Pauline Yip 葉寶玲 (First Job)
First Job (by Pauline Yip)
Like most BBCs (British Born Chinese), my first job was helping out at my parent’s takeaway at the weekends and over the holidays. I did this till I graduated, when I started to work for a travel agent in Chinatown as a Customer Service Executive based at Heathrow Airport. I had always been quite fascinated with the buzz of an airport so was delighted when I got this job.
I remember on the first day that I reported for duty, my first task was to go on a shopping trip! My employer gave me £50 (which was quite a lot of money in those days) and sent me down to Marks & Spencer at Oxford Street to buy a suit as a uniform. The next morning I turned up to work at Heathrow Airport at 5am as our early morning shift started when the first flight arrives from Hong Kong. Those were the days before the internet was commonly available let alone any mobile apps, so the Teletext (for those who remember this) became my best friend to ensure I wasn’t late for work or allow me to catch a few more moments of sleep should if flight was delayed.
As a Customer Service Executive, part of my role was to meet and greet the flights arriving from Hong Kong and help our clients through immigration in case they had any language problems. Remember, this was many years ago, and in those days, there were still many Chinese travellers who had limited English. Once all our clients had gone through immigration and picked up their baggage, which normally took about an hour or so, we would finish our early shift and head off home. During the first month or so, the early morning start would really tire me out and I would end up going back to sleep for a few hours till after lunch time.
My next shift would start three or four hours before the evening flight departs for Hong Kong so that would be around late afternoon. Our company had our own check-in desk next to BA’s with our sign displayed in big Chinese characters so our clients could find us easily. Our evening shift was mainly helping the British Airways staff to check-in our clients, and again to assist with any language issues. Sometimes the BA staff would let us, especially the more experience staff to do the entire check-in process. One time, I was allowed to check-in a client. I checked their details through the system, assigned a seat, weighed the luggage, printed the boarding pass, printed the luggage tag, and then pressed the conveyer belt to deliver the luggage onto the plane – without tagging the luggage!!!! Luckily I remembered just in time to stop the conveyer belt otherwise that might have been the end of my first job.
The thing that I enjoyed most about this job was the buzz at the airport and the different people I met. In addition I found that the opportunity to work on the airside every day - the area after passport control was quite a novelty. Three months later I received a job offer from BT to join the big corporate world so that was the end of my early morning starts and fun at the airport.
A few years later, I noticed that the special check-in desk at Heathrow had disappeared and I didn’t see my ex-colleagues anymore as I stepped off the plane from Hong Kong. Time moves on, things changes and society evolves and I could only imagine so did the requirement for this role.
(By the way, they let me keep my uniform when I left!)