By Kyra Effren, TSB Contributor
This week I flew home from Cape Town, South Africa on Emirates Airlines. The 26-hour journey is long and tiring even if nothing goes wrong.
We were due to depart at 1:40 pm on Tuesday. Departure time came and went and we were still on the ground. Announcements were broadcast that “there would be a delay’ and ‘we hope to depart at 4 p.m.” Then 4 p.m. came and went and we were STILL in the terminal (why do they call it that?) and the “plane is being worked on.”
More apologies and now explanations…
It seems a bird had flown into the “engine” as the plane landed. (Such a small bird to do so much damage.) The parts had to be flown from Johannesburg – the maintenance crew in Dubai had to be consulted. At 7 p.m., the flight was delayed until the following day.
Five hundred of us were marooned. Some had had to catch close connections in Dubai to go on to tours in Europe, India, to Mecca in Jeddah. A vital meeting missed. One mother travelling with a child ran out of diapers. A passenger had a passport due to expire the following day.
It could have been chaos…
Enter Pam Gill, Supervisor of Airport Services, Passenger Operations for Emirates. Ms. Gill was a sea of calm amidst the chattering anxiety of 500 people.
- She constantly kept us up to date with what was happening. She made sure that what she knew – we knew.
- She quickly found alternate flights for passengers who could use them. Their luggage was removed from the lame plane and reloaded into the new planes.
- She fed us throughout the afternoon with sandwiches and bottled water.
- She found diapers for the baby.
- And when it was determined that we would have to stay over – she shepherded us to reconnect with our luggage. She saw us onto the buses for the hotel where we were greeted with glasses of fruit juice while we waited and waited in more long lines, for everyone to be assigned rooms. Dinner was on Emirates…!
- She assured us we would be kept in the loop and kept her promise. During the night a note was slipped under our doors with information for departure the following day.
- She was at the hotel at 5 a.m. to ensure we were all OK and to see that there was coffee and juice and pastries before we boarded the buses back to the airport. We stood once more in an interminable line for new boarding passes – only to learn that the airline’s computer service had crashed. It took another hour before it was operational.
- We went through customs and inspection yet again and wended our weary way to the departure gate – where Pam was waiting for us. “Can you see I am smiling? You are all getting to your destination this morning!” A cheer went up from the group.
As we went down the gangway to the plane, many of the passengers hugged Pam Gill and said “THANK YOU for all you did”.
There had been no shouting, anger, pushing or complaining.
For a brief few hours she was our “mother” and “protector” and with her caring, civility and constant communication, had avoided a potentially nasty situation.
For all of us, during those brief few hours, the face of Emirates Airlines was Pam.
I hope they know how much she burnished their reputation.
McKinney resident Kyra Effren is a contributing writer for TownSquareBuzz.com’s “Food” section. Catch her Kyra’s Kitchen columsn on TSB!