Cunard, P&O, American AirlinesMonday, 2 July 2012
I crossed the Atlantic on the Cunard ship Queen Mary 2 in May this year and I commented that it was one of those ‘been there, done that’ experience, I wouldn’t be in any hurry to make another Cunard trip.
I’d be much less enthusiastic about cruising with the Carnival Corporation (owners of Cunard and assorted other cruise companies including P&O Cruises) after a report in The Guardian in England on 2 July 2012. P&O cruise ship staff, according to The Guardian, can be paid as little as 75p (that’s US$1.18) an hour. They hope that tips will improve things, but recently cruise ship clients have been less generous with their tipping and, in any case, the tips can be withheld ‘from crew who failed to achieve satisfaction ratings of 92%.’
When 150 restaurant staff on the P&O ship Arcadia went on strike – for less than 1-1/2 hours – in mid-2011 they were assured that their complaints would be responded to and that there would be ‘no recriminations or sanctions’ for their actions. Except, it would later turn out, that Carnival UK would not employ them again and nor would the Indian agency they worked through.
If, despite their labour practices, you do decide to take a Cunard trip it’s wise to check carefully where you’re booking your passage. The fares can vary wildly from one country to another. Fares booked in Australia are about 30% higher than fares booked in the US or the UK. If you try to look at the US or UK Cunard website from Australia you’re shunted straight back to the Australian website when you try to check the fares. The answer, of course, is to book through a UK or American travel agent, they don’t care where you live and if you’re sailing, like I did, out of New York, Australia hardly comes into the picture.
‘American Airline – it’s like flying Detroit,’ a Canadian travel photographer I bumped into recently commented. After two recent flights with American Airlines, I’m not in a hurry to take to the skies with them either. One of the flights eventually took off nearly six hours late. After repeated delays (including actually boarding the aircraft once only to be told to get off again almost immediately) we finally departed on a 757 instead of a 767. They’d had plenty of time to sort out how this was going to work and they’d reissued the boarding passes, but it still deteriorated into complete chaos once we’d got on board with passengers assigned to duplicate seat numbers, children crying in the aisle and one passenger told to get off the plane or they’d call the police.
My other recent American Airline flight departed on time, but I was intrigued to note that the safety procedures most other airlines seem to follow – pull the blinds up for take off and landing, stow your bag under the seat in front of you – don’t seem to apply to American Airlines.
In fact wherever possible I try to avoid any American airline, on the basis that there’s a better chance that they’ll have some armed ‘sky marshall’ roaming the plane than with other countries’ operators.