2020 will be a year remembered by the aviation and travel industry for decades to come. It certainly is a moment in history that has fundamentally changed how we’ve operated day-today in our airport environment. One of the earliest changes we had to make back in February was to put the health and safety of our terminal workers first with all non-essential staff needing to work from home and the suspension of our widely popular volunteer program, our Airport Ambassadors.
Just as our terminals have missed the hustle and bustle of passengers coming home and travelling all over the world, we’ve also felt the enormity of the loss of the smiling faces and the incredible welcoming warmth that the presence of the Airport Ambassadors brought to our terminals 365 days a year.
This year's theme for International Volunteer Day is ‘Together we can through volunteering’ and while our Airport Ambassadors are still away from the terminal, they are still connected through their love of travel and aviation and telling a good story over a cup of tea. And because we miss them an awful lot, we have asked our Airport Ambassadors to share their most memorable stories from their own travel histories, so grab a cuppa’ and read on.
Dan, Airport Ambassador since 2015
Just thought I’d share my favourite (and true) travel story which should produce a few understanding giggles.
We visited Bangkok in 1998 and stayed at the Baiyoke Sky hotel which was, and I think still is, Bangkok’s tallest hotel.
When we arrived from the airport and unpacked it was time for a celebratory bottle of wine. To our horror, the room did not have a corkscrew – we searched up and down but nowhere could we find one. We rang the desk and in due course answered the knock at the door to one of the staff brandishing a screwdriver.
Despite our protestations that we did not have a maintenance problem, which was a waste of time as we had no Thai and our visitor had no English, our visitor went to the fridge cupboard and proceeded to remove (we thought) the cupboard door.
However, after removing just the one screw, he removed the foil from the top of the bottle, screwed the screw into the exposed cork, produced a pair of pliers from another of his pockets and extracted the cork from the bottle.
Needless to say, he received a generous tip both for providing access to (by this time) the much-needed wine and for his ingenuity in devising a method that did not involve using a corkscrew.
I’m sure that the Baiyoke Sky now includes corkscrews in all its rooms!
Barb, Airport Ambassador since 2007
This embarrassing moment from a long-haul flight that takes me back to about 1976.
My Mum and I were travelling back to Sydney from London on a BOAC (British Overseas Airways Corporation) flight - stopping in Hong Kong for a week. The plane was only half full and the lovely flight attendants came around with blankets and extra pillows suggesting we move into the centre rows of seats and uplift the armrests to give us a good night's sleep. My Mum would not be in it but suggested I move over and have a nap.
I slept well, only to wake up and find a man sitting in the aisle seat. I jumped up and quickly apologised for occupying his row - he immediately told me not to worry because he was up in Business Class with a bunch of snorers. We spent the journey to HK chatting away - he loved hearing about Australia.
He eventually asked me if I liked music, I told him my favourites were the classics and a little bit of jazz. I explained that I particularly liked that lovely clarinet player called Acker Bilk who played Stranger on the Shores. My description of him was that he used to wear a bowler hat and waistcoat and had a beard. Then the blunder of my life I said, "I think he has possibly passed on because I have not heard him for ages".
With that he turned to me and put his hand forward and said, "Barbara, I am Acker Bilk”.
He gave Mum and I free tickets to his concert in Hong Kong and at that concert he just had to let the audience know of what happened on that flight - and the spotlights found us. As Mum used to say "It can only happen to you Barb"!
Jude, Airport Ambassador since 2015
This is the story of my first ever trip as an 18-year-old.
I travelled to Tasmania by train from BNE to SYD, SYD to MEL, then the Spirit of Tasmania Ship from MEL to Devonport. I went with two besties and we were eager to explore everything we could. Never been on a ship before, so we were very excited. We had a four-berth cabin (for three of us.)
The crossing of Bass Strait was a night-time voyage, during a cyclone, so the seas were rough, and the ship rocked and rolled all night. Most of the passengers were seasick, though somehow, we escaped this, I think too much alcohol may have been on board. After being told to come down off the top deck of the ship by the crew, due to rough weather, we all decided that 2am was time enough for bedtime. The other two girls took the bottom bunks as they lost their sea legs and I who was sober decided that I would take the top bunk.
Now, this wasn’t an easy feat. The bed ladder was around two to three feet away from the bunk about two foot up the wall. I managed to climb up the ladder and stretch across to the bunk making a giant leap across grabbing the bunk. Finally, off to bed and we rocked all night long, from side to side. Sometimes the ship took a long time to right itself. Very scary when you think of it now.
The next morning the girls from the next cabin came in to wake us up. We got talking and I mentioned how, I felt sorry for all the oldies on board the ship trying to get up into the bunk beds. Carol asked why, I said, well look how far the ladder is off the bed on the wall there. Carol walked over, took hold of the ladder, and put it on to the bunks. I almost died laughing as it was only held on the wall by two little clips. It’s no wonder I didn’t pull the wall off or ended up on the floor! Oh, the joys of cruising.
Richard, Airport Ambassador since 2016
When working for a tour wholesaler offering New Zealand Coach Holidays, there was a booking for a single lady, a Mrs Jones, who wished to share a room with another single lady of similar age.
Many tour companies offer this to single passengers who wish to avoid having to pay for a single room supplement and are happy to pair up with other like-minded passengers, not just for the money saving but also for companionship. On the same tour there was another booking for a single male, a Mr Jones, who also wanted to share a room with another male.
At the time of finalising the passenger manifest, you guessed it, they appeared in a twin room as “Mr & Mrs Jones”. The manifest was faxed to every hotel in advance.
Neither had travelled overseas before, certainly not on a coach tour with shared accommodation. On the first night they shared the same room without anyone saying anything, certainly not to each other. They showered as normal, dressed discretely, and dined together as any other married couple did. They even sat together on the coach each day, not knowing anyone else but gradually mixing with other passengers as time went by.
After day three they were not sitting together, not eating together and not talking to each other. This didn’t escape the notice of the coach driver who observed this in the rear vision mirror. At the end of day three around the bar at night he said, casually to Mr Jones, “How are you and Mrs Jones enjoying the tour?”
Well, you should have seen the look on his face. “Wife? She’s not my wife!” And the coach driver probed a little deeper and the whole story unfolded.
As neither had travelled before they both assumed this was how things happened. Imagine how awkward things must have been in that room.
Pat, Airport Ambassador since 2010
It was 1952 and from a depot at the corner of Adelaide and Creek Streets, passengers were ferried by bus to and from Brisbane Airport (located at Eagle Farm in those days). Whilst sitting in the waiting area, Dad, always interested in everyone, chatted to a nervous elderly lady. He told her that the bus had arrived, and it was time to get on board. The lady said “Oh no! I’m not going on a bus; I’m catching a plane!! Even the TAA (Trans Australia Airlines) aircraft used in 1952 would not have squeezed easily into Adelaide Street!
Though times have definitely changed in the last 70 years or so, back then shortly after the end of WW2, not all families were fortunate enough to own a car, so transport to the Airport was either the dedicated bus or a taxi. We were a fortunate family with a car, mainly because Dad was crazy about any engine but on that day our family car was needed by another family member. It may be just my imagination, but I thought that the depot was the Ansett ANA booking office and the bus parked outside the office in Creek Street had the Ansett name on it. Blue with white printing. Could be just a dream.
Owen, Airport Ambassador since 2019
Brisbane, 18 November 1964: A family of English immigrants lands at Brisbane Airport on a steamy hot November morning just before lunchtime. They were at the end of a 30-hour journey that had taken them from Heathrow London to JFK New York, later to San Francisco then on to Honolulu and Nandi and finally Sydney.
The aircraft was a Qantas 707B (VH-EBF City of Adelaide) to Australia and finally a TAA (Trans Australia Airlines) Electra from Sydney to Brisbane. On our TAA ticket folders was a rear-view angled picture of passengers walking out to the rear stairs of the upcoming 727’s that were to be introduced early in 1965. Exciting times.
In London, we left in rain (no surprise there). At JFK, we saw our first colour television in the terminal. In Honolulu, we were driven to the terminal in fringe topped mini trains through tropical gardens. In Nandi at 4am, it was so hot and the air hung with the thick smells of blossoms. There we were guided and guarded by local policemen wearing what we thought was dresses with a sort of ‘V’ pattern along the hem. The New Zealand passengers transferred to their turbo prop aircraft from TEAL (Tasman Empire Airways Limited) for their final leg home.
In Sydney, we were welcomed by the Federal Immigration Minister, who had his commercial flight held up to be there to greet us; the first British family to be arriving under a brand new immigration scheme whereby we had to have 1,000 British pounds (1,250 Australian pounds in 1964) plus a guaranteed sponsor and a waiting job. Mum and Dad still paid ten pounds per adult to come here… and we flew here instead of doing what most immigrant families did back then which was travel by sea.
After being met in Brisbane at the old igloo terminals, we were whisked off to the reception centre under the Story Bridge where we could shower and change and have lunch, then it was off in the blinding white light of a sunny and hot afternoon to Toowoomba where our family was to be based. I wish I could remember more about Brisbane Airport in those days, but I just generally remember it being quite barren and hot and very dusty. And that light!
If it wasn’t for COVID-19, I would have been travelling in…
- Travelling the old Silk Road through Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Kazakhstan and then Christmas in Seattle. (Alan)
- On a seven7-week Canada trip. (Peter)
- I would have been in Durango Colorado, on a USA Coast to Coast rail journey. (Sandra)
- Canadian train trip from Vancouver to Toronto, home exchange in St Johns Newfoundland and then cruise from Quebec to New York (plus some other bits and pieces in between). (Peter)
- We would have been travelling from Bardolino on the edge of Lake Garda to Turin. If only...... (Barry)
- I would be cruising through the Panama Canal! (Jennifer)
- My wife and I would have been in the UK at the moment and would presently be doing a canal boat cruise. (Trevor)
- I would have been off to Japan and Thailand next week. (Greg)
- Should have been in New Zealand. Fly then drive around both North and South islands. Now booked for March 2021. Come on travel bubble… (Laurie)
Hopefully sometime in 2021, we can safely welcome our wonderful Airport Ambassadors back into the terminal and ask them to tell their favourite travel stories in person.