I am a frequent flyer. Every month, i am flying half way around the globe, if it from Chennai to the US one month, then it flying back again the next month. My work requires me to operate in India and the US, splitting my time to about 3-6 weeks (usually 30 days) in each place. Anytime i arrive at a location, the usual questions are “Hey! When did you arrive?”, quickly to be followed by “When are you going back?”. My family also calls me a frequent flyer; in a different context, i.e. flying away or running away from stuff. I cant blame them. But i am eternally thankful to them, as they spare me from constant nagging, which would have had a serious effect on my work.
As i fly so often, i tried many different options, and finally settled on Lufthansa as my flagship carrier. A few good reasons for this. First, it is a Star Alliance partner, and since i am a United Airlines mileage member, this helps me accumulate miles for every flight i take on Lufthansa. Now this is also a question, i am often asked “So you must be having millions miles?”, and my response is “Yes! I do. But i don’t get to use them.” Second reason for Lufthansa is the convenience factor, 7 days a week, one stop over, two flights of about equal time to get me from Chennai to Washington DC. And the third the incredible German efficiency – almost always on time, in almost 14 years of flying Lufthansa, they are yet to screw up with my baggage.
On my recent flight from Chennai to the US, as i was being served my meal, i observed a small fact. The cotton cloth napkin i was given along with my silverware, had a small tab, showing the details of the place of manufacture. Knowing the manufacturing world, i straightened the tab to read the text, convinced that it will have the magic words “Made in China”. Well, i was astounded instead by the words “Made in Germany”.
Why would a cheap cloth napkin be made in Germany? Let me first explain, it was not a cheap piece of cloth. It was fine well made cloth napkin. But still this is a low value item, and offers no economic bonanza for Germany to manufacture it, when it could have easily imported this from China. I have noticed in the US, it is difficult to find items that are ‘Made in USA’. Today if you enter a store in the US, other than local food produce, most items are manufactured from China. To the extent that in stores in and around the DC metro area, where they sell paraphernalia like the American flag, miniatures of the Washington Monument, Capitol, and the White House etc., are all ‘Made in China’. And hence my surprise in seeing this on a simple cloth napkin on this German airline.
It is also evident when you are in Germany, to notice the class of engineering in everything you see and touch. Be it a simple faucet, a door knob, a hinge or a draw handle. They seem perfect. They work, and very seamlessly. The fit, the joint, and the physics of it all, simply seems and feels superior. I am of course comparing to what i have seen mostly in the US, India, Canada, a bit of England and isolated part of SE Asia. It appears that the German engineering machine is made of a different breed.
And so it must be, that the Lufthansa thought they must use German products on their planes. The pride of this national carrier in everything German, is so evident. It is not cheap to make these products here. And so i wonder, how and why they choose, and manage their finance and profit. But like their love for their mother tongue, there must be a love for their own. I am sure Germany import goods, and considering a country like China, they must be importing quite a lot from there too. But i wonder if they would import their national flag, that is made by the Chinese.