Almost 500 cabin crew members from Singapore Airlines, SilkAir and Scoot have now signed up to serve as Transport Ambassadors (TA) with SBS Transit, SMRT, Tower Transit and Go Ahead. Stationed at various bus interchanges and Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) stations across the country, TAs do everything from manning thermal scanners to ensuring passengers practise safe distancing on train platforms, concourse areas or within trains and buses. Typically, one to four TAs are assigned to each station, with an average of two TAs per shift, morning shift from 7am–3pm, and an afternoon shift from 3pm–10pm.
Even though the crew members have temporarily swapped their kebaya and suits for the TA uniform, they still wear the SIA spirit on their sleeves. Leading Steward Shaun Dominic Rishi, who is stationed at Serangoon MRT North East Line station, has surprised many commuters by greeting them with a “Good morning” in Mandarin. Shaun took Chinese language in school, and he now finds it especially useful when conversing with Mandarin-speaking commuters. It’s second nature for Shaun to greet everyone he sees with a smile, as he knows it will brighten up that person’s day. Shaun firmly believes that kindness begets kindness, and his biggest satisfaction is to experience the natural good in people. A simple “Thank you” or a compliment such as “You guys are like angels” from the commuters makes Shaun’s day.
However, there are times when the TAs need to be firm with commuters and remind them to put on their masks correctly or practise safe distancing. Flight Stewardess Vanessa Ker explains that as cabin crew members, you learn how to be more tactful when handling sensitive situations, and this experience comes in very handy in her current role as a TA. Fortunately, Vanessa has observed that commuters are compliant 90% of the time, and she is heartened to see that the community is taking the fight against Covid-19 seriously.
After three weeks on the job, Vanessa has learnt a lot more about Singapore’s transport system and how its staff operate. She particularly appreciates the teamwork displayed by everyone to ensure smooth operations at the Serangoon MRT Circle Line station and draws parallels with her job as a cabin crew member. During quieter periods, station staff are busy checking the surroundings for left-behind items, and that things are generally in order. She likens it to her time on the plane. Even when cabin crew members are not in the cabin serving passengers, they are busy in the galley preparing for the next meal service or catching up with other work.
Inflight Manager Randolph Daniel Allen shares the same sentiment regarding teamwork. There are eight SIA cabin crew assigned to Woodlands Bus Interchange, but it took them only 10 minutes to work out their rosters and be ready to report to the station manager. Daniel has always been an active person and is a member of the SIA Wushu and Lion Dance (WSLD) group. Having been with SIA for nearly 24 years, he has been through challenging periods such as SARS, 9-11 and H1N1, but admits that the current situation is the worst he has experienced. He decided to take up the role of a TA because he cannot imagine himself sitting at home doing nothing, and because he wants to give back to SIA and Singapore. Daniel relates walking down the aisles of Woodlands bus interchange to walking down the aisle of an A380 aircraft.
Woodlands bus interchange has a relatively high number of elderly passengers who may not be as well-informed on the safe-distancing measures and reasons to wear a mask. Being more sensitive to the needs of the elderly is ingrained in the training of SIA cabin crew members. As TAs, Daniel and his colleagues fully understand the need to spend more time and effort explaining the situation to the elderly so that they know how to keep themselves safe.
Daniel also became a TA to set a good example for his son, showing him that during times of need, one should step up and contribute in whichever way possible. His experience as a TA has also reinforced his philosophy in life: A bit of humility goes a long way, and there is always something new to learn from someone each day.
Widening her horizons and expanding her knowledge about the transport industry are the reasons why Leading Stewardess Jeanette Yeo signed up to be a TA. She is stationed at Woodlands MRT North-South Line station, an over-ground station which can get rather hot and humid given Singapore’s tropical weather. As it is now mandatory for everyone to wear a mask, some commuters may feel a slight discomfort while at the station. Cabin crew are trained to have good situational awareness, and Jeanette has been able to spot commuters who are in discomfort and offer them assistance. Cabin crew are also trained in first aid, so if she comes across commuters feeling unwell due to the heat, she can remain calm and composed when helping them.
Their stations and experiences may be slightly different, but all four of the cabin crew members-turned-TAs can agree on one thing: While this is a challenging period in the battle against the pandemic, we will eventually come out of it as a stronger community, if everyone plays their part.