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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The start of Summer season for all Holiday Reps

reps 2May 1st was the official start of the summer season for holiday reps dotted all over the world. It was the day that the first flights and the first load of holiday makers arrived. 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. Here you are living the dream. A dream that is now a reality. Embrace that reality, enjoy every moment of that reality and savour all the memories the season has to offer.

I had written this blog before, but now the season has started, it’s only fair to revisit the all too familiar scene that is the airport…

You could always spot a holiday rep at the airport. They were usually pushing an overloaded trolley which had 2 grossly oversized suitcases, a brand new duvet, a small television and more often than not, a George Foreman grill perched precariously at the top of the pile. We took the term ‘creature comforts’ literally – especially if we were newbies. I can guarantee by the end of the season however, that tv was being used as a table, and the grill was probably holding up something that had fallen down…like the bed.  By the end of the season we realized that there was no need for half the things we brought – including the 20 pairs of shoes ‘just in case’. Every season that ended we vowed to NEVER carry so much stuff. Inevitably every season that started, our suitcases were heavier than before – and instead of 2 – they suddenly multiplied to 3 or 4. I don’t know about anyone else, but I envied the reps who were doing second seasons in the same place – why? They had left all their stuff behind knowing they would be back, and there they were, breezing through baggage claim with a cute little hold all. Curses my overloaded trolley and my blistered fingers!!

A newbie rep is fresh and green. Totally unaware of the perils that lie ahead. They are innocent and naïve, and they honestly have no idea that the moment they walk through the arrival doors looking all giddy and excited – their fate is sealed. No amount of training will ever prepare you for the doom that is ….. AIRPORT SHIFT!!!

A newbie rep turns up to their first airport shift looking all smart. They open the cellophane packets that have kept their uniform pristine and neat. Excitedly, each item is unfolded and put on in a sequence. The final piece to complete this fabulous look are the shoes – the oh so wonderful court shoes! Every season the instructions are the same when it pertains to the style of the shoe! Shoes on, ensemble complete and feeling great! Board the coach to the airport and the shift commences….

..… 12 hours later those same newbie reps look like they were steam rollered, bulldozed and then scraped up and thrown in the garbage. No amount of prep could have prepared them for reality of an airport shift.

Every season we were instructed to wear a specific style and shape of shoe as part of our uniform. We were told the heel should be a specific height – and yes, the height and the style of that shoe does make you look more like Daisy Duck instead of Daisy Duke. But it’s the company policy for a reason. The reason is not quite clear until you have your first airport shift and you spend roughly 12 hours…standing! Those sexy spike heeled shoes or the ones with extra length in the heel ARE NOT SUITABLE SHOES!!! At the end of the shift feet would curse obscene language, refuse point blank to take another step. Blisters developed…and mutated into at least 3 more! If you dared to make the mistake of taking those shoes off for only a second – forget it! Those feet would fight to the death to go back in. As a more senior rep at the time (after having my first, and ONLY, shoe-catastrophe), I would see the glances from the newbies as they eyed my rather unstylish and hugely unflattering footwear. The joke was on them though, because I knew they would be begging for mercy in another couple hours – *cue evil laughter*.

Airport shifts were hit or miss… and most of the time it felt like sheer chaos and mayhem! Depending on the resort and the country, it would be more senior reps trying to coordinate buses, drivers, flights, delays, guests, reps…total mess! However, if you had the pleasure of working in Tenerife, you had fallen from hell into heavens playground! Tenerife airport was managed with precision. It was structured, orderly and efficient. Every shift – even if there were delays or long hours – was a pleasure to work. The airport was a nice comfortable size. It wasn’t horrendously humungous like Mallorca airport and it wasnt a tiny tin can like Thessaloniki (Greece). It was an airport that was easy to get from point A to point B, and not feel like your feet were waving the white flag of defeat.

We become reps because we go in search of continuous sunshine… that wonderfully intense heat that could dehydrate a donkey and leave him dead on the edge of the road. However, being a rep this was how it felt wearing the full formal uniform in the height of summer…like a dehydrating donkey. The summer heat was unbearable and the sweat that flowed was unstoppable. Can you imagine, we would have to endure that heat and then present at our welcome meetings and hope to god that the sweat stains on our shirt were not off- putting to our new guests. I remember many occasions when it was time to turn the flip chart, I didn’t! I knew if I raised my arm I would only be endangering my safety. The guests sitting there in their bikinis and shorts made us look like sweating pigs in a meat shop. As lovely as that glorious sunshine was, and as much as we craved its warmth compared to the bleakness of the UK, we knew our limits when we were scared of our own sweat.

With the heat of a blistering summer sun beating down on us as we stood in the coach park directing guests to the right buses, we could feel that first bead of sweat form on the brow and start a slow descent down the forehead. Once that first sweat bead was formed it acted like a signal blower to the sweat bead army, because within seconds the entire body goes damp. But that sweat bead army had an alternative agenda. They knew we could handle a little body odour, but they knew that we couldn’t handle one thing in particular…stink shoes!! Oh man!! Rep work shoes were to be handled with caution…preferably wearing a hasmat suit. No amount of spray, sunning, baking soda or stockings/socks could rid those shoes of the funk that emanated. I remember I had a pair that was so stink – I felt embarrassed talking to guests. The stench was so bad it was like a big old elephant was sitting there staring at us. Granted, the guests did bid hasty retreats mid conversation when that elephant decided it wasn’t moving…I guess the stink shoes did have its merits after all (SMILE).

Irrespective of the burning shoes, the sweltering heat and the stink feet – Airport duty was kinda fun. It was an escape from sitting in the hotel dealing with complaints or listening to some of the guests moaning about the breakfast and why the bacon and sausage weren’t English. It was also a chance to catch up with other reps based outside of the resort. Above all it was a chance to scope out the ‘fresh meat’, potential hotties, and suss out which guests were going to be big spenders, tight wads or whinging gits.

As I had mentioned before, most of the new arrivals were gormless and lost. They confused their name with the hotel they were staying in, and they thought their name was the airport they were coming from. They were confused little creatures in need of great assistance. Problem was, reps had a practical joke side – and instead of assisting the gormless lost fools – they would often send them on a wild goose chase looking for non-existent coaches.

As the new arrivals started to come through, it was ‘’tits and teeth’’ (chest out and BIG smile) time. We were poised and ready for action. With clipboards high in the air, loud voices boomed through the airport as eager holiday makers pushed and squeezed to get to the first rep they saw. They were like prisoners making a mad dash to freedom. It was there in the arrivals hall that outlined the rest of the week for the reps. It was the arrivals hall that determined whether or not the preceding week or two, were going to be shitty. It was here that the inevitable issues would begin – and if it started with lost luggage then forget it… simply be resigned to the fact that the rest of the week was going to be a total nightmare.

No matter which flight came through those doors, the questions were always the same…

“How far is it to my hotel?”

“Will we be dropped first?”

“We are staying on a platinum package. That means we HAVE to be dropped second! Will you make sure we’re dropped off second?”

“How long do we have to sit on the coach and wait on other guests?”

“Does the bus driver speak English? Does he know where I’m staying?”

“Does the coach have air conditioning? We need to sit at the front”

No matter the resort, no matter the country, no matter where in the UK the guests arrived from – they ALL thought the same, spoke the same and behaved the same.

The airport was where every season started and ended. It was an integral part of our lives, and if we weren’t in a hurry to escape a particular resort, then it was also the place where the most tears were shed as we said good bye to strangers who had evolved into close friends.

Have a wonderful Summer 2015 to all the reps – new and old. Live the dream!

How to spot a holiday rep

You csuitcasesould always spot a holiday rep at the airport. They were usually pushing an overloaded trolley which had 2 grossly oversized suitcases, a brand new duvet, a small television and more often than not, a George Foreman grill perched precariously at the top of the pile. We took the term ‘creature comforts’ literally – especially if we were newbies. I can guarantee by the end of the season however, that TV was being used as a table, and the grill was probably holding up something that had fallen down…like the bed.  By the end of the season we realized that there was no need for half the things we brought – including the 20 pairs of shoes ‘just in case’. Every season that ended we vowed to NEVER carry so much stuff. Inevitably every season that started, our suitcases were heavier than before – and instead of 2 – they suddenly multiplied to 3 or 4. I don’t know about anyone else, but I envied the reps who were doing second seasons in the same place – why? They had left all their stuff behind knowing they would be back, and there they were, breezing through baggage claim with a cute little hold all. Curses my overloaded trolley and my blistered fingers!!

A newbie rep is fresh and green. Totally unaware of the perils that lie ahead. They are innocent and naïve, and they honestly have no idea that the moment they walk through the arrival doors looking all giddy and excited – their fate is sealed. No amount of training will ever prepare you for the doom that is ….. AIRPORT SHIFT!!!

A newbie rep turns up to their first airport shift looking all smart. They open the cellophane packets that have kept their uniform pristine and neat. Excitedly, each item is unfolded and put on in a sequence. The final piece to complete this fabulous look are the shoes – the oh so wonderful court shoes! Shoes on, ensemble complete, feeling great! Board the coach to the airport and the shift commences….

..… 12 hours later those same newbie reps look like they were steam rolled, bulldozed and then scraped up and thrown in the garbage. No amount of prep could have prepared them for the reality of an airport shift.

Every season we were instructed to wear a specific style and shape of shoe as part of our uniform. We were told the heel should be a specific height – and yes, the height and the style of that shoe does make you look more like Daisy Duck instead of Daisy Duke. But it’s the company policy for a reason. The reason is not quite clear until you have your first airport shift and you spend roughly 12 hours…standing! Those sexy spike heeled shoes or the ones with extra length in the heel ARE NOT SUITABLE SHOES!!! At the end of the shift feet would curse obscene language, refuse point blank to take another step. Blisters developed…and mutated into at least 3 more! If you dared to make the mistake of taking those shoes off for only a second – forget it! Those feet would fight to the death to go back in. As a more senior rep at the time (after having my first, and ONLY, shoe-catastrophe), I would see the glances from the newbies as they eyed my rather unstylish and hugely unflattering footwear. The joke was on them though, because I knew they would be begging for mercy in another couple hours – *cue evil laughter*.

Airport shifts were hit or miss… and most of the time it felt like sheer chaos and mayhem! Depending on the resort and the country, it would be more senior reps trying to coordinate buses, drivers, flights, delays, guests, reps…total mess! However, if you had the pleasure of working in Tenerife, you had fallen from hell into heavens playground! Tenerife airport was managed with precision. It was structured, orderly and efficient. Every shift – even if there were delays or long hours – was a pleasure to work. The airport was a nice comfortable size. It wasn’t horrendously humongous like Mallorca airport and it wasn’t a tiny tin can like Thessaloniki (Greece). It was an airport that was easy to get from point A to point B, and not feel like your feet were waving the white flag of defeat. Tenerife was by far the BEST airport to work in, and the team that operated there were amazing! The whole process was seamless. We turned up, we were assigned a specific area, once we were finished with that one, we were assigned another, and in short order the shift was over and it was time to head back to resort. And the BEST part about the Tenerife airport the year I worked – the company FINALLY decided that we came across looking too stuffy and unfriendly looking wearing our formal uniform – so they decided to trial the casual look at the airport. Trainers, polo shirts and cargo pants were the order of the day!  As you can imagine, that guinea pig project made airport shift the best experience of our lives that season! Instead of hobbling from point A to point B, there was much laughter and skipping gleefully in the sunshine.

Aaahhh yes…the sunshine. The sunshine that we go in search of. That wonderfully intense heat that could dehydrate a donkey and leave him dead on the edge of the road. That was how reps felt wearing the full formal uniform…like a dehydrating donkey. The summer heat was unbearable and the sweat that flowed was unstoppable. Can you imagine, we would have to endure that heat and then present at our welcome meetings and hope to god that the sweat stains on our shirt were not off- putting to our new guests. I remember many occasions when it was time to turn the flip chart, I didn’t! I knew if I raised my arm I would only be endangering my safety. The guests sitting there in their bikinis and shorts made us look like sweating pigs in a meat shop. As lovely as that glorious sunshine was, and as much as we craved its warmth compared to the bleakness of the UK, we knew our limits when we were scared of our own sweat.

With the heat of a blistering summer sun beating down on us as we stood in the coach park directing guests to the right buses, we could feel that first bead of sweat form on the brow and start a slow descent down the forehead. Once that first sweat bead was formed it acted like a signal blower to the sweat bead army, because within seconds the entire body goes damp. But that sweat bead army had an alternative agenda. They knew we could handle a little body odour, but they knew that we couldn’t handle one thing in particular…stink shoes!! Oh man!! Rep work shoes were to be handled with caution…preferably wearing a hasmat suit. No amount of spray, sunning, baking soda or stockings/socks could rid those shoes of the funk that emanated. I remember I had a pair that were so stink – I felt embarrassed talking to guests. The stench was so bad it was like a big old elephant was sitting there staring at us. Granted, the guests did bid hasty retreats mid conversation when that elephant decided it wasn’t moving…I guess the stink shoes did have its merits after all (SMILE).

Irrespective of the burning shoes, the sweltering heat and the stink feet – Airport duty was kinda fun. It was an escape from sitting in the hotel dealing with complaints or listening to some of the guests moaning about the breakfast and why the bacon and sausage weren’t English. It was also a chance to catch up with other reps based outside of the resort. Above all it was a chance to scope out the ‘fresh meat’, potential hotties, and suss out which guests were going to be big spenders, tight wads or whinging gits.

As I had mentioned before, most of the new arrivals were gormless and lost. They confused their name with the hotel they were staying in, and they thought their name was the airport they were coming from. They were confused little creatures in need of great assistance. Problem was, reps had a practical joke side – and instead of assisting the gormless lost fools – they would often send them on a wild goose chase looking for non-existent coaches.

As the new arrivals started to come through, it was ‘’tits and teeth’’ (chest out and BIG smile) time. We were poised and ready for action. With clipboards high in the air, loud voices boomed through the airport as eager holiday makers pushed and squeezed to get to the first rep they saw. They were like prisoners making a mad dash to freedom. It was there in the arrivals hall that outlined the rest of the week for the reps. It was the arrivals hall that determined whether or not the preceding week or two, were going to be shitty. It was here that the inevitable issues would begin – and if it started with lost luggage then forget it… simply be resigned to the fact that the rest of the week was going to be a total nightmare.

No matter which flight came through those doors, the questions were always the same…

“How far is it to my hotel?”

“Will we be dropped first?”

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I think this sums up guests and their incessant questions

“We are staying on a platinum package. That means we HAVE to be dropped second! Will you make sure we’re dropped off second?

“How long do we have to sit on the coach and wait on other guests?”

“Does the bus driver speak English? Does he know where I’m staying?”

“Does the coach have air conditioning? We need to sit at the front”

No matter the resort, no matter the country, no matter where in the UK the guests arrived from – they ALL thought the same, spoke the same and behaved the same.

The airport was where every season started and every season ended. It was an integral part of our lives, and if we weren’t in a hurry to escape a particular hellhole, then it was also the place where the most tears were shed as we said good bye to strangers who had evolved into our closest friends.