Airport duty as a rep…it’s all about “tits and teeth”.

fuerte team

No amount of preparation ever prepares you for that first airport shift, that first coach transfer, or that first complaint. You are even surprised that an entire village/town that was shut for 6 months can miraculously reopen and be prepared for a deluge of pasty white holiday makers eager to see the sun and drink cocktails.

Regardless how many seasons you may work, it will still baffle you why the locals wait until the last minute to tidy up, open up and repair things. As you bring your first coach load of guests into resort you close your eyes and get prepared to make excuses for the mess – until you see that Miguel or Giannis has somehow waved a magic wand and the bar or restaurant or hotel lobby has been transformed into something majestic.

You spend your first 2 weeks trying to communicate with your hotelier by sign language because apparently he doesn’t speak English…until those first guests arrive and you realise that he speaks better English than you do!  All these things are what make a reps life a fascinating life…an envious life…a dream come true.

Life as a rep is about balance. With so many potential reps signing up every season, the turnover can be quite high as the demands of the job increase. But nothing gives you greater satisfaction that lying in the sunshine on a day off and looking out over the ocean and realising that this is your life. This is the life that people want to live every day.

However, once you have acknowledged that an airport shift is par for the course as a holiday rep, you soon fall into a steady routine. On departure days you pick up your flight manifest and check the time of your transfer, look for your pick up point and check the list of hotels that you will pick up on the way to the airport. As you look through the manifest you offer up a silent prayer that you are NOT picking up the miserable sods who spent their entire holiday complaining…because you knew that during your departure speech about csq’s there might be heckling or VERY loud murmuring about how useless you were, how awful their holiday was and how shit the company was….NOT GOOD!

Departures were often times where the most frustration occurred. Panic mode set in at least 5 days before guests were due to leave. They stalked the departure board in the rep area checking flight times and coach pick up times. They asked the same questions everyday they checked…

“Any flight delays?”

“Will the coach be on time?”

“Will we be picked up first?”

“Will there be a rep on the bus?”

“How will we know where to go?”

“What numbers are the check- in desks?”

Guests had this amazing ability to forget they had a rep on arrival, but upon departure they suddenly became needy and frightened. Nearing departure time even grown men had a look of adject terror in their eyes as they tried to act as if they knew what they were doing in front of their other halves.

While the guests turned into frenzied creatures, reps simply became very nonchalant and would often times would reply…

“You only just arrived…yesterday…go enjoy your holiday”

“I will call ahead to the pilot and see if there are any delays penciled into his calendar”

“No! Reps don’t go to the airport in this resort…we prefer to simply wave you goodbye”

“You will be picked up depending on how the driver feels…just be ready”

What would amaze me on departure days was the guests mode of dress. They were heading back to 2 degree weather, but here they were in tank tops, shorts and slippers. There was never any sign of a coat or boots…considering that’s how they arrived…dressed like eskimos!

Upon arrival at the airport it was imperative that you stand clear of the door, the baggage compartment … basically just move very far away from the bus and the guests. They somehow believed that if they didn’t make a mad dash inside the terminal (hitting over everything and everyone in their way) the plane would leave without them. On one occasion I saw a young couple trying to sprint to the check in desk when the trolley got jammed and sent the young man flying over the bags. I must admit I had to stifle a small laugh…before I ran to assist him. Thank God he was Ok, but he was angry as hell that he didn’t make it to the front of the queue. *sigh*.

Departures was either emotional or gratifying. It was emotional to say goodbye to guests who had become friends, but it was gratifying to say goodbye to the ones who had spent their entire holiday whinging and moaning.

Love it or hate it, airport departures was the last ditch attempt to secure high csq scores (if any at all). It was the last moment to make that final impression with your guests in the hope that you could get that end of month incentive. It was here that you patrolled that departure line like a policeman with a grin plastered to your face like a raving lunatic. Its here that you had to remain the most calm as guests howled they weren’t sat together on the plane and cursed you that their bags faced an overweight fee. Curses that overweight fee! In that moment you knew you could kiss that csq incentive goodbye. *face palm*.

If you were a newbie doing your first departure it was like torture. Guests asked questions about the duty free area that you knew nothing about! You had no clue what was on the other side…so you just made it up and made a mental note to ask a senior rep later…

“Oh yes! There are plenty of shops and a great food place”

“Yeah, just check the board for your boarding gate” (you hoped to hell there was one, and not just a Pablo shouting the boarding call)

As the last guest bids farewell and heads through those departure doors you wait with silent trepidation…you pray that you don’t hear those terrifying 4 words…”the flight is delayed!”

What…the…hell…happens…next?? This is the only thought you have. You hope and pray its not a ‘technical fault’ which cannot be fixed until they fly a technician in on the next flight…because that would only mean one thing…and one thing only…organizing overnight accommodation for over 200 guests at extremely short notice!

I can recall dealing with 2 overnight delays as a rep, and numerous longer-than-expected delays. I swear that I would take an overnighter any day of the week over having to go through to departures and face 200 pissed off guests! The one and only time I went behind those sacred doors I was faced with the angriest mob…I was encircled with no way of escape. They demanded compensation, they demanded food, medicine and answers!
Nothing will ever prepare you for a delay…but it is inevitable in at least one season abroad.

No two days in the life of a holiday rep will ever be the same. Its full of moments that either make or break you. But one thing is certain…those of us who hung up that clipboard and moved on, look back on those days with the fondest memories…and we wouldn’t have changed the experience for the world.

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What is a ‘holiday rep’ and what does that mean?

holiday rep

Final goodbyes before taking them to the airport

There has always been some misconception with the term ‘holiday rep’ and the type of lifestyle they lead. Thanks to TV shows in the UK, such as ‘Club Reps’ – holiday reps were thought to be drunken disorderly reprobates who worked overseas fueling alcoholism and debauchery among the youths who vacationed in groups during the summer season.

When I first told my friends and family I was going to be a rep their initial reaction was a stifle of laughter and a look of concern. They asked if I was sure I thought it would be a good idea since they didn’t want to see me on TV. Naturally I was a little taken aback, which just proves that the media only highlights what they feel makes for good viewing. I knew from talking to a number of past reps that the job I had signed up for was a FAR cry from what was seen on TV. I knew I was not going to end up on a TV show caught in any compromising situation.

A Holiday Rep is rather boring by comparison to a 18-30’s Club Rep. The club reps are the lively, crazy social butterflies whose only task is to ensure that their guests have the most amazing week or two weeks of their life. The concept behind club reps was to try and separate the boisterous party loving youngsters from the families and older guests who were simply looking for something quieter and more relaxed. Being a club rep involves a LOT of partying, late nights, early mornings and lots of mishaps. To be a club rep it takes a certain kind of mentality and strength to keep nearly 100 young people entertained, yet safe. And as most of us are well aware, once alcohol is involved, then just about anything can happen.

A holiday rep on the other hand, is someone who is responsible for the well-being of everyone else that hasn’t booked a boisterous party filled week away. The holiday rep is the one who has to contend with moaning old people and miserable families who hate their hotel. The holiday rep is the one who has to deal with the most bizarre situations and complaints with a polite smile stuck to their face. The club rep, because they are dealing with only young people, can deal with them just as they would if it was their friends. So for a club rep, even if the days and nights merge into one, and life is a constant party, at least if problems do arise, they don’t have to grit their teeth and bear anything with a smile…they can say exactly what’s on their mind.

Despite having tons of perks, like free food and drink from various businesses that want to be recommended, outings on boats or shows to build team spirit, being treated like a VIP 100% of the time (depending on the country and the resort), a reps life can be tedious. The hours are long and irregular. There is no such thing as public holidays – every day is just one big work day with a day and a half off once a week. Depending on ones position and location in resort, they could be issued with the ‘emergency’ phone – which is on rotation each week. This phone is the bane of anyones’ existence. It is the one implement that will give you night terrors and cold sweats. I’ve convinced myself it is the reason I can’t sleep at night anymore, and why every time the phone rings, I jump out of my sleep as if I was being chased by a herd of wild rhinos.

The ‘emergency’ phone was meant for guests who had a problem in the middle of the night and needed emergency assistance…notice the word ‘emergency’. I wish guests had taken note of what that meant. The amount of phone calls I received which were utter nonsense was ridiculous. There was one night I got a call at about 3am. This couple had just arrived at their hotel (their flight was delayed), and they were not happy with their room, the location and the general look of the hotel. They wanted to be moved immediately! I calmly explained that nothing could have been done at that hour in the morning – the companys reservation centre was obviously closed, and all the hotel reservations departments were closed as well. They would have to wait until morning when the rep on duty would assist them with their issues. I assumed that was the end of that when I hung up. 30mins later the phone rang and I thought that it was going to be a long night if this kept happening. Turns out it was the same couple. I had spoken to the husband first, who was totally fine with my explanation and was quite happy with my response. However…this time it was the wife! She on the other hand, was not so understanding. The blood curdling scream which emitted from the phone was eye watering. The foul language interspersed with crying, screaming and coughing, was more than enough for one person to handle at 3.30am. I hung up the phone mid cough and turned it off until 6am. Wrong I know…I wasn’t supposed to turn it off…but that crazy bitch would have spent the next 3 hours of my precious sleep tormenting me with her devil scream. No thanks! I had put up with enough crap during the day…I needed my rest.

The days, weeks and months all flow into one as a rep. Yes, each day is different, but there is no such thing as a weekend or a holiday. Each day is the same – the only day recognized on any reps calendar is that singularly most precious day – the day off! I shouldn’t be so cruel – we all had siestas every afternoon. We followed the locals with that ritual – every afternoon from about 2pm to 5pm we got to have a little rest. Rest being the operative word – because if we had stuff to do at the office, or got stuck dealing with a complaint with a guest – we could kiss that siesta goodbye. Don’t even mention airport shift day – especially if we were pulling a double shift. By the time we got home late in the night, after being there from 8am, everywhere ached – included our throats, from talking so much.

Reps are hilarious creatures though. When it came time to select the preferred destinations for the next season, everyone looked at the flight plans for the various resorts. If we had a particularly bad summer with airport duty almost every day – or having to face late night flights and/or early morning flights – we definitely didn’t want to endure that again. So I would try to find a destination I liked, I wanted to work, but had the least amount of flight days… This leads me to my next topic…Presentation days.

The day following a flight arrival day is the most crucial day of any reps career. It’s the day that ‘fresh meat’ pass by to say hi. Eager, excitable holidaymakers who might not have been to that destination before, look forward to meeting the person who they will complain to, annoy with ridiculous queries, and ask probing questions  – and if they are feeling up to it, they may consider going on a few trips. Bright and early the morning after a flight arrival, the meeting room is prepared with welcome drinks and information packs highlighting the trips that are on offer are laid out. This is either the worst or best day of any reps life…and for me…it was the WORST! I HATED selling trips. I hated trying to convince people that they had to buy trips otherwise their holiday wouldn’t be the same. I just wasn’t a hard seller, or a persuasive seller. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all the trips on our itinerary and I would recommended all of them, but I just couldn’t force anyone if they told me point blank they weren’t interested. I always put myself in their shoes – and I knew that if I was on holiday I wouldn’t want to be harassed about going anywhere if I didn’t want to. I was definitely not considered a top selling rep – but when it came to a crisis, I was definitely up for dealing with the challenge – like the time the little girl ran straight through the glass patio doors (which had no identifying sticker on it). Yeah, that was a great start to their holiday, and a great start to my welcome meeting day.

There may have been downsides to the job; the long hours, the sore feet, incidents and accidents, just to name a couple – but as any rep would tell you – which job doesn’t? One thing for sure though, when we all got together as a team, we would regale each other with the most outrageous antics our guests had got up to, disturbing sights we had faced, and the most stupid questions that were ever directed at us. It was common knowledge that once a holiday maker closed the door to their house, they left every ounce of their brain tucked up in the kitchen cupboard until their return.

On separate occasions, in different countries, there were guests who complained that the holiday brochure lied – it didn’t mention there would be fish in the sea. In Rhodes (a Greek island), a couple accosted me in the dining room of the hotel and demanded to be moved immediately! Why? They had no idea it would have greek people staying in it. One day I was selling a trip in Tenerife (one of the Canary Islands) to go into the mountains to stargaze, and a lady asked me if the island had ever had a full moon. She was curious because she had been there (all of 2 days) she hadn’t seen one. There was a young family in Benidorm (Costa Blanca, on mainland Spain) who had hated the apartment they had stayed in, so right before they departed, they left a huge pile of sh*t in the microwave – yes, yes. You can imagine what happened after they set the microwave for 3mins…that microwave had to be thrown out and the apartment fumigated (for a few days).

It baffled all of us how half of these guests ever made it through the airport and boarded a plane. By the time the arrival doors opened and a sea of pasty white descended upon us, every single one had either the ‘gormless lost’ look, or the ‘haughty know-it-all’ look. Whichever one we were greeted with, the response was always the same:

“Where are you staying?”

“UK”

“Excuse me sir? We don’t have that hotel on our list. Can you repeat?”

“I just landed from the UK”

“No sir. Which hotel are you staying in?”

“Mr. Jones”

…And that was when we would look down at the fabulous little tag on their bag (god bless whoever came up with that lifesaving idea – utter genius)which had their name and the hotel they are staying in. I would sigh in indignation, shake your head and direct them to the coach waiting outside to take them to the resort – all the while hoping and praying they actually make it to the coach and didn’t get lost.

Every guest on holiday has to have their hand held, they have to be spoon fed information and common sense disappears. I am sure it remains at home tucked up beside the brain. There were a number of occasions that a guest would complain that they had their wallet stolen. On further probing, I found out that he had stopped to play a betting game on the side of the promenade…he had to guess which cup was hiding the ball. *Shakes head*. Why oh why oh why?? We tell these people at the start, in the middle and at the end of their holiday – “don’t do what you wouldn’t do at home. Stay away from the street side con artists”. What do they do – ignore every word that is said, get their wallet stolen and then make a formal complaint that the rep was rubbish, she didn’t tell them anything, she didn’t care…blah, blah, blah. As a rep, our skins had to be thick and our backs had to be broad.

Rep life was hard work, but it was full of memories and lots of laughter. The friendships that were cemented are eternal. There is something special about sharing a journey with a set of complete strangers, thrown together in the middle of total chaos. We united as a team, we drank as a team, we partied as a team, and as a team we were an unstoppable force.

reps

Our mid season outing – my DREAM team