To the question ‘What did you enjoy most about your Overseas Experience? ‘ the majority of us grads would probably answer ‘Learning about the excursions’, ‘Seeing our differentiated products and diverse hotels’, ‘Understanding a Rep’s job’ or something else around these lines.
I however would say Airport Duty. Personally this was my favourite part of the overseas journey, but it would most probably not create as much enthusiasm in everyone else. There are three main reasons why Airport Shifts are not as popular as other sides of overseas operations. First of all, our Reps usually have a rather early start into the day; they normally have to take the first bus that departs the hotel they are based at to the airport. Depending on the distance to the airport and the amount of pick-ups at other accommodations, the first bus can sometimes leave as early as 5am. Once the coach arrives at the airport, the Holiday Advisors guide the customers to the check-in desks and support them during the process of checking in their luggage and receiving their boarding passes. After the first set of them are checked-in and are making their own way through Security some of the Reps will move over to Arrivals, where they will greet arriving customers and indicate which coach to go on or direct them to their pre-booked taxi. More Reps will be waiting at the coach park to ensure all customers get on the right bus. Once all our customers are on board, one of the Holiday Advisors will either do a See-Off or get on the bus and accompany the customers to their holiday resort. At a See-Off the Rep will briefly welcome the customers to the destination, inform the customers which hotels the bus will be stopping and advise them of the upcoming ‘What’s on Welcome’ meetings at their accommodation. If the Holiday Advisors stays on the coach for the journey, they will point out some places of interest along the way and also accompany our customers to the each reception at the different stop-offs.
Airport Shifts can also be quite long, as in many destinations we have flights in the morning, the afternoon and the evening. Most Airport Managers will always try to ensure that a Holiday Advisor doesn’t do a double shift at the airport, but sometimes, especially towards the end of the season when many Reps have already left the resort, it is unavoidable.
Many unforeseen things can happen at an airport; a few examples are accidents, flight delays & cancellations and customers missing their flights. Airport Shifts can hence be quite stressful as all of these situations have to addressed immediately by the airport team in charge. Especially in the case of flight delays and cancellations, this means that the already long shifts at the airport can be prolonged even more.
After having read all this you must think ‘Why on earth was that what she most enjoyed???… What a weirdo.’ But in my defence and to do justice to all of those who feel the same way, I must say working at the airport also has its perks:
At the day of departure, when standing at the check-in queue the customers’ holiday experience is about to be completed. They will have lived their holiday and will be able to give you their most honest feedback on it. It is so very rewarding to hear the customers sharing all these happy memories with you and realise that we actually do ‘Make holiday experience special’. Unfortunately we do not always achieve this, but even then it is incredibly valuable to gather their feedback. Only this way we can know how to improve and live up to the customers’ expectations. But also, you have the chance to shape the customer’s experience from the very start by greeting them with a big smile and making them feel welcome from the first moment onwards.
Our diverse concepts and mainline accommodations are selected and targeted for different customer demographics. So even though each person is unique, at our accommodations you are likely to come across customers who have similar interests and tastes. At the airport however, you have the chance to meet all our customers from all the different accommodations, whether that is a luxurious, adults-only hotel or a Holiday Village. This was of great help to learn more about our target groups and understand their individual needs and wants.
Due to the geographical distance between resorts, many of the Reps don’t often get to see each other. On days of Airport Duty however they’ll come together and have the chance to catch up over a coffee whilst waiting for the next arriving Thomson plane. This helps them to stay in touch with each other, exchange experiences and stories from the past days, and release the stress. If it wouldn’t be for these days, many Holiday Advisors would hardly ever to get to see other Reps and live a rather isolated life.
The positive point I am about to mention, has also been previously mentioned as a potential negative factor: the unpredictable nature of airports. Whilst this might result in an increase in working hours and hence levels of stress, it does also make these shifts more varied and exciting. The fact that no shifts are ever the same and that you can encounter all sort of things during Airport Duties, make these days seem shorter than they actually are.
Personally I think that these characteristics clearly make up for the less positive ones, which is why I learned so much and enjoyed these days so much. On this note I’d like to say thank you to Carol Dias, Airport Manager at Faro Airport, and all the Reps who taught me so much and were so patient with me. Also a massive thanks to Area Manager Fiona Downie, Resort Team Manager Tina Lingard and all the rest of the Algarve Team – I had the best possible time, learned so much and will never ever forget this experience. THANK YOU!