Let me start by saying- I don’t quite think so- but maybe. I fly regularly, and consider it a privilege every time. In an attempt to make the flying experience more social, warm and symbiotic- I like to bring gifts for flight crews whenever possible. My standard arsenal is a bottle of booze and some chocolates or other sweet snacks, dependent on location. It seems to bring far more smiles and happiness than anything else- so I stick with it. Last night a crew returned part of my gift- leaving me with mixed feelings.
I was flying on Qatar Airways, who I fly with very frequently and rate as highly as can be rated. To be clear-service was excellent and I respect the purser for the decision, I just find it conversationally interesting. in Doha I found some lovely chocolates and some good vodka, and did my usual. In all previous instances (even on Middle Eastern Airlines) no one has ever said anything but immense thanks for the gesture. I don’t believe it happens all that regularly.
Update:After hearing from a variety of present and former Qatar employees- I now understand just how strict their internal policies are regarding alcohol, fraternizing, 11PM evening curfews and potential for instant dismissal. It’s entirely understandable why someone did not want to risk their job in this situation. In the future, Qatari and other ME3 crews will get sweets only.
Yes- we’re talking about Doha, where public consumption of alcohol is not ok, but drinks are consumed in the lounge, in the airport grounds and in restaurants, bars and hotels all throughout the city. Qatar is definitely NOT a dry airline. Most of the crews are not actually Qatari- and many of them are from areas or cultures where drinking is widely accepted. I would go as far as to say that most of them drink- officially or not. In previous years I stuck to bringing chocolates only, but in recent years- as I’ve gotten to know many flight crews better, they have remarked that a bottle of something to enjoy the night in their destination (after duty) makes the ideal present.
So last night, upon boarding I presented the gifts in a sealed bag. I received a warm mention of thanks from the purser and carried on. Shortly after take off, the purser traveled down the aisle to my seat with bag in hand. Uh oh, something is up I quickly surmised. “Sir, I’d love to return part of your gift”. “Um…ok, no problem”. The crew member proceeded to open the bag, hand me back the vodka and retain the chocolates. She was complimentary – but it felt very awkward. More so- because I had just spoken to a crew member who was enthusiastic about one of the new wine offerings on their menu and the crew was clearly a (mostly) alcohol friendly group. To be clear-this was not for them to consume on board, but rather in their leisure time at destination.
This was a first, so I just don’t quite know how to feel. I won’t take offense, the world keeps moving and people are just trying to stay employed – but it was an interesting encounter. I absolutely respect cultural differences, beliefs and ways of life- and if the purser was of a faith that does not tolerate alcohol- I accept responsibility for the unintended offense- but the gift was not solely for her- it was a gift to the crew- who I can 100% confirm were not all of faiths or backgrounds which do not enjoy alcohol. The purser mentioned that she didn’t want the crew to be drunk, which I absolutely respect and believe is important. No one wants drunk or hungover service, I’ve had plenty of it. But adults are adults, and one bottle amongst 20+ adult crew members seems innocuous enough for a night off duty in London (where drinks are expensive). I guess I’m just surprised that a more discrete move was not undertaken. I would never know what happened to the bottle after we landed. I feel as if a long standing tradition has lost a bit of its luster, but see both sides. People just want to keep their jobs- so no, it wasn’t rude- I guess.
How do you feel about this situation?
Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...
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