One of the first rules of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) that I learnt during my three year stay in the IT industry was that all customers are not equal and should not be treated equally. Nowhere have I seen this implemented as beautifully as in the British Airways in-flight entertainment quality in the two flights I boarded. While the Kolkata-London flight had only a few movies running in endless loops, the London Newark flight had on demand movie choices with a library of classic movies along with new movies, and touch screen displays with interactive playback control. The headphones were also much better. Call it racism or plain business logic, it is evident that the London passengers are much more valuable to British Airways than the ones from Kolkata.
I was seated next to an Asian-looking girl about the same age as me who seemed least interested in talking. I read a book for some time (the in-flight magazines are trash), then tried finding out an interesting movie that wouldn't require too much of intellectual power to comprehend. I settled on The Incredibles by Disney. By the time the movie was over it was bedtime back home and my body was keenly aware of that fact. I stretched out under the blanket, put some relaxing music on in the headphones and slept for a few hours. Ah yes, before that I had some misadventure with a fish pie and a tuna salad none of which I liked much. I craned my neck and tried to see that man in the back seat several times, but found his seat empty. One of the officers accompanying him was sitting nearby all the time.
Shortly before landing, the stewardesses distributed the immigration and customs declaration forms for us to fill up. I was pretty nervous, and also eager to look outside the window to catch a glimpse of New York City, so I filled up a form wrongly and had to ask for another. New York City, however, was a bit disappointing. I was expecting to see some familiar skyscrapers. What I saw was a sea of lights. It was beautiful no doubt, but not what I expected.
After the plane landed at Newark, there was a further delay since there was a queue on the runway. Finally our plane joined the aerobridge and passengers started exiting. I was surprised to find the coloured man laughing and joking with the stewards at the back of the plane. At customs, there were separate queues for citizens and international visitors. My sister in law joined the former with her kids while I joined the latter. My fingerprint and documents were scanned pretty quickly and I was out in the baggage collection area in no time. Only then did I realise how big the Newark airport was. You need $3.00 to take a baggage trolley here which my sister in law had paid for me. I was very sceptical about British Airways' baggage handling, but luckily all three of my suitcases arrived safely. Then I had to pass them through another x-ray as I had declared I was carrying some food (Bengali sweets) and seeds (Indian spices) into the country. However, they did not ask me to open them.
Outside my cousin brother and his neighbour were waiting with their two cars and our luggage and we ourselves were soon on our way home. What I thought of America (I am still seeing new things), and what differences I found with India in the first few days, I will write in my next blog post.