotel rooms, why wouldn't you go to the trouble of making sure all the channels are properly tuned-in?  How often have I had conversations with fellow guests who I have been watching channels I can't get, and vice versa?  Too often!  And it shouldn't be too difficult to check the batteries in the remote control handset still have life in them.
When I arrive at your hotel I want  enjoy a coffee whist I unpack.  Then perhaps I will  go out on the town, getting back as late as I like, and have another coffee or two watching tv before turning-in, get a good night's sleep.  In the morning you can make an early pre-breakfast coffee and you're ready to face the day.  Right?
You get two tea bags and four tubes of coffee per guest and, here's the killer, two cartons of milk.  I have hardly ever had a room where I didn't wish there was twice as much.  The milk is generally long-life and comes in little packs that keep it fresh for weeks, so why wouldn't they leave plenty?  The desk staff are always happy to supply more on request, but I'd rather not have to put them to the trouble.
I guess it's little niggles like these that irritate everybody but are so trivial  that nobody bothers to grumble.
All I'm saying is: if you're going to do it, do it right.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Making a Start

You might have come across my reviews on TripAdvisor for example.  I always try to do a straight job, and treat both the prospective customer and the proprietor with respect and fairness.  In truth, I am easily pleased.  It takes something really off the mark to provoke me  to serious criticism, and I suspect that most folk are of the same disposition.
Having said that, I now risk contradicting myself by listing the ways in which I am often displeased.  The thing is, we are a family with some special requirements.  I am a diet-controlled diabetic, my wife is somewhat disabled, my daughter is a strict vegetarian, and my son is a health-conscious healthcare professional who will not countenance second-rate food, and at six-feet-four has legroom issues.  You can tell we can present a challenge to those who run airlines, restaurants and hotels.  The challenge is not always well-received.
It can make for interesting conversations, especially when we all travel together.
Airports have those electric buggies for disabled passengers, don't they?  You try booking one, with the airport, with the airline, or with your travel agent.  The only time we got one was when we didn't book and Qantas came up with one without asking.  Full marks to them.
Some restaurants are very helpful when it comes to special needs.  Others not.  Typical questions and answers:
'Is xxx easily accessible for disabled guests?' -  'Oh, it's only three flights up/ a five-minute walk (translates to ten minutes and twenty for a handicapped person.)/ round the corner.  Only!  How often we hear that word.
'Have you anything for vegetarians?' -  'I can do you an omelette.'
'I can't eat  fries/potatoes; can I have salad/vegetables instead?' -  'I can do you a side-order.  It'll be ---- extra.'
Things like this get my attention and get me cross.
I get especially cross with the way people are treated at airports, and I hate Heathrow with double passion: triple if we happen to be flying with BA.
On the bright side, we often get excellent service,  and I am always glad to comment on that, too.