The Experience of E-Class Flight

Annex - Grant, Cary (Only Angels Have Wings)_05

Once again, I had to go through the drudgery of booking my Qantas flight QF9 from Melbourne to London. It was a business flight that I reluctantly did every month, I loved it when I arrived at my London destination, but the long flight, well, I despised every torturous hour associated with it.

Owing to the frequency of my travel, the online booking process typically only took me a few minutes to complete. As usual, I entered my well-versed Qantas Frequent Flyer number, but once done, a new and rather unexpected screen mysteriously opened up in my booking. Initially I was a tad flabbergasted, as I was accustomed to seeing the usual cabin selection options of First, Business and the various Economy options. But this time, I was presented with some rather unusual seating option classifications; S, F or E to which I was quite intrigued. Apparently, owing to a combination of my lofty Frequent Flyer status, and my personal profile (possibly also due to my habitual bow-tie wearing fashion statements as professionally noted by the more discerning Qantas flight stewardesses), I had been offered the opportunity to participate in a rather unique test flight to London. I was then provided with an option to proceed, or to go back to the booking screen of normality. I had 30 seconds to make my choice. After a brief microsecond period of some limited superficial in depth thinking, I had quickly made my decision and without any hesitation selected the button marked “Go for it”.

Immediately, I entered a new and differently badged Qantas booking screen and discovered that S = Serious, F = Fun and E = Experience. Without going into all the aircraft cabin classification descriptive paraphernalia, and for the sake of verbal brevity, all you need to know is that I selected E-class (and checked the 12 page disclaimer box to confirm my booking).

A few days later, I arrived at Melbourne airport dressed in the minimalist clothing as prescribed by Qantas for the newly designated E-class traveller. Once checked in by the delightful and somewhat suspiciously and rather endlessly smirking Qantas staff, I was handed my E-class travel kit. In it were some face masked goggles, a tight fitting Qantas embroidered and personally monogrammed rubber suit that made me look like a spiffy surfer, some matching rubber boots, gloves and snug hat (we didn’t need to wear the latter until further advised). I was then ushered into an impressive private Qantas Club Lounge and saw a variety of other cautiously optimistic travellers.

There were those dressed like me, some looking slightly embarrassed as these suits were so body hugging that nothing was left to the imagination. There were others dressed in the traditional long haul international air travel casual attire; apparently these people had booked F-class. There was a small minority dressed in their stock-standard business suits, skirts, and other conservative items; they were obviously the S-class travellers.

A few minutes later we boarded the plane, but I was soon to discover that this was no ordinary Qantas plane, far from it. As I was in E-class, we boarded first as we had to make our way to the rear of the aircraft.

As we walked through the plane, the first thing that was immediately apparent was that the usual row of passenger seats had been removed. In the First/Business class seating location, there was a range of individually placed workstations, desks, sofas-chairs, computer screens, private sleeping booths, showers and a fine dining restaurant. This was S-class and it was designed for the serious business worker!

In the middle section of the plane, F-class resided. Here a vast array of computer games, cinemas, snooker tables, dartboards, massage rooms, spas, saunas and a healthy organic restaurant was located. This was an area that encouraged fun, frivolity and definitely no work. For those passengers that were a little bit overcome with too much excitement, there were large brightly coloured beanbags, lounge chairs and some private sleep booths.

After a few minutes I finally arrived in my designated E-class and was asked to adorn my complete rubber uniform. I, and my fellow apprehensive thrill seekers were then ushered in groups of four into separate doorways that led into a small-enclosed capsule. It was at this stage, as my heart sounded to pound a little too loudly, that I started to question my enthusiasm and whether I had made the right travel choice, but there was no turning back now, particularly as it would take me hours to peel this wetsuit from my body, no, the only choice was to proceed.

In the capsule there were no seats, just a long cushioned black couch and what looked like a surfboard leg rope, but I quickly ascertained that this was actually an oxygen chord that was soon plugged into my goggle facemask by yet another smiling Flight Attendant. I was now starting to sweat quite profusely in my wet suit with some trepidation, particularly as I vividly recalled the long-winded and fine font disclaimer that I had recently signed without reading any of the content.

A few minutes later, I was strapped in with my fellow E-class pioneers and soon felt the immense vibration of the aircraft’s B777 engines permeating through my body as we became airborne. Then it happened.

An almighty noise occurred and my capsule started to quickly separate from the plane, the only link being a metal umbilical chord. To my delight (and horror), the aerodynamic capsule was completely encapsulated with an external wall of highly transparent glass, and a massive array of strategically positioned air vents. I immediately felt the cold icy air gusting ferociously all over my body. Suddenly, the tight straps tying me, and my fellow E-classers, to the couch were released. We were now free flowing and quickly started to body surf the air currents! A sign now appeared on the capsule console saying, “Welcome to E-class”.

After a few hours, I quickly mastered the flying technique and was sought out by other passengers for tips on how to stay aloft without getting that unfashionable, and rather uncomfortable, wind puffed look when a high velocity slip stream entered the wearers protective rubber body suit without formal invitation.

Yes, the time quickly passed as I literally flew to London, and what an experience!

In recognition for my E-class prowess, I have now been issued with a special Qantas Frequent Flyer card, one that provides me with travel privileges that cannot be disclosed so as to avoid envy from other passengers. Would I fly E-class again? No, I’ve moved beyond that, I now fly EE-class, one that is very exclusive.

So next time you fly on business, may I suggest that you try and think that little bit differently with your selected cabin class and airline? And should you get the opportunity to ever travel E-class, most definitely do so as it will be worth it, trust me.

Claim your own Aphrodite Charm!

photo (1)

“How many times do I need to tell you Aphrodite? Could you please take off those unsightly mortal business clothes of yours and put on your official white deity long gown! You need to remember that you are a Greek goddess, so please dress like one! Apollo, Poseidon, Athena and I, are all sick and tired of seeing you in those brightly coloured short skirts, shirts, patterned stockings and high-heeled shoes! That look might be just fine for those “creative types” that you mingle with surreptitiously in the corporate office below on earth, but up here above the clouds some professional god-like decorum is required! One day, those pesky and inquisitive passenger airlines might actually see you in that coloured attire and our nice quiet world of the perceived theoretical mythology with vanish immediately and we will be inundated with human sightseers!”

“I hear you Zeus, don’t get your toga all crumpled and frazzled! You might start looking as old as you actually are if you don’t settle down and relax! It’s all right for you lot all pontificating about life, the universe and everything Greek up here in your godly world, but without me taking the initiative and dropping down to the world inhabited by mortals now and then, no new ideas or thoughts would ever make it up here into this sterile life of perpetual bliss!”

“Thankfully my “Aphrodite charm” and sophistication makes it quite easy for me to morph into the business organizations I choose to infiltrate where I can quickly manipulate the desires and intentions of their CEO. If you lot followed a similar strategy and moved outside your comfort zone, you might discover there is a vast array of knowledge to be learnt and absorbed down there!”

Let’s park this Greek godly dialogue for a moment and consider the work environment of those fellow mortals (just like me) who may be reading this blog post.

Yes, the key is to make the time and effort to step outside your known networks of understanding. To do this successfully, you may need to encounter some personal discomfort and to accept that your traditional business methods and work practices may not be the best, nor the only way to do things. It is also so important for us all to courageously branch out from our normal and stayed circle of friends and business acquaintances, and to have a willingness to genuinely learn from others. From these new experiences, new and exciting ideas will potentially merge and propagate.

So next time you are travelling on business and are happily looking down on the clouds from your snug and comfortable aircraft window seat, remember that you too are capable of exhibiting that “Aphrodite charm” of creativity and innovation by thinking just that little bit differently!

Seeking that Optimal Balance

10863647583_75b3c791a5_q

The rather assertive, and I thought rather scary young woman, dressed impeccably in the bland and very dark company coloured uniform, beckoned me forward as I was next in the line and requested my name. Without any hesitation so as to not potentially upset her, I quickly replied, “CRAMER, Steven”. My name was immediately crossed off the list.

She, although her name badge said ‘Mandy’ (I wouldn’t dare call her this for fear of appearing too friendly) then asked me and my luggage to stand on the scales to which the total weight was duly recorded with minimal facial expression nor interest.

I was then given my helicopter boarding pass which specified my seating position for the short flight out to the off shore oil platform in Bass Strait some distance off the Southern Australian coastline.

All this procedural rigmarole was apparently required to ensure the helicopter weight was balanced from a safety perspective as we traversed the fierce, and somewhat unpredictable, cyclonic wind gusts to our offshore destination.

Now this got me thinking about the corporate office and how the business tries to “balance” their people skill sets to achieve the best chance of success. Well, I say this comment a little bit tongue in cheek as most organisations unfortunately don’t actually do this aviation procedure of ‘skill balancing’ particularly well. If they were indeed a helicopter, I suspect many of them would be flying along lopsided with a predominance of accountants, HR, engineers, extroverts or introverts! No wonder many companies tend to plummet to their financial doom and fail to obtain their targeted business objectives!

As each business objective may be different, management (just like ‘Mandy’) need to plan accordingly to ensure the right ‘weight’ mix of skills are on board. This skill set will often change based on the task and velocity of the objective required.

Now when potential danger looms, a pilot may reluctantly jettison a selected item from the aircraft to avoid jeopardizing the entire mission. Should a business encounter unexpected climatic economic turbulence, it may necessitate the ejection of some awkward and oversized individuals who are exacerbating the effect. If this needs to be done, the kind and humane approach is to provide these people with a personalized parachute before pushing them out the door, but there are some mean spirited and callous managers who like the free-fall spectacle. For those who choose the latter, may I remind them that what goes up does eventually come down, and lands with a massive hard thump!

Yes, it’s all in planning which bottoms you want in which seats in your next business mission. Without the right “bottom balance” it could be a rather uncomfortable and long flight.

One final comment and it relates to the scenery the business will observe as you travel to your intended destination and this relates to your choice of navigator. For the optimum journey of learning and excitement, may I suggest placing a creative individual in this role and your flight will never be boring!

Chatter Vocabulary in the Air

Leather Seats

For those of you who travel regularly by plane, you will know the “joy” of being strapped into your allocated seat for a few hours. You have the smallest possible personal space, and those sitting next to you can be riveting company and fun to be with, or exceptionally dull – unfortunately the later being most common!

This got me thinking…how could we make this journey of travel more interesting and utilize the many creative skills of the passengers who are getting a tad bored?

One possible solution is to invite passengers to participate in an anonymous “chatter” group discussion on a selected brainstorming topic during the flight. To be included, they would press a special “call button” which adds their seat number into the discussion. A Flight Attendant then provides them with an electronic writing tablet that allows communication with the other interested passengers.

Chatter Texts with impressive vocabulary would be then start to quickly permeate through the cabin during the flight, for example:

Seat 12A:   “Oh yes, I agree with you, but have you considered….”
Seat 29D:   “Thank you 12A, but I think it should be expanded to include…”
Seat 1F:      “Interesting concept, particularly if you consider the habitat of the West Australian wombat…”
Etc, etc…

At the conclusion of the flight, those involved could elect to have a copy of the transcript E-mailed to them, just in case there were any creative gems of inspiration written!

To me, this would be a much better use of people’s travel time and would make the total plane experience much more interesting and potentially productive.