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Why won’t you ask me…

A day in the Metro - illustrative purposes only

The Gold Cabin in Dubai Metro has lost all its gravitas.

December 19, 2012 8:47 by

The train to Jebel Ali will arrive at Jebel Ali Platform. The voice echoes through the station. Commuters rush towards the approaching train, with eyes focused ahead. Standing shoulder to shoulder, consciously nudging their way to make it through first. A swooshing sound as the doors automatically slide open. As always, I stand to the side letting those exiting leave first before I make my move in. Others charge in, nudging women, men and children out of the way. I shake my head in disappointment, on the inside.

On this rare occasion, a gold cabin attendant faces the open doors, as if to both greet commuters as well as check for their gold travel cards. Many whizz past her to either side, like the unwanted and unnoticed friend at a teenage party. She doesn’t pursue.

I walk more slowly, making eye contact with her as I step onto the train. She looks back, her mouth starts to open. My ears pick up the first syllable of ‘excuse’, before she closes her mouth again with trepidation and silently looks away. Ask me damn it, I think to myself. It’s your right to ask all of us whether or not we’re carrying gold cards. But she is too afraid to upset or offend anyone. That much is apparent to me.

The cabin is full. Not comfortably full, with cheery people and laughing babies. Rather, it is overly crowded and if the foggy breath marks on the windows are an indication of anything – it is uncomfortable. Why do I continue to pay extra day in and day out when all that was appealing to me about this cabin is now gone, I wonder to myself.

In fact, I wonder why everyone else does. I also rather worry that an RTA inspector should come along. I’ve seen that happen, not very often but I’ve seen it. It’s hardly ever a pretty sight, because it exposes a growing new trend among certain commuters. Those that carry both silver and gold cards; one of which is always empty. The silver is swiped, allowing access. Should the cabin attendant pluck up the courage to ask them to reveal it, they do. She never knows it’s empty because she doesn’t carry the magnetic card readers that official inspectors do.

When the inspectors do make their occasional appearance, the vibe in the cabin immediately changes. You hear shuffling and worried murmurs. Some confidently flash their cards and are comforted by the beeping sound, reaffirming their eligibility to be there. Others hand it over hesitantly, and wince at the sound of a more disturbing beep. A beep that indicates the card hasn’t been used for access. They put on their most befuddled face forward as if to say: “I am as shocked as you are.” Not a pretty sight.

The gold cabin has lost its appeal. Its initial attraction was – at the very least – the guarantee of a seat. A slightly more comfortable one but not by much. That appeal is long gone. If commuters wanted to stand in a humid cabin, merely inches away from each other and clinging onto bars they could do that in the rest of the train. If the RTA expects commuters to continue paying the daily gold rate, something needs to be done.

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  1. Mark on December 19, 2012 10:48 pm

    These gold cabin attendant should have a magnetic strip reader to check the commuters. I feel they are useless just standing and hardly asking for gold cards. Tell me one job which they do .. Serve food ohh no they cannot! What else open the gold class door and check whether there are no men in the ladies compartment huh!
    Also your 100 % right, people should understand especially from Southern Asia please allow people to exit the train first and then enter be patient there is a train every 5 mins and also to those who think they can fit their child pram in the walkway of gold class.

  2. Prasanth on December 21, 2012 8:49 pm

    I am an avid reader of Kipp’s and of Mr. M. Aldalou in particular. But somehow this report seems to be born out of prejudices & not a lot of research/facts? First of all I do not think there was ever a guarantee of a seat in Gold Class. Also how does the author assume that the majority in the Gold Class are travelling without having paid the required fare? I hope he is not doing any profiling to come to this assumption!

    The guys in RTA & Serco are not fools either. If like he claims; their inspectors had caught a large number of people doing this when they do their checks; I am sure that they would definitely have been checking more frequently and vigorously. Also what is the logic of cheating and travelling in Gold Class with the risk of being caught if as the author says it is overcrowded and uncomfortable? Probably the Gold Class fare should be increased substantially to make it unaffordable to some!

  3. M. Aldalou on December 21, 2012 10:35 pm

    Hi Prasanth, firstly thanks for being the avid reader that you are. Let me assure you there’s no profiling being done and when it comes to this topic there is no research involved. It’s not what one would call prejudiced, rather out of experience. I travel by metro every single day of the working week and have done so ever since the Metro started. So this is practically years of my own personal experience.

    You are right, you would think that if more and more people are caught doing that they would be checking more frequently but sadly they don’t.

    Another note, I do not assume that most of them aren’t paying. Most are paying but there are a few that don’t, but the point isn’t simply about that it is also about finding a solution. Either assigning another cabin to Gold Class or as you suggested, increase it substantially to make it unaffordable to some.

    Anyhow, this is simply purely out of my own daily experience and what I see. Thanks again for reading Prasanth.

  4. M. Aldalou on December 21, 2012 10:38 pm

    One more thing, to respond to your comment about the guarantee for a seat. Yes there is no wall sign that says there is a guarantee, but logically speaking that is the case. Why do people pay more for Gold class, if not for the guarantee. Standing in the Gold Cabin would be the same as any other cabin. Eating isn’t allowed in Gold Cabin, there is no extra room for luggage, there is no additional services like Wi-Fi. The AC temperature is about the same. So the only logic for people to opt for Gold Class is for the seat.


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