Monday, January 9, 2012

Comedy airline's true toilet joke

Dear Erik Venter Chief Executive of Kulula Airlines,
        It’s all very well having a low cost airline that made its name by being funny, but the jokes mustn’t be at the expense of the passengers.
         Coming up with the first budget airline in South Africa was a stroke of genius for your Johannesburg based Comair, which is the franchisee for British Airways.
It was also a brilliant, publicity idea to have all kinds of graffiti on the outside of Kulula’s Boeing 737s. Like the one under the nose saying Big Cheese with an arrow pointing to the cockpit. Or a square marked Loo - or mile high club initiation chamber and large arrows on the side of the aircraft with a sign saying This way up.
        And the air hostesses carried on the fun with announcements like: Ladies and Gentlemen, if you wish to smoke, the smoking section is on the wing. If you can light em, you can smoke em. Here’s another one: Thank you for flying Kulula. We hope you enjoyed giving us the business as much as we enjoyed taking you for a ride.
        All this is nothing new to you of course but I wonder how much you know about the not so funny side. 
        When my wife and I flew to Johannesburg from Cape Town just before Christmas on one of your flights we were in the last row at the back next to two toilets.
The one had an Out of Order sticker on it and nobody, including your cabin crew, seemed to be able to make out whether this was true or just one of your jokes.
JON on his own GREEN toilet
         After I had seen several people going in there I asked an air hostess if it was really out of order and she said somebody had probably forgotten to remove the sign.
        When I said, I hope they don’t have one of those on the engines, she replied, I hope so too.
Shortly afterwards, while I was standing in the isle and my wife was in the other toilet a small boy came to use the toilet so I told him he could go into the Out of Order one.
         It’s got no water, he told me dejectedly having already tumbled to the joke in the smelliest possible way.
Is this one of your schemes to give your planes extra propulsion?
         As I didn’t want anybody else to kick up a stink I told an air hostess about this and she immediately locked the door.
         That left just two toilets for 186 people, but I suppose that’s why you have those bags in the pockets in front of every seat. Are they really strong enough to be used for purposes other than if you are air sick?
         In your in flight magazine you list the pay-as-you-eat food available, proudly supplied by Woolworths. Well on our flight there were no muffins, so the joke was on us.
         A friend who travelled from Durban to Cape Town over the holiday period also experienced one of your poor maintenance jokes. The catch on the turn down table in front of him had broken so the entire table had been taped firmly in the closed position. It couldn’t have been much fun trying to hold a drink while eating something at the same time, especially if there had been  turbulence. 
         My last howler concerns the steward, who appeared to be the only male among our cabin crew. When I saw women struggling to put their bags in the overhead bins I asked him why he didn’t help them.
His answer was that they were not allowed to do this because one of his colleagues hurt his back putting up a bag and as he could no longer work he was laid off. While Superman was watching I saw air hostesses further down the plane doing exactly what our Hero was too frail to do.
Please let me know which of these experiences that I have mentioned were not supposed to happen or were part of your Keep-pulling-the-Passenger’s leg policy.
If your maintenance crew can’t fix a toilet and a table catch, it becomes very scary when one thinks about what happens when they start tinkering with an engine.
How about this for an announcement? Thank you for flying with Kulula. Anybody who can tell our jokes from reality will get a year’s supply of Woolworth’s muffins for free, if they have any. And next year graffiti will be allowed inside the planes and you will find spray cans, crayons etc underneath your seats instead of life jackets, so we’ll try not to fly over water.
Sorry if I got a bit muddled up with the pictures in this letter. It’s not you with the Captain’s cap on at the beginning. I assume you will recognise yourself a little further down.
Happy landings,
Jon, a Special Air Services trained parachute jumper and Consumer Watchdog with a strong sense of smell. 
P.S. As you can see I'm a bit of a toilet expert. That's yours truly relaxing on one of the latest Green aircraft.

Here's Erik Venter's answer
Dear Jon,
I am confident that we have the best maintenance in South Africa. While it is performed by SA Technical, we also have our own engineers to oversee the work. SA Technical is the only maintenance facility in South Africa to have International Air Transport Association Operational Safety Audit accreditation and we are also audited by British Airways and the fuel companies (kulula is the only low cost airline in South Africa approved by the fuel companies for their corporate travel).
Minor faults that occur in the cabin during the day might have to be left until the aircraft is available at night.
It does occasionally happen that due to unusually high water usage the water for a toilet might run out for the return to Johannesburg, in which case a technician will put an “out of order” sign on the door. The toilet can be used as it works on a vacuum system, but it is not ideal. The crew have been told to direct customers to the toilets with water, but if there is a high demand then the dry toilet can be used.
Regarding the crew assistance with overhead luggage. I will follow up on this. There is no reason for crew not to assist passengers with luggage as the weight limit for cabin luggage is 8kg. If a crew member can not handle this we will ensure that he/she spends some time in the gym.
Best regards,

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