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Friday, 4 December 2015

A Saudi Arabian Anecdote!


It’s been a truly exhausting voyage I have managed to complete, after nearly a year of planning and six months of intensive travelling across Africa and the Middle East! Before I begin, I want to extend a sincere thanks to the countless number of porters, co-travellers, locals, agents, writers and chieftains, without whose expertise and insight I wouldn’t have experienced the magic of Africa and the Arabian Gulf at its fullest!

All I can say after a gruelling trip to so many places, is that despite an overwhelming amount of advice against travelling to this part of the world, with fear and worries over violence and the Ebola scare still active, I decided to put my love for adventure before my fears and chose to undertake the trip. And I can vouch today that it has been completely worth all the extra trouble, the nervousness, the mosquito bites and the infinite levels of cultural embarrassment I suffered as a non-native in this strangely beautiful part of Earth!

And true to this eye-opening trip, the raison d’etre behind this post is also an incident that followed the pattern and broke long-established stereotypes in my head about the Middle East and its people in general.

This happened during the last leg of my expedition. Tired and deprived of sleep after my experiences, I had ended up in a long line of check-ins to catch my connecting Saudi Arabian Airlines flight to Jeddah, where my other co-travellers would join me in returning to Riyadh. 


Already jet-lagged due to the road trip I undertook to get here in the last 3 days, I quietly found a seat at the boarding area and fiddled around on my tablet, boarding the flight amid a handful of passengers when the time came, the Arabian signage of الخطوط السعودية glistening atop the gates. But it was only on-board when the incident occurred. 

It started when the cries of a child woke everyone up an hour or so into the flight. Still accustomed to one time-zone, I was drowsy when I opened my eyes and stood up to investigate. It seemed that the child of a young couple was bawling his eyes out. The poor mother couldn’t do much except try calming him down, even as some muttered rather insensitively on how noisy the boy was.

With lightning speed, I saw a hostess rush past me. She reached the mother, asked her a few questions and ran back to the pantry. It was only when she returned with a food tray and effortlessly quietened the boy, feeding him with the mother’s help. Now I am no expert at medicine, but a few close looks at the boy indicated that he looked older than his clothes portrayed. It was only on asking the hostess that the truth hit me with the force of so much overwhelming pride that I couldn’t contain my smile; the child was autistic, which is why the hostess had rushed to get one of the airline’s specialized meals for autism patients. 

I know plenty of readers may not find much value in the story, but the fact that such sensitivity can be seen in a global brand like this shows that we have much to learn about hospitality and understanding of one another. Kudos to Saudia and its impeccable principles! Hope to keep witnessing such incidents of spotless humanity!



This is a post by a guest blogger

16 comments:

Comments and feedback are always appreciated. So do leave one or two if you have the time. Thank you!

  1. How great to read that the air steward knew what action to take, but it leaves me wondering what is in an autistic meal?

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    1. I thought of the same too. My guess is that the parent requested for something specific and the flight attendant obliged with the meal request rather than serving them the standard kid's meal.

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  2. Super story but I agree with Sue, what does an autistic meal comprise exactly? Absolutely love that first image of the camels with the sunset by the way.

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    1. My guess is that the parent requested for something specific and the flight attendant obliged with the meal request rather than serving them the standard kid's meal.

      I took the photo of the camels on a camel farm in a desert just outside Jeddah a few years back. Quite an interesting experience.
      :)

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  3. As an educator of children with disabilities, I always appreciate a story where a child with a disability is treated with respect, dignity and love. Thank you for sharing

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  4. I had a recent flight from Beijing to California and my daughter, who travels very often, finally had a melt down on the plane. She was screaming and throwing herself around in the seat. It was a combination of over-tired and trying to get her own way but I wish the airline attendant had of been a little less intrusive, compounding the problem.

    I'm happy to hear that it was a different, helpful situation here but stepping in isn't always the answer. It's such a struggle being the parent of a screaming kid on a plane.

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    1. I totally agree. I can only imagine the struggle, hence why I try not to judge or even get annoyed when I hear kids screaming whilst on a plane. For other passengers, noise cancelling headphones and even earplugs can easily solve the problem. But then I guess, there'd always be some who would complain to the flight attendant about the noise and ask them to do something, leaving them in a catch-22 situation.

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  5. Nice story! Didn't know there is such a thing as a special meal for autistic children. Kudos to this airline. Another Middle East Airline is our favorite: United Arab Emirates! They seem to think of everything you need.

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  6. I know that various airlines have policies for assisting passengers with autism. I am pretty much 100% sure though, that there are no 'specialised autistic meals'. Most likely, the parents told the stewardess what the child required, and the stewardess obliged.

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    1. I thought so too, regarding the food, because the requirements could be different with each autistic child. It's great though that the stewardess could oblige rather than just serve some standard kid's meals.

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  7. I always like reading about acts of kindness. The flight attendant was in a position to help and she did. Some may argue it was her job, but plenty of people only do what is asked and nothing more. Thanks for sharing your experience.

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    1. That's true. It makes the service more personal and it shines through this experience.

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  8. Quite impressive. I have never seen this in a flight and Saudia is definitively not known for good service (I lived in Dubai for 5 years and though I never went to Saudi my colleagues did on a weekly basis so they had weekly experience with the brand and with Emirates, etc.) so kudos to her for the ability to spot the issue and find a solution for everyone's sake

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    1. I used to live in Jeddah for a year before moving to Dubai for 4 years. I mostly opted for Emirates even when I was in Saudi but the few times I flew with Saudia, they're not that bad actually. And I've read that they have improved a lot too these past few years, and have been listed in the Skytrax World Airline Award's Top 10 in a category or two for their Economy class.

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  9. Helena - Oh darling, let's be adventurers!07 December, 2015

    That is a nice story, glad to hear that the hostess was able to help with the boy.

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  10. I'm curious what exactly the meal included. I'm not surprised however thar the flight attendant rushed to help - I always admire how most of them are oilite, kind and very helpful.

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