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.