One morning at a domestic airport, I was standing in a long queue for Security Check. A well-known politician, then a state minister, walked past between 2 queues with his entourage. One of his sidekicks was pushing people aside to ensure his boss had a wide path. When I protested, he gave me a condescending look and said, “He’s a Minister,” to which I replied loudly, “Is he a public servant or is the public his servants? You guys beg for our votes during elections, but act like kings after we elect you!” The sidekick did not respond, but he stopped pushing people aside. After the politician and his entourage left, some of the other passengers said things like, “These politicians will never change” and “No point wasting our energy.” One person advised me that speaking up against politicians would only mean inviting trouble.
I was not surprised that none of the other passengers had bothered to protest even though they knew what was happening was wrong. I was not surprised that none of them had supported me when I spoke up. But I was certainly surprised and disappointed that none of them said even a word of support after the politician had left.
On another occasion, a late evening domestic flight (ETD 8.15 pm) did not take off for about 45 minutes after having taxied to edge of the runway. It was announced that we were awaiting clearance for take-off, but no time frame was given. When a couple of other flights took off while we were waiting, some passengers asked the cabin crew why our aircraft was held up. The cabin crew had no explanation. At that point, the Captain announced that we would take off after about 30 minutes. Hearing this, the passenger seated next to me called the flight attendant and started rebuking her loudly. She listened patiently for a few minutes, then left to attend to other passengers. My co-passenger continued grumbling. He calmed down after we took off. He then told me that this was the third time in the last couple of months that this inexplicable delay had occurred on the very same flight.
I told him that, when I had faced a problem with the same airline in the past, I had sent an email to the CEO, who had ensured that my grievance had been redressed in the best manner possible. I suggested that he should send an email about this matter to the CEO, but he replied that he was not very conversant with email. I offered to send the email to the CEO if he provided accurate information about the previous flight delays. He promised to have this emailed to me the next day. After 2 days, I sent him an email to remind him, but got no response. After 2 more days, I telephoned him, but he mumbled something about being very busy with work. There is a very small chance that I am wrong, but I got the feeling that he was not keen to put the matter on record.
All of us grumble in private. Many of us speak strongly to persons who are not in a position to hit back. Very few of us speak up to persons in positions of authority. Why? Do we need speech therapy or spine strengthening exercises?
(This post was originally published on July 23, 2013.)