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TNP Big Walk 2014: Counting down
Walk-in registration at Huawei's flagship store draws long queue, goodie bag collection outside Denizen outlets begins
There was a long queue yesterday at Huawei's flagship store at Plaza Singapura.
The people were there for the walk-in registration for The New Paper Big Walk, presented by the Singapore Turf Club.
Mrs Sarena Mensari was there 45 minutes before the registration began.
The 44-year-old housewife said she was interested in taking part in the TNP signature event, but had found to her disappointment that online registration had closed a week early because of the overwhelming response.
Some 18,000 tickets were snapped up within 19 days for The Big Walk this year which will take participants across the iconic Benjamin Sheares Bridge.
Mrs Sarena said she wrote to TNP three times within a week to find out how she could get her hands on some tickets.
She said: "I want my kids to be able to experience the walk."
She is planning to go with her four children and her domestic helper.
To cater to demand, organisers released a last batch of tickets so that people who missed the first round, or who did not have access to the Internet, could still participate in the event.
Yesterday, Mrs Sarena's persistence paid off as she was among the lucky few who managed to snag the remaining tickets available at Huawei - the multimedia sponsor of The Big Walk.
Another Big Walker who managed to grab last-minute tickets was Mr Paul Yan, 31.
Indeed, he arrived at 9 am, a full two hours before registrations started.
Mr Yan bought tickets for himself and his Malaysian girlfriend.
He said: "Online registration was already over when I tried to sign up, but I really want to go as it's quite an iconic Singapore event."
He added: "It'll be nice to see some famous landmarks up close and the event's atmosphere will make the activity so much better than if you were to walk the same route alone."
Meanwhile, people who had purchased their tickets online went to collect their Big Walk goodie bags at selected Denizen outlets.
Mr Hoe Voon Hee, 66, was at the Denizen outlet at Citylink Mall yesterday.
The senior protection officer has attended the event every year since its inception. He said he will be using the opportunity to exercise and is planning to walk with his son this year.
He said: "I used to be a marathon runner, but I can't run any more because of my age. But my legs are still strong and I'll have no problems walking."
Mr Hoe has a history of dressing up for the Big Walk and he plans to do so again this year.
"I've been to past Big Walks dressed as up Fred Flinstone or in a traditional Japanese costume," he said. "This year, I will be going as Charlie Chaplin."
Lucky trio win $1,340 each
Five things to know about overbooking
Confessions of an airport customer relations officer: People screaming, overweight luggage, and sickness claims just to get upgraded
Her job involves telling holiday makers that they will not make the flight.
The flight they have paid thousands for.
When airlines overbook flights, it is the ground handler's staff who have to break such bad news to travellers.
"Oh yes, it happens quite often," says Sats' airport customer service officer (CSO) Muliana Othman, 36.
Three to four out of 10 flights from Changi Airport are overbooked during the holiday periods, she reveals.
For these flights, getting a seat works on a first-come-first-served basis, so travellers who have yet to check in are told the bad news only at the airport.
Once, Mrs Muliana had to tell a honeymooning couple heading to Male, the capital of the Maldives, that they had to be bumped off their flight.
Says the CSO of 19 years: "Their faces just changed when I told them the news. They just kept sighing and didn't even want to look at me."
She has experienced the other extreme too: Where livid passengers start blaming her for disrupting their plans.
Some start screaming vulgarities at her while clutching e-mail printouts of their flight information or receipts.
Says Mrs Muliana: "They shout things like, 'How can you do this to me?', as if I'm the one responsible.
"They can get quite aggressive, too, so we have a security team on standby if anything happens."
Overbooking of flights is a standard industry practice as airlines do what they can to ensure a full passenger load.
Two to three days before the flight, the airlines will inform the ground handlers, in this case, Sats' "overbooking team" and there will be an indication about how many passengers will have to be bumped off, says Mrs Muliana.
To help mitigate the situation, CSOs will have to arrange in advance for seats on the next available flight.
They will also prepare hotel accommodation, transport and a small token, which could be monetary compensation or vouchers.
These gestures usually help calm the passenger down, says Mrs Muliana.
"Some will ask if we can do more, but we have to work based on each airline's policy," she adds.
Besides handling overbooking scenarios, she supervises the staff at check-in counters, departure and arrival gates, or be part of the six-man team in their operations room.
It is a job that requires her to start work as early as 4.30am and which could stretch till midnight. To cope with the workload, they take shifts over the week so that they can get enough rest.
It can be a thankless job, especially when passengers are unruly or rude, Mrs Muliana says.
One incident that stuck with her was that of a passenger who threw his passport at her face because he was frustrated for having to queue for a long time.
"I was still polite and served him, but inside I was fighting off tears. It was nerve wrecking. In the end when he realised I was being professional, he apologised and left. I smiled, closed my counter, went to the toilet and cried," she recalls.
In addition, some passengers who "know the system" will ask for seat upgrades, by claiming they are not feeling well, or are physically too tall for the economy-class seats they have paid for.
In such cases, Mrs Muliana always asks for doctors' letters for verification and this would usually be enough to get them to back off their claims.
She also has to deal with passengers with overweight baggage who "expect the additional fees to be waived", with some even arguing that going 10kg over the limit is acceptable.
Despite the difficult encounters, Mrs Muliana says she enjoys her job and she tries her best to help in genuine cases.
She once met a grieving woman who was rushing home to attend her mother's funeral. The woman could not compose herself and kept weeping.
Mrs Muliana arranged for the seats beside her to be empty so that she was left alone throughout the flight.
"It's things like this that makes my job as a CSO worthwhile," she maintains.
SECRETS OF THE TRADE
1 If you encounter an abusive passenger, stay silent and listen, otherwise your words will be used as ammunition against you. Remain positive and polite no matter what.
2 Personal grooming is important for portraying cast a professional image. If you are dressed nicely, it puts the passengers in a nicer mood too.
3 Keep a list, or better, try to memorise the different passports from different countries. Just by looking at the passengers' passport from afar, you will know what sort of special visa requirements to look out for before they reach the counter.
Let kids sort their own disputes rather than raising fists
Angry that a three-year-old boy hit his two-year-old son, a father allegedly slapped the older child last Sunday.
But the slap was so hard that the boy had to be taken to hospital yesterday as his right cheek had swelled up.
How should you respond if you saw a child hit or bite your kid?
"As parents, we shouldn't interfere if possible, much less punish someone else's child," says housewife Judy Lee, 34, who has read the report. "At most, we should just speak to the child's parent or teacher."
She declares that she is in a good position to comment since "this has happened to my boys".
Parents should never retaliate with similar violence, say heartlanders approached this week. While they say they can understand how the father felt, hitting the child will send out the wrong message to his own son.
Read the full report in our print edition on November 23 (Sunday).
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