Friday, September 16, 2011

Shame on you Kuwait Airways

From the moment you step into the airport to check your bags in for the flight to Bangladesh it is absolutely clear that the Kuwait Airways employees feel like they are dealing with a sub-human species. Usually there are only two employees behind the check-in counters and more often than not they are joking with each other, on the phone, or walking away from the counter to do who knows what ... and that leaves all the passengers standing there waiting.

Checking in for a flight takes an hour if you're lucky. I have waited in line for almost 3 hours before being able to check my bags in. Any particular reason why? Nope. They just couldn't care less - I mean, we're Bangladeshi after all - the street cleaners of Kuwait. The ones who are not even worth paying the less than $100/month that they were promised ...

There are several horror stories I could tell you about the experiences I have had with Kuwait
Airways - starting from ticketing, to checking-in at the airport, to the flight itself ... like when the flight attendant spilled a whole tray of water on a passenger and didn't even apologize. Why should she? He's Bangladeshi. He must be a street cleaner. He's not really a human worth an apology.

However, the latest story has me completely riled up.

My parents were due to leave Dhaka on Saturday morning ... of course that didn't happen. For what reason - who knows. Nobody gives any information. Now, this particular flight was heading to New York via Kuwait -- so Dhaka, Kuwait, New York -- the one good thing about this flight is that at least you knew you were getting a slightly better plane than the ones just doing the Kuwait-Dhaka-Kuwait roundtrip journey (yes, they give us the shittiest planes in which the seat belts hardly fasten, the TVs don't work, and the seats are being held together with scotch tape). Anyway. This flight didn't take off. It was going to be delayed (they never said cancelled) for who knows how long ... so what do they do?

They put the passengers bound for New York in the 4-star Regency hotel ... and they put the passengers bound for Kuwait (including my parents) in a barely 1-star 'hotel' ...

It makes me way too upset to think about how terribly my parents as well as all the other people on that flight were treated. Such discrimination is horrific. Did these laborers who work practically all day for next to nothing - who haven't gone home in years!! - not pay for their ticket? Did they not deserve the same treatment? (I'm not even mentioning the 3 Kuwaiti 'business' men who were taken to the 5-star Radisson hotel - because surely they can't stay with the Bangladeshis.) I'm not making a distinction between the Bangladeshis who are doctors, lawyers, teachers, architects, etc. etc and the street cleaners, gardeners, taxi drivers etc. etc. and apparently, neither does Kuwait Airways. They see our passport - see Bangladesh - and automatically - Yup. They're not worth treating like humans. Push forward the shitty airplanes. We'll just dump them in there at our convenience.

Kuwait Airways has a sweet deal with all the government employers who give free tickets to their employees. Ya, a free ticket home - but totally at the expense of your dignity.

Shame on you Kuwait Airways. The attitude that is displayed by your employees is disgusting.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Don't Bank on It

Having to do errands while I'm trying to finish my PhD thesis in the next two weeks is stressful because the errands are always time consuming ... but I don't really mind when the errands get done ... today I made the mistake of going to NBK to deposit my scholarship check. Guess how that went?

Getting this scholarship money is proving to be more difficult than I thought it would be. Getting the check itself was easy enough, and I thought it would be smooth sailing from there. Shame on me for thinking that bank work would actually be easy.

In London I took the check (in my name) and forms of ID to Lloyd's TSB (the issuing bank of the check). In my previous experience cashing a check in the States that was all that I would need. However, this experience taught me that in the UK (not just at this particular bank branch the bank employee told me) you need to have an account in that bank in order to receive the cash ... because first they will deposit into the account and then you need to fill out a withdrawal form and then they can withdraw the cash.

Me: If you were depositing the money in my account, wouldn't you note that the money came from the issuer's account?
Bank: Yes
Me: So why don't you just get the money from that account and give it to me instead of all the unnecessary steps in the middle.
Bank: We don't do it that way
Me: I don't live in the country, nor do I have an account in England. What do you suggest I do
Bank: You should go to the issuer and ask them to give you cash.

I'm sure the British Association of Applied Linguistics is going to be thrilled by that request.

I asked D (who works at NBK - the National Bank of Kuwait) to look into what would be involved in depositing the check in my account here. He asked and they said - 3 days for it to be cashed; no charge at all.

Great news right?
Correct news? Of course not.

Today's exchange at the bank:
Me: I'd like to deposit this check into my account.
Bank: Ok. Oh. Only your first and last name are written here.
Me: Yes, that's my name.
Bank: Well, we need a minimum of three names listed.
Me: But that's my name.
Bank: Can I see your civil ID? {I hand it to her} See, it lists these names as well (all in Arabic)
Me: That's not my name. That's my father's name that has just been added to the rest of my name, but as you can see in my passport, this is my name. This is what I use as my ID since the locally issued Arabic ID is not really considered valid anywhere else.
Bank: Hmmm, well, we still need three names. Besides, are you sure you want to deposit this check? It'll take at least 40 days and we'll charge 7 KD.

I can't go on with the exchange because just typing it out is pissing me off even more.

Her advice was also to go back to BAAL and figure something out with them ...

So not only was the visit to the bank a waste of time but it was also frustrating and stressful. This is not the frame of mind to be in when trying to write.

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A Thin Line

Today will be another day filled with train rides. I usually love train rides – but the train rides over the past 17 days have left me absolutely exhausted. In the beginning it wasn’t so bad … but now, it’s becoming absolutely painful. Part of the pain has to do with carrying around almost 15 kg of luggage. That may not sound like a lot, but try running (ok briskly walking) though endless hallways and up and down flights of stairs (while maneuvering yourself through hoards of people) with a bag in each hand. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It IS a bloody pain.

All that and you get to the platform to find out that the train is delayed … signal failure, vandalism of the tracks, or some sort of drama that is delaying the train – if you’re lucky. More often than not on this trip it has been Rail Replacement Works – and that usually means one of the things I dread the most – Rail Replacement Bus Service!

I had avoided traveling on a Sunday in fear for the Rail Replacement Bus Service – but ended up not being able to avoid it even on a Saturday … add the usual closer/delays of the Circle & District lines (why do they bother to still have those lines if they run such a shitty service?!) and you have chaos.

Chaos and Crowds.

That’s when you stand on the platform and curse the public transport system and then try and catch a glimpse of the tube/railway map (that everybody else is crowding around as well) to figure out what alternative route you can take (particularly those that avoid the rail replacement service)!

Anyway. In the past 17 days I have done 14 different train rides. While I am absolutely grateful for the public transport system that has made it possible to independently travel from city to city, I.Am.Exhausted. Yes, definitely a thin line between loving and hating the transport system here in England!

I cannot wait to get back to my car and being in control of my own journey at my own pace using my own route …