The date is January 2022, a period of restricted overseas travel, lock-downs and Covid. I had decided to escape the UK winter and visit friends in Thailand after the country eased their quarantine restrictions for overseas visitors in order to revive their decimated tourist industry.
Besides the normal booking of flights etc I had to apply for a tourist visa and separately a Covid pass which required proof of vaccination, prepaid 7 day booking in a special quarantine hotel, and prepaid booking of 2 PCR tests on arrival in Thailand. Together these applications required the upload of 15 different digitised documents in the prescribed format. A process requiring a reasonable degree of computer literacy, image manipulation skills and copious amounts of me. Definitely not for the faint hearted or computer challenged and unlikely to encourage large numbers of tourists.
After booking a British Airways flight to Bangkok they very conveniently decided to cancel all their flights to Thailand. I was rebooked on a flight via Doha with the Doha to Bangkok flight on Qatar Airways.
Thailand then decided to change their quarantine rules invalidating some of the hours spent uploading documents and requiring a change of flights, new hotel bookings and of course another session on the computer uploading everything to the government website.
The British Airways ticket was fully flexible with no charge for flight changes apart for an adjustment for any differences in the cost of the ticket. I worked out that the new flight was £300 more expensive.
However after spending nearly 2 hours on the phone with BA customer services they insisted that the new ticket would only be £1,900 extra! Of course this was just a clever BA challenge to test whether or not you
could work out that canceling the original ticket, ge;ng a credit voucher and then rebooking the ticket would reduce the price to £300 extra. As you will read later BA’s consideration for your mental and physical well being is second to none.
The BA business class seats are cleverly designed to create a social dilemma as you sit facing another passenger only 2-3 feet in front of you.
On the one hand you feel obliged to enter into small talk with your neighbor but this requires raising your voice and leaning forward in order to be heard through a mask and the noise of the aircraft. On the other hand shouting at each other from a couple of feet away is not exactly Covid friendly and you feel uncomfortable invading your neighbour’s space.
After a few minutes of awkward small talk I managed to ascertain that he was travelling to Kathmandu but my neighbour obviously did not like the look of me because as soon as we took off he raised the screen between the seats thus solving the social dilemma.
There are other clever design features with the BA seats. For example the decision to cram 8 seats per row means there is no room for seat storage or side tables thus encouraging passengers to regularly stand up to retrieve items from the overhead
lockers. This ingenious design of course reduces the risk of thrombosis.
Obviously much less thought has gone into the design of the Qatar business class seats.
They only manage to fit in 4 seats per row and have ample storage space. The screens are 3 times larger so you do not need to exercise your neck and stomach muscles leaning forward to in order to view it properly. They even have a vanity mirror for the ladies thus reducing the number of toilet trips required.
However they do also manage to create dilemmas for their passengers. For example: what would you like to eat and drink?; when would you like it served?; would you like your bed made with a soft.
maCress topper?; would you like some White Company pyjamas? etc etc.
They are also the only airline I have ever flown with which have the temerity to offer you a freshly made fruit smoothie and even worse…offer you seconds and thirds!
How can you resist the temptation to “fly the flag”?