My dad was very well traveled and did so with style. He often got upgraded to first class just based on his facial expressions. It was quite cool to see him in action. He believed that the secret to success was looking and acting your best while flying. You never knew who you might meet on an airplane.
He was often also mistaken for the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, while traveling. The picture above shows the uncanny resemblance. So, of course, he believed he owed it to the Indian public to always look his best. Sometimes people asked my dad for his autograph thinking he was the Prime Minister. My dad always graciously complied and even posed for photos. This was one of my favorite things about him. There are a lot of happy Indians out there who believe they have a photo with the Indian Prime Minister in a navy blue business suit, grey turban and regal posture. My dad knew how to pose for a photo.
He had a lot of rules for traveling like a sophisticate and not looking or acting like a hooligan. The common question he asked his family was, “Are you Hukmani or a Hooligan?”
I thought I’d share his travel guide with everyone, so you too can get upgraded to first class by your mere presence. His guide included a 11 step plan as all effective guides do…
1. Never wear jeans. Jeans are for gangsters. Never wear track pants. Track pants make you look like you have something to hide
2. Always wear a well fitted, structured blazer. It makes you look distinguished and like you might have a regular tailor. It is important for people to think you have your own tailor. If someone asks you if you have a tailor, always say “yes” (Btw, this applies generally in life too. Not just airplanes).
3. If someone asks you where you went to school, say “Oxford.” This is vague enough for people to be impressed and not ask too many questions. If they ask you what you went to school for, say “International Business.” This makes you seem responsible and worldly.
4. As soon as you board the airplane, introduce yourself to the first flight attendant you see, shake their hand firmly and ask for the pilot’s name. This makes you seem like you are distinguished and well traveled in that “oh I travel so much the pilot is a personal friend of mine” way
5. As soon you board, introduce yourself to your fellow passenger and let them know you’re a light sleeper. This makes you seem considerate and also discourages them from stealing from you. The latter is especially important if the fellow passenger is wearing jeans or track pants.
6. If seated in economy look gracious but just a little uncomfortable as in, “I don’t really belong here but I am making the best of it.” My dad believed this was key in getting upgraded to first class
7. If watching a movie, ensure it is a movie of substance, preferably with a political conspiracy. My dad called these “Political Thrillers” No animated movies, rom coms or movies about finding yourself. These are meant for home viewing only. (Little known fact, my dad secretly LOVED movies about little children having adventures or better yet misunderstood dogs finally saving the day. I often found him watching these on Sunday mornings. I might have even caught a tear or two in his eyes)
8. If a Political Thriller isn’t available, read the Financial Times, The Economist or Wall Street Journal. If your fellow passenger is in a blazer as well, quote something out loud to them in an indignant “can you believe this? Our economy is is certainly in for a toss!” manner. This is the key to starting a business conversation and using words like “toss” and “pish posh” really make you sound like you went to Oxford
9. Change into sleepwear if on a long overnight flight. Do not sleep in your blazer. Only my dad never called his sleepwear PJs. In my house, we called PJs “a night suit” and the top and bottom had to match or you were deemed a hooligan. My dad always changed from his business suit into a night suit if he was on a red eye.
10. Have an elegant and vintage looking gift in your carry on luggage like a miniature wall clock or sophisticated regal figurine like an eagle
11. When about to de-board the plane ask that this gift be delivered to the pilot as a thank you for getting us to our destination on time (if giving the miniature wall clock) or compliment his smooth flying talents (if gifting the eagle figurine). This ensures the pilot remembers you and soon you will be on a first name basis.
I hope this short but effective list inspires you. I will admit I have yet to follow this guide to its entirety. Perhaps we can do this together one day. Next time you’re traveling with me, let’s ask ourselves, “What would Mr. Hukmani do?” and do that. Then ask ourselves “What would a hooligan do?” and not do that. Maybe we too will find ourselves on first name basis with the pilot, watching a Political Thriller in our night suits in first class.