My First Cancelled Flight

06Jan10

Today was actually a good day. My day has been busy but it wasn’t harder than the average busy day. We all came into work expecting chaos and large waves of angry passengers. We got good management instead, that was a nice change.

I think we’re all used to the snow now: passengers know they’re not gonna get anywhere, airport staff know what they’re meant to be doing with the equipment they have and passenger services know all the airlines’ phone numbers off by heart. The fact that it was REALLY hard to get to the airport helped…. Even the airport website was working properly, providing accurate updates since the minute snow started sticking on the ground.

I remember the first time I experienced flight disruptions. I was meant to be checking-in a Gibraltar flight and I was terrified. I’d never had to deal with a flight cancellation before and the airline in question is of the ‘demanding’ kind. You’d think I had received enough training but the truth is that they barely prepared me to what dealing with a long delay/cancellation is like; the supervisor told me what I was meant to be saying and handed be about a hundred cancellation letters, two minutes before check-in was due to open.

This GIB flight was canceled due to weather conditions in Gibraltar, which is an annoyingly placed rock on the Mediterranean Sea, between Spain and Africa. I honestly think we’d all be way happier if it was deserted! The thing with GIB is that strong winds often cause flight diversions into Malaga Airport and then the passengers are coached to GIB; on this particular occasion The Airline had simply decided to cancel the flight altogether. So, there I was, with about 150 people queuing up in front of me, whom the screens had already warned that about the cancellation of their flight.

I’ve always been a people watcher and there was a part of me that was curious about how everything was gonna turn out. It wasn’t that bad at first, most people seemed to understand the reasons for the cancellation and were obediently making their way to ticket desk in order to rebook their flights or get refund. Eventually, the queue at ticket desk became so long that people kept coming back to check-in in order to get some more information: here’s where problems started. As a newbie I KNEW NOTHING, I hadn’t even had a proper read of the three-page letter that I was handing out (if only I had been given a little bit more time…).

There was one gentleman whose questions exhausted all my knowledge, which made him very very angry. I was determined to remain as calm as possible. Whenever I didn’t know an answer to a question apologised for not knowing and gave him two options: join the queue and ask the people at ticket desk or call the number on the letter. His questions were quite intricate, in all honesty. At one point he slammed his fist on my desk and shouted “I don’t wanna call anybody, I want YOU TO TELL ME”. I sat there and smiled without saying a word. The uncomfortable silence died out to the sound of his mobile phone. He looked at me again, still annoyed, I could tell, but also a little embarrassed about his very loud display of emotion. And that was that. I don’t know if he managed to change his flight, if he left the airport, or if he found another PSA to harass with his ridiculous claims and questions (you have to believe me: they were ridiculous!) The story made its way around the office… that was one fun day. For me.

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