Thursday, 28 February 2013

He takes in visitor, 80, who missed her flight

Airport worker's help beyond call of duty lands him top service award
By Walter Sim, The Straits Times, 27 Feb 2013

HE LET a Greek octogenarian stay with him in his rented apartment for two nights and even paid first for her new flight home.

The hospitality extended to Mrs Cotis Kalliopi after she missed a flight connection clinched Mr Ben Soon, 25, the top accolade at Changi Airport's service excellence awards yesterday.

The passenger services assistant, who has worked there for two years and often mans the lost and found counter, beat 60 others to the title of Service Personality of the Year 2012.

Mr Soon was working at Terminal 1 last October when he saw the 80-year-old looking helpless. "She was teary-eyed and seemed at a loss," he said.

Despite her thin grasp of English, he gathered that she had missed her connecting flight to Darwin, Australia, where she lives with her son. Concerned that she did not have any credit cards or enough cash to pay for a hotel stay, he offered to put her up at his home. He said: "I was simply worried for her as she was alone in a foreign land."

As he was off-duty for the following two days, he even took her out sightseeing. He also helped to book a new flight and paid for her air ticket, cash which Mrs Kalliopi later returned. To this day, the two remain in touch.

The native of Kelantan, Malaysia, yesterday received a trophy, certificate and $5,000 in Changi Dollar Vouchers from the event's guest of honour, Transport Minister Lui Tuck Yew.

Mr Lui said in his address at the ceremony held at the Flower Dome at Gardens by the Bay: "It's not just the grand plans, the beautiful buildings, the lovely plants (at the airport). But ultimately, the people are doing their work well and delivering superior service and we recognise they are a key part."

The minister reiterated his pride in how its staff have maintained a "very high quality of service" despite a surge in arrivals.

Last year was the busiest in the airport's 31-year history, as passenger movements crossed the 50 million mark for the first time.

He presented 21 Changi Airport service awards in five categories - Service Personality of the Year, Outstanding Service Providers, Outstanding Service Teams, Outstanding Custodial Staff and the inaugural Service Partner of the Year. The last award went to the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) Airport Command.

"Most of us have a certain skewed view when we pass through airports," said Mr Lui, drawing laughter from the 550-strong audience. "But the ICA has garnered a high number of compliments to complaints."

He added that the authority conducts "serious" security duties with "exceptional grace and cheerfulness".

Assistant Commissioner Cora Chen, commander of ICA's Airport Command, said its officers are experienced staff trained in ascertaining identity, checking documents and intentions of visitors.

AC Chen added that they must be familiar with the security features of passports from around the world, as well as the different cultures and backgrounds.

Mr Lee Seow Hiang, chief executive officer of Changi Airport Group, said: "As Changi continues to grow in an increasingly competitive industry, we will remain steadfast towards delivering the iconic 'Changi Experience' to every passenger and visitor."

Started in 1994, the awards recognise staff who deliver quality service to visitors every year.

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