I remember the first time I boarded a Qantas 747. It was my one and only journey to the Antipodes. I was excited as hell. I hated the OR Tambo transit lounge. It was comfy, don't get me wrong, but South Africans take passive aggression to ridiculous heights. I don't think I want to ttravel through OR Tambo ever again; twice seems to have been enough for me. The Qantas experience, however, was awesome.
A little background is in order, though. It was the middle of a cold July and my annual debilitating flu was back with a vengeance. My upper lip was covered in the ghastliest cold sores this side of that little horror from the Lord of the Rings movies. I was coughing up a phlegmy storm and my nose was permanently runny. Sydney was a week or so away from the end of winter so I wasn't going to have a nicer time of it over there as over here.
Those who know me know that sartorial elegance is something I read about in GQ magazine and practice more in the breach. To manage my flu, I had managed to resurrect a hideous leather jacket from my Law School days, a truly ratty pair of jeans, my trusted sweater and a make-shift scarf that I thank my mother for every day the chill gets out of hand. Oh, and a truly nauseating balaclava for my scalp. I looked like an Eritrean undocumented immigrant hiding out in Kilimani or something. It was not a pretty sight.
On the KQ down south, you could feel the disdain with which the KQ cabin crew held me in. When the purser did a double take as I boarded and gave me that second, hard stare, I didn't think much of it. But when it became almost impossible to get the water refills I needed to stave off medical disaster, I knew it was my shambolic look that had put them off service to me. I put it down to my generally leper-like look. Who wants to be infected by the typhus virus fro one of their passengers, right? I have, by the by, hated KQ ever since.
Qantas cabin crews, on the other hand, were awesome. I was sequestered in the last seat in the massive 747. I had leg room and that was all that mattered after the cramped interior of the KQ B737. But every time I beeped them for water, the Qantas crew were on hand. When they noticed the cold sores, they didn't recoil in horror but were solicitous about the copious amounts of tea that they plied me with in the course of that night flight. They didn't necessarily make me feel special but they didn't make me feel like the Typhoid Mary of East Africa either. I have loved Qantas ever since.
My experience with KQ has never been a good one. Delayed flights. Soggy meals. Cramped cabins. Unfriendly crews. Horrid, horrid, horrid. When the gods finally allow me to win that Mombasa County uji tender, I will try with all my might to fly with any airline but KQ. When it is finally liquidated to pay off its debts, I will dance a jig on the ashes of the Worst Airline in the World.