In almost every city in India, the airport is far away. For domestic flights, all private airlines remind passengers to report at least two hours before take-off through several text messages. All international passengers are aware that they have to get to the airport well in time to finish customs and security checks, not forgetting collection of boarding pass which also takes considerable time. The least the passengers, who cough up a huge amount to meet the airfare, expect is decent food, if not delicious stuff. They have to leave home at least five hours in advance to make sure they do not miss the flight.
Unlike train or bus passengers, most long distance air travellers totally depend on the airline for lunch or dinner, or even breakfast during early morning flights. The whole cheerful travel mood goes for a toss if a cockroach or a strand of hair is found in a vegetable cutlet. Air India has issued just a customary apology after the unsuspecting Chicago-bound passenger, Rahul Raghuvanshi, from Hyderabad, tweeted how aghast he was to find a cockroach in his cutlet. The photo shows the dead cockroach lying upside down with the insect’s legs all twisted in a repulsive manner. Hygiene was obviously not one of the priorities of Air India because the action they took against the caterer was a mere fine of Rs 1 lakh.
Had the nation’s premier airline taken a more serious view of the gaffe that caused the passenger shock and trauma, the powers-that-be in the company would have summarily sacked the caterer and let the country know the background of the new caterer they hired with particular mention about how hygienic the kitchen there was. As accountability is pushed to the backseat in most government organisations, such a plastic response was expected. No red faces are usually found in the face of embarrassment as the officers know pretty well there would barely be any follow-up investigation.
Even the apology came through only after the issue was trending for a long time on social media. If what the Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, claimed about having “zero tolerance in this respect” is really true, the present caterer should have been shown the door. Instead, food from the same kitchen is going to be served in flights of Air India. It would not be a surprise if passengers think twice about accepting food served on the airline’s flights in future. There should be a clear indication otherwise about the necessary changes the existing caterer carried out to ensure that the kitchen lived up to the stipulated standards of hygiene.