It’s over !!!
Here at Airport Angels we are currently in recovery from the biggest year to date. A record number of staff, students and schools / organisations that we provided services for in the summer of 2017. It never ceases to amaze us how quickly it starts and builds to its peak and then in the blink of an eye it’s over. After the initial calm we do like to reflect and make contact with everyone we have worked with in the summer months, some whom we know are already in the planning stages of 2018.
Our tag line ‘ We are only as good as the information we receive ‘ still remains something that needs to be addressed…..
We have some stories for you………
The Twelve Year Old in Terminal Two Alone
It’s 04.40 and the Terminal is empty the young boy walks in and all the Check-In desks are closed, he panics and calls his Dad who is still sleeping as there is a 5 hour time difference between the UK and his home. He tells him he is alone at Heathrow and there was no one there to meet him and help him Check-In. The Father calls the school and tries to explain what has happened but his English is limited. The school then call the Airport Angels Emergency phone and ask why there is no Airport Angel there to meet him. Airport Angels advise that they have been given a drop off time of 05:30 (we are only as good as the information we receive) and the allocated Airport Angel is on their way to Terminal 2. It turns out the driver was early, he had no Airport Angel contact as the school hadn’t passed this on so when he arrived at the airport he just dropped the student off. The student called his father, the father called the school, the school called Airport Angels and then the taxi company. Following this, we had to call the father and the child back. 5 telephone calls, a worried parent and a child who is upset could have all been prevented had the information been correctly passed to all those involved.
The Coach Group
The Group come through Arrivals, an hour and fifteen minutes after the flight has landed. They took a long time as two of the students had lost their luggage and all the paperwork had to be completed. What a shame the Group Leader didn’t have our phone number so they could have let us know or had we have been given theirs we would have called them approximately half an hour after the flight had landed to let them know we were there if they had any problems. Once we have met them and we finally manage to keep them all together after they have drifted off for comfort breaks, food, sim cards and a whole list of other ‘essential’ jobs they need to do we take them out to the Group Bus Stop. We have to have the entire group assembled there to then request via the Coach Marshall the coach to be sent down from the coach park…… “What coach is it?” asks the Coach Marshall, “It’s a AA Luxury Travel coach” our Airport Angel responds looking at their manifest (we are only as good as the information we receive). “Sorry no AA Luxury Travel Coaches in the coach park” says the Coach Marshall. It’s cold, it’s dark and the 65 children with 2 group leaders are tired after a long flight. The Airport Angel calls the coach supplier office and gets just an answer phone, no out of hours number has been given, so they call the school emergency phone and get someone out of their bed ! They say they will call back when they have spoken to the coach company, they seem to have an out of hours number. Twenty minutes passes by and the children are trying to escape, the Group Leaders are getting fed up, the Airport Angel is apologising and trying to ensure them that it will all be sorted soon. Finally the call comes, the school have spoken to the coach company and they sub-let the job out to Coaches-R-Us…… The Airport Angel asks the Coach Marshall to send the Coaches-R-Us coach down and he radios up to the coach park and confirms it will be there in 10 minutes. Half an hour has passed and the Group Leaders have had enough, on arrival they were pleased to see their name sign and Airport Angel at Arrivals, now they are cold and fed up and their first impression of arriving into the UK will be remembered by the length of time they were required to stand at the bus stop whilst the correct coach details were sourced.
The No Show
The Airport Angel puts the phone down from Immigration after they confirm that they are not holding any Chinese students from the flight that landed an hour and a half ago,they have been waiting at Arrivals since the flight landed. There is no student contact number and the flight has gone off the board. The Airport Angel phone the school who say they will look into it and let them know if they have any information as to whether the student travelled. In between there are constant calls from the taxi driver who is sitting off-site awaiting a call to come to the Pick-Up point, he has another job and can only wait for another thirty minutes at the most. The Airport Angel goes to the airline desk in the hope they will be kind and let them know if the student travelled, they won’t release the information. It reaches the two hour mark, the driver has gone, and no news from the school and the Airport Angel is still waiting at Arrivals. The Airport Angels office calls the school to be advised that there is now an hours waiting charge on the taxi and the Airport Angel is going into additional hours charges, we are then told that the student didn’t travel and someone had forgotten to let us know!
The Unaccompanied Minor Checked-In by a Taxi Driver
The Airport Angels Emergency phone rings and it’s one of our regular Language schools in a panic! They have a young student of 11 years old who was travelling as an Unaccompanied Minor with the airline. On this ocassion they used a taxi driver rather than an Airport Angel to provide the UM Check-In service as it worked out cheaper. The school had received a call from the airline to say that the student had been offloaded from the aircraft due to incomplete paperwork and that as the student was a UM had to be handed over to the person who checked them in – the taxi driver! The taxi driver had left the airport and was half way down the M25. We contacted our Operations Manager at Gatwick passing on the driver details and thankfully they released the student into our care once he had been bought back Landside. Please ensure that your taxi drivers are aware that they are required to remain in the airport after they have checked-in an Unaccompanied Minor until the flight is airborne. If they can’t, we can!
Frantic Fridays in the Airport Angels Office
We adore the schools who have their transfer days on weekdays ! This is not to say that we understand that weekends are the top requirement for most of you and July weekends are as manic as it gets for us. We are all living the same hectic working life but we ask you to remember that however busy you are with your own transfers and airport services we are looking after you all. There weren’t enough hours in any Friday this summer to ensure that our staff were fully prepared for the two days ahead and had all the information they needed to carry out your airport services. This was due to the ongoing last minute requests and bookings loaded on the system on Fridays. We implemented a cut off of 17:00 on a Thursday this summer so we had a full day to plan and ensure everything was in place. We know that parents and agents need constant nagging but we ask to be your priority, we like bookings that come in early, we like schools that start loading them on as they recieve them however much in advance this maybe. We are always happy to help out with last minute emergency requests but waiting on which jobs taxi drivers will do then throwing the rest at us twenty four hours before makes our job harder and impacts on the service we provide.
There’s No Airport Angel at Arrivals
We are still getting that call from school……. “We booked an Airport Angel and there is no one at Arrivals”
The Airport Angel is in place as the flight lands, following the process on the Arrivals board, Arrived, Landed, Bags Arriving, Bags Delivered and at that point awaiting the students arrival. The Airport Angel tries to read the baggage tags, looks for the 14 year old female German student among the thousands of people coming through. Standing there in a hot pink T-Shirt with a meet sign with hoards of other school staff, taxi drivers and other people meeting friends and family the Airport Angel wants to meet this student often more than they want to see us. Watching the youngsters come through with their heads down or on their phones taking no notice whatsoever of the rows of Meet Signs being waved in the air. Then the Emergency Phone call, the school or parent calling to say there is no Airport Angel there to meet the student who is now wandering around the terminal. We are there, it’s our job to be there, we are wearing pink, we have a meet sign but they didn’t look for us ! Did they know they were being met by us ? Often not ! Were they given our number to call if they couldn’t see us ? No ! They were told to go to the information desk and ask there in the hope there would be a tannoy announcement put out (they stopped these years ago). We are happy to put together something to assist students in looking out for us, please ask. We want the students to arrive to someone there to welcome them not to be lost in a terminal full of people in a strange country, it’s important to us all that their trip is a happy one from the moment they arrive into the airport.
Please help us to help you…………..
Our staff work from our booking system, once we allocate the work they access the system and pull manifests of their work and they work from these on a daily basis. What you put into the system is what they have to enable them to carry out the service to the standards expected by both ourselves and you. Why oh why do we still have flights coming into T1 at Heathrow? It closed in 2015!! How are there flights from Heathrow to Heathrow?!! Most importantly if not booked through us where are the driver details? We pride ourselves on a seamless service, our Airport Angels like all the information you can possibly give them, the more the better. They work remotely and Out of Hours when many offices are closed and although in constant contact with our office we ask you to wear their halos for a day and imagine life in a busy terminal trying to provide the best service they can.
We don’t want you to think we are nagging……we just want to ensure that we keep improving and often we need your help to do that!
Here’s to 9 months of planning for 3 months of madness in 2018 !