By the way ... Leaving on a jet plane, business class and presidents

The flight attendant repeatedly apologised because she could not fix my seat's entertainment device during a recent Singapore Airlines flight from London to Singapore.

"It's OK. I can just sleep for longer," I told the Singaporean girl. I can be cutting but knowing that she tried her best I flashed my finest smile.

Thinking the problem was just bad luck I was pleasantly surprised to be presented with a S$75 in-flight sales voucher to compensate for "the uncomfortable situation that I had to endure". It was indeed a pleasant surprise and I was in economy class. It also went some way to make up for the airline's failure to deliver my frequent flyer card, which had been promised to me by the airline's ground staff in Dubai back in April because I was a business class passenger.

Disappointingly, I had a totally different experience with our national airline on a flight from Jakarta to Sydney just two weeks before my voucher surprise. I was traveling business class thanks to the generosity of Australian taxpayers who invited me along with some other senior - in terms of age - journalists to take part in dialogues with our counterparts there.

A flight attendant smiled to me and tenderly asked what I wanted for breakfast before landing in Sydney. She was very charming and very attentive and I was enamored by her professionalism. However, it was hard to hide my frustration when all those sat around me had their meals delivered and cleared away while I just sat there with an empty table.

Having waited patiently, just before when we were about to arrive I raised my hand and asked where my order was. The Indonesian flight attendant apologised, admitted that they had forgotten it and bowed his head like a Japanese warrior. He offered me a quick breakfast. But what for?

"This is still a trial operation," he explained.

"You do not deserve a business class," a friend said to the attendant, probably echoing the sentiment of Australian taxpayers. Perhaps when I was an economy class the airline would give me a pleasant "apology form".

After the visit I was inspired to write a reflective, but small, column. Many Australians were outraged by my views. But perhaps they would have reacted harsher if they knew that my trip was at their expense. I admit there was no correlation between the quality of my column - a reader even questioned my sanity - and the breakfast failure.

Please control your own temper as I show off my "frequent flying" experiences. I always feel more comfortable flying with Asian airlines because I believe - rightly or wrongly - people from this continent are more passenger centric. I do apologise for this conclusion. If you want to prove that I am totally wrong, please, by all means, invite me to try the airline.

I once had a funny experience with Qantas several years ago. I have an altitude phobia and a doctor prescribed medicine to ensure that "I would remain calm, especially during takeoff."

I immediately fell asleep after sitting down. I had no idea how long I had been asleep for but when I woke up I thought we must have arrived in Sydney. But a glance out the window and I realised we were still on the tarmac because the plane was experiencing some technical problems.

How about flying with Indonesian Presidents? As a reporter, I often covered presidential overseas trips, more often than not, on Garuda. Soeharto always chose Garuda's most senior and best pilots and the company president was always part of his entourage. The reason was, of course, for security reasons, well that and he did not like turbulence.

His successor B J Habibie was totally different because not only was his expertise in aviation but he is internationally recognised for his technology knowledge. Flying with him, therefore, was more worrying for a person like me who has a phobia.

The craziest and most tiring experience I had was when traveling with the blind Abdurrahman "Gus Dur" Wahid. In the early 2000s he toured Europe and visited Switzerland, Germany, France, United Kingdom and the Netherlands.

As he could not see, he had no interest in sight-seeing and he moved from one place to another after meeting his hosts. If I am not mistaken, we had breakfast in Paris, lunch in Berlin and dinner in London.

On reflection, President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono I think was the most "normal" when he travelled abroad.

Flying with the president means business-class treatment and of course it is free. But the only passenger who had the right to complain was the president.

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