It became a nightmare at the NAIA last August 17 after a Xiamen Airlines Boeing 737 skidded off the runway. Massive flight cancellations, huge delays, irate passengers, and concerns over the 157 passengers and 8 crew members aboard the Xiamen Air jet that skidded off runway 06/24. Here is a look into the life of a few cabin crew members whose flights were affected.
Things did not come easy for these flight attendants and stewards. Coming from a long flight with a load of passengers, and for some, had flown up to 4 legs, they are definitely eager to go home or arrive at their destination to finally rest. Then, they get word fromt heir captain that their flights were diverted due to the runway closure. Of course, such news did not sit well with the passengers, but definitely also the tired crew on board. Some of them were diverted to different airports in the country and for some, outside the country. Some landed in Clark, some landed in Cebu, and some landed in Davao. More than just the longer hours of work were other challenges like facing irate passengers and managing them.
After they landed, the crew had to wait for instructions whether it would be okay to deplane the passengers or not. The usual protocol during a temporary divertion is that the passengers are not allowed to disembark just right away due to security and safety reasons. Some passengers did understand and there are some who didn't. Nevertheless, the cabin crew had to manage everyone's expectations and requests. Some were inside the aircraft for six more hours until they were allowed by authorities to disembark. Some passengers who were diverted to Clark were shuttled back to Manila by land. Those in other places were given free hotel accomodations. Some were given free food.
The crew also disembarked, knowing that they will not be flying home anytime sooner. After long flying hours, they are indeed tired, but as flight attendants and stewards, it is important to be ready for any emergency situations, mentally and physically.
Even if they needed to stay alert all the time, the cabin crew and pilots still had to get some eye-shut, even for a few hours to recharge themselves. Despite the space in the airport offices, they decided to take advantage of the sofas to doze off a bit in shifts. Some crew members will stay awake monitoring the updates whether it is clear to fly back or not while others will get a few hours of sleep in between. Overworking is definitely a health hazard to the flight crew as they may lose sense of alertness which is very important in flying.
Each crew only had less than an hour of straight sleep yet, their priority was to get all affected passengers back home safely. They had to wake up every hour or so just to check on the status at the NAIA.
Good news came in after a few days that runway 06/24 is finally open and it was time to fly back to Manila. Despite being tired after enduring almost 22 hours of duty time, they were happy and enthusiastic. They still encountered a few irate passengers but almost all other passengers saw the efforts of their flight attendants greeting them with huge smiles. They did smile back and some even thanked their cabin crew for their dedication and service given the situation that time. Though these passengers were definitelly appalled by the massive delays and divertions, they definitely understood that things were beyond the control of their flight crew and they were just doing their duties to ensure the safety of all.
Enthusiasm, smiles, and happiness did fill the cabin as these flight attendants continued to serve their passengers beyond their duty hours with minimum rest. Everyone was just happy that they were flying home, finally!
A happy crew results to a happy flight, as they say, and yes it is true. The cabin turned from a tense environment into a happy one. And at the end of the very long journey, many of the passengers thanked their crew for their perseverance, tenacity, and resolve to ensure the safety, security, and comfort of every passenger on board.
The flight crew are indeed very happy to finally go home after more than 20 hours in duty to rest for long hours, but more than that, was the feeling of fulfillment for being able to carry on their duties to their fullest despite the given situation.
Cabin crew members are trained to be selfless, to prioritize the needs and welfare of the passengers. They are trained to put the lives of their passengers on top of their very own, and this was what drove them to still belt out their best service with a smile, as though nothing happened. They understood the discomfort each passenger was going through and this pushed each cabin crew to serve them to their fullest capacity, to provide that care despite the mixed reactions from every passenger.
Just like some passengers, a few cabin crew missed out important occassions and some missed reunions planned years prior, but it really did not matter anymore at that point because of their commitment to the airline and duty to ensure the safety and security of stranded passengers as they were being flown back home.
This may have been a situation no one wanted but nevertheless, it brought out the best in every flight crew, a team composed of pilots and their cabin crew. It also brought out the best in every ground crew and airport personnel who worked long hours and overtime periods just to help normalize the situation for the safety of all.
There are indeed a lot to learn from what recently happened and we hope this becomes an opportunity for our government to look into ways and means on how we can improve our airports and equipment, particularly the NAIA. This also becomes an opportunity for airlines to look back and review standard operating procedures and to create contingency plas. For the passengers, this was also an opportunity for them to learn to be more patient, understanding and to always exercise kindness at all costs.
To all our flight crew, cabin crew, and ground crew who worked hard and continues to work longer hours to help normalize everything, our fervent salute goes out for your dedication and resolve. We do understand that what you all went through was never easy, but it indeed brought out the best in each and everyone one of you.