If you want to know how the health care system works at a first glance, just take a Lufthansa flight and make sure you get sick. At first the crew will ignore your vomiting every half an hour. They will think you don’t do well in flight, or that you’ve had alcohol or drugs or a mix. You then press the little dashing man on your handle which turns on a light and makes a sound asking for help. You must attempt this 3 times before someone actually comes. By this time you are sweating and feeling pretty shitty and can’t do much about it because well, you are stuck in an 8 hour flight with 200 other people sitting and waiting as well. Since the immediate crew-members responsible for your section are of no help, you ask for a doctor on board. They don’t really want to “go there” because then they have to go to work and follow procedure. That’s a lot of extra work. So they take their time. Call the managing crew member on board, who then immediately calls for a doctor. Then while waiting for a doctor you need to vomit again and you have gone through your 6 bags and ask for more. One specific woman who has the power of just handing you plastic bags, says she has none, because after all the plastic bags are made for customers who purchase something on board. The real life version of Edna Mode from the Pixar animation the Incredibles doesn’t even look at you as you politely ask for another plastic bag. Really? Is your life any better for withholding plastic bags from us? Oh great! We think. So you would prefer that the passenger just vomits on the floor of your plane?! She doesn’t care. She is responsible for the bags and she will not give them up. So I go to another woman and ask. This other woman fetches an alternative to the plastic bag which has already proven itself useless and that is why someone else gave you the plastic bags in the first place. So you arrive back at your seat and her boss, who by this time has found a doctor on board, is bringing him over. Upon hearing your plastic bag request for the tenth time, she, the crew manager, who knows a little more about keeping the floor running, quickly demands the same plastic bags you were denied of, except this time they magically appear. Then you start having diarrhea. They make sure to turn their heads away ignoring your pain every time they pass your seat. Hell, there are 200 other passengers on board, why should they divert any of their attention to your pathetic vomit, pains and diarrhea episode? I mean they must think they are immune to economy class diseases, or at least superior to them. Just because they are stuck serving economy, is not a reflection of their pedigree status. Then the nice doctor, who isn’t a crew member, and doesn’t seem to care if you are paying economy or not, just wants to be of service and tries to help you. He asks for the medicine on board. Oh ops, that’s another problem, since it’s economy class they have a very limited supply. So he devises something up with the little that he has and injects it in you to help sooth your pain for the next 4 hours. It doesn’t really help because as the doctor proclaims, you probably have a virus. Instead of taking that seriously and isolating you from the other 200 passengers, they make you sit down again and someone will check up on you in an hour. By this time your face has lost all color and you are still puking your lungs out. After a long talk with the doctor, the managing crew-member, decides that you might actually be infected with some virus and that you were not out partying the night before. Now she’s worried and takes procedure seriously. So do two other members of her crew. These 3 people will be the only form of human sympathy you will get. The other 10 + crew-members will pretend you don’t exist. Just like in many public health care systems. Three hours before landing you are finally upgraded to private health insurance, since nobody wants to be liable for any real major concerns, and are taken to business class for a better seat. That is when you are parted from your family because well, we can’t all be private by paying our public fees and god forbid that what we pay, that is not cheap, but still cheaper than private, because that is what our hard-earned salary allows us to pay, is well, not good enough. So they take you to business class and you try to be inconspicuous as to not upset any of the private health care owners that have paid good money to be looked after first. One hour before landing, they have spoken to the airport personals, which are like an embassy of sort with a large parking lot. They don’t get paid by you the passenger so they don’t care what social class you belong to. That is when we finally got fast, friendly and efficient help. At the Munich Airport. No wonder it is considered one of the best airports in the world. If you are going to get sick, make sure Munich International Airport is your destination. As soon as we landed they had a bus, a wheelchair and help waiting for us and quickly aided me in getting our bags and took Chris directly to the airport Clinic. This is what happened to my husband who was very very sick and I on the Lufthansa flight LH 413 Newark-Munich on February 23rd, 2013.
I’m appreciative of this experience for two reasons. 1) It exemplifies our health care system. If you can’t pay they care less. There is no difference between sitting in the Lufthansa economy class and your local public over-filled under-staffed public hospital. 2) It made me realize that when shit really hits the fan, you better be paying business class or first class for some real service if you are flying Lufthansa, otherwise you are treated like you are part of the heard, the cattle, another number, like in prison, like we were. With the exception of those 3 crew-members, people couldn’t have been bothered. Many of them literally pretended they didn’t hear the amount of pain that was being vomited into those tiny “thank you for shopping on board with us” bags. Maybe we were unlucky with the crew on board, but when I’m thousands of miles up in the air and my life is in the hands of “professionals” and I am paying for their services, unlucky just doesn’t cut it. If I’m not treated well by a doctor or a hospital on my public health insurance, I file a complaint and look for a less-worse-option. What makes Lufthansa think that we wouldn’t do the same when choosing an airline to fly with? Also, just in case you crew-member didn’t know, first and business class alone could not sustain your business. Your job depends on poor economy class payers like myself, who fill up the plane to guarantee that the company can keep you as an employee. If I don’t buy, you may lose your job. In case you missed that class in high school or in college, a capitalistic economy is unsustainable (long-term) when there is a huge gap between first class/ business class and those who can’t afford to fly, or I mean, when there is a huge gap between the rich and the poor. A thriving middle-class actually keeps business alive if they want to be around for a long time. That means you sort of well depend on booking the economy class in a business as big as yours to, well, keep the business.
And here is the catch: all we wanted was to be treated with sympathy and like customers. We weren’t expecting that my husband got any sort of special treatment, but a bit less stress from your discriminating employees would’ve been enough. We have public health insurance because well we are independent filmmakers and cannot yet afford private. That’s what makes my waiting at a public hospital with my public health insurance bearable. A smile; A word of sympathy; A “we’ll be right with you shortly” or “do you need more plastic bags to throw up in?”. It’s far from being optimal, but it’s better than being left to rot. A good business will still make you feel looked after, because after all we are HUMAN BEINGS and a good business knows that even if in the end it is all about the money, if you make us feel good, we will give you our money. Oh my, look at that. What a novel concept.
Oh and did I mention that the one guy who was responsible for checking the food on board, didn’t check that my pre ordered non-dairy food was there and gave me fruits instead of a dinner to eat? I’m lactose intolerant and was deprived of a meal. He apologized which I appreciated it, but then left it at that. His apology came flourished with: I’ll give you a champagne bottle, I can offer you something for the troubles I’ve caused, I’ll go see if there is anything in first class you could eat, etc – but he never returned with any of his promises. So I don’t know what is worse: Apologizing to save your own ass or promising things to a customer and not following through. That’s bad business if you ask me.
From all of us traveling in the economy class who happen to get sick on a Lufthansa International flight, we’d like to thank the Lufthansa economy crew-members for showing us that we don’t count.
You tell me you appreciate my business? Don’t think you do.
No hard feelings. You aren’t the only airline company out there. It is after all a competitive market you don’t monopolize.
To everyone else have a pleasant stay at your final destination and remember: they need our business as much as we need their service, when push comes to shove, you can always chose to put your money somewhere else.
Ps: Chris was diagnosed with having had a virus, probably the Norovirus, which is what I also might have had while in NYC, and is commonly transmitted through food if someone who had it as well handled it. It is highly contagious and can spread very easily. If we had known, we would’ve avoided flying, but the virus literally broke out ten minutes after take off. An unfortunate incident, but it may happen to anyone. The virus is still transmissible three days after it’s breakout even though you swear you’re cured. So I’m sorry Lufthansa crew-members of flight LH413 Newark-Munich, my husband did not have flying sickness nor was he out partying the night before, nor was taking half a sleeping pill that he vomited out the first time around a cause for his sickness on board. You are far too quick to judge, and far too slow to serve.