When an aircraft was forced to make a rare full emergency landing, all its passengers disembarked
via emergency chutes and so had to leave their personal possessions on board. Anyone in heeled
shoes had to leave them behind too.
But members of TravelCare were on the tarmac to meet everyone. We handed out trainers so people could walk to the holding lounge. We then reassured people and supplied food, drink and toiletries.
Looking after the welfare of passengers, even in traumatic circumstances such as these, is all in a day’s work. The trainers had previously been donated to us by a well-known business during the tsunami when hundreds of people were returning home with nothing. We keep fully stocked wardrobes of clothing in our office so we’re ready to respond.
Arranging a Las Vegas wedding service for his friends along with flights to the USA, a red-faced best man
was obliged to seek our help.
He’d even arranged an ESTA so he could enter the USA. ESTA is the Electronic System for Travel Authorization, required by US immigration. But he’d forgotten to sort out ESTAs for the happy couple whose flight was taking off within the hour.
We let him use our computer to arrange the ESTAs and he kindly left a donation to TravelCare. Let’s hope he remembered the rings.
A media scrum waiting at arrivals is rarely a welcome sight. Therefore, from time to time we are asked
to get people through the airport unseen.
When the Foreign Office wanted us to escort someone who’d recently been in the news for tragic reasons, we were keen to help. We have good contacts with the Foreign Office - they often ask us to meet returning British nationals. But this woman also desperately needed our help: her husband had been tragically killed while they were abroad.
I met her off the aircraft in a waiting buggy, taking her through the immigration process and baggage collection, thus avoiding the press. She was extremely grateful.
I’m very into my classical music so helping a young and renowned Korean violinist, who’d missed her flight to Berlin, has got to be one of the highlights of my time with TravelCare.
She was discovered playing in Gatwick’s multi-faith chapel by one of the airport’s chaplains who referred her to TravelCare. She explained that although she could get a later flight in time for her evening performance with the Berlin Philharmonic, she needed somewhere to practise.
“No problem at all,” I said. She came into our office, where we were treated to a part of the performance she was due to play that night. Wonderful.
Three months learning English in London was an experience a young Spanish woman had been looking
forward to. But when she landed at Gatwick, it became clear she has fallen victim to a nasty scam.
The letting agent who had promised to meet her at arrivals, and to whom she had paid €1,600 in
advance for accommodation, was nowhere to be seen.
She came to us, frightened and unsure what to do. When things like this happen we call in the police. They discovered that the name and address of both the agent and the accommodation was fictitious and told us to inform the Fraud Office, which we did.
Meanwhile, the girl needed somewhere to stay for the night and a meal. I took care of her and helped her contact her family in Spain at no cost to herself. We also spoke to the language school so they could find her genuine lodgings.
All of us fear scams in our lives, but unfortunately they do happen. While looking after this vulnerable passenger we were able to tackle this one head-on, which hopefully helped towards the perpetrator being caught.