By Rajeewa Jayaweera –
Firstly, President Maithripala Sirisena must be given his due. During his recent trip to Kathmandu to attend the Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) summit, he traveled in the manner, leaders of aid-dependent third world countries should travel. By normal commercial flights.
In his outbound journey, he had traveled with the national carrier SriLankan Airlines in a regular flight to Delhi and boarded an Air India flight on to Kathmandu. For his return journey, he had traveled to Karachi with a foreign airline and boarded a regular SriLankan Airlines flight to Colombo.
It is a welcome departure from the manner his predecessor traveled the globe, commandeering aircraft from the hapless national carrier.
However, the ‘nut case’ is another matter.
Addressing a gathering of farmers in Hambantota, he had stated “Returning from Kathmandu, I was served some cashew nuts on board a SriLankan Airlines flight, but it was so bad even a dog wouldn’t eat it. I want to know who authorized the purchase of these nuts.”
President Sirisena, his spouse and some of the members of his delegation traveled in Business class. Both Air Lanka and SriLankan Airlines, for decades, have served cashew nuts to Business class passengers in small ceramic bowls embossed with the airline’s logo and not in their original packings.
The persons responsible for food and beverages served in the Business class cabin are the In-flight Supervisor (title may be different now) and the Cabin Service Manager (formerly known as Purser). Service of rotten cashew nuts, may it be to the Head of State or any commercial passenger is a dereliction of duty on the part of these two staff members.
Therefore, rather than blame the supplier, supposedly a Dubai based company, a more constructive manner would have been for the Head of State to summon the Cabin Service Manager and made his complaint and maybe even suggest, the cashew nuts be tasted by her/him. He could have also summoned the Captain and requested him to record his complaint.
There is no information available if the empty packings had been preserved by In-flight staff to establish if food with an expired Expiry Date had been served in the inquiry that is bound to follow.
Since it has been announced the Dubai based supplier has been discontinued, the offending cashews have obviously been catered by our own SriLankan Catering.
President Sirisena has been made to appear in poor light in the international press with his complaint being compared to the ‘Nutrage’ episode four years ago involving a daughter of the Chairman of Korean Air. Herself a director, she assaulted a cabin crew member for being served macadamia nuts in a bag rather than in a bowl.
This episode is but another example of the sorry state of the once renowned In-flight Service for which the national carrier had a reputation.