Airline Staff don’t sell only travel
By Cecil Wagstaff (Australia)
When I was working with Air France, Bombay, in 1970s, a young couple walked in one Saturday morning. I was at the Ticket Counter, City Office, Stadium House in Churchgate opposite Lufthansa Bombay Office.
They held Flight tickets to leave that evening for Paris on some other Airline’s Charter Flight and wanted these accepted by Air France. They had come to India to adopt an infant, but the Indian Government’s interminable Paperwork had not been completed.
They wanted to know if Air France would accept these on the following Monday night’s Air France flight. They had not completed ‘some necessary documentation’.
Of course Air France could not, and when I told them this the lady broke down, sobbing hysterically. I calmed her down, with a coffee and reassurances that I would do anything I could to help, but this was not possible as you know what “Charter’ Flight Conditions’ are, and……,
That’s when they told me the nature of their visit. They, being childless and unable to conceive had come to India to adopt an infant, and that they had no more money to buy standard Air ticket tickets home. The Lady started crying again and her whole body was wreaked in trembling spasms.
Having given my word to help, I advised her that I myself was leaving on a holiday to London, the following Friday, and would transit Frankfurt but could divert Frankfurt to Paris – drop off the infant to their care, and proceed immediately to London. AND………that if I had their formal authority, and the completed Documentation, by the India Government Authorities – I would carry the infant with me, at NIL cost to them other than the standard infant fare.
Smiles all around and a relieved couple left on their Charter that night – as you can understand.
Hallelujah, Shock – Horror to one CLWW….. moi mich, ME!
When the Nuns from the Convent bought the infant (Eve) to the airport on Friday for our departure I then learnt the infant was only ten months old – I had assumed just under two years, when I made the offer to assist personally.
I had to honour my commitment, so took charge of the infant and we boarded the flight.
Enroute to Frankfurt/to connect to , infant Eve took very ill and was excreting from both ends. Eve was getting severely dehydrated, with the skin on the back of her hand standing and not subsiding when we raised it to check the level of dehydration.
With the assistance of a kind Lufthansa flight attendant, we kept Eve alive, feeding her with Cecil Made Sugar Water, fed to her though the medium of a Fountain Pen self filler – thoroughly sanitized of course in a Jug of boiling water in the aircraft Galley. We had no choice and desperate situations call for desperate action.
Got to Paris and safely handed Eve to her adopted parents, who had come with their family and entourage. They wanted to take me for lunch – in gratitude but I could not accept this and instructed them to rush the infant to a Hospital ‘Immediately’ – there was no time for pleasantries, albeit greatly appreciated, and thank goodness they did this.
I proceeded to London, had my holiday and flew home….forgetting all about the drama on board.
I did not hear from the couple for seven years. Out of the blue, I received a letter from them begging my pardon as I (in their opinion) must have thought they were the most ungrateful people in the world, after what I had done. I had forgotten all about this.
They advised me that if they had not got Eve to a Hospital in time, she would not have survived, and had been sickly all this time, hence their inability to communicate. Eve had turned the corner and was now healthy, hence their writing. Air France Bombay, had forwarded their letter to me in Australia, where I had migrated to in 1977.
We kept in touch over the years, regularly, Christmas, Birthdays, and still do.
Now the Epilogue to this lovely story!
In 1993 I directed and escorted the World War1 Diggers (Soldiers) on an Official Australian Government Commemoration Pilgrimage to The Western Front of World War I.
The entourage included The Australian Governor General of Australia of the time, Bill Hayden, John Howard, who was not yet Prime Minister, but held another Ministerial Portfolio, John Faulkner The Minister of Veterans’ Affairs at that time –, Nurses, Carers as these Soldiers (Diggers were all in their Nineties), The Repatriation Commissioner and Senior Departmental Officers of the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, TV and Press Media. We were some 80 Members in the entire Group.
I advised Eve and her parents that I was arriving in Paris, staying at the Hilton Hotel with the Group, and hope to meet them when I was there.
Well, guess what, they arrived in the Lobby, just as I was briefing the entire group of the Order of Service/Logistics.
When they advised the Hotel Reception, that they were there to see me, the Reception with whom I had been working closely for many weeks, ushered them into the meeting room, not even thinking theirs was a personal visit.
Marie Ange, came straight to me, threw her arms around me and gave me a big kiss. Eve, at her side, next did the same.
Mates, this memorable event brought the House down, with the Diggers all cheering – Why, you may ask?
Eve being originally from India, a beautiful 22 years old young Lady was swarthy in complexion, closer to mine. Marie-Angel being French, and also closer to my age, was extremely fair in complexion.
The group had decided for themselves that Eve was my daughter and the two had come to meet the ‘reprobate’ dad of when I would have, in their opinion, sown wild oats.
Could I convince them otherwise – you decide!
On a subsequent trip of mine to Paris, about six months after this, Eve’s dad came to meet me, and we spent some time together. Sadly he died of an unexpected heart attack barely months after we had met and the Family rang to advise me immediately.
Then, and only then did they tell me that they had always, as they always considered me as Eve’s ‘other’ dad, with a special place for me in their hearts, as Eve would not have been with them, had I not done what I have mentioned earlier.
A few years later, Eve, Marie-Ange, my wife Perveen and I met for a ‘Family’ Reunion in Bombay.
We even visited the Orphanage, from which Eve had been adopted, in Mazagaon, a suburb of Bombay, and believe it or not, there was one old man, now retired, but a nurse/orderly when the adoption had occurred, who recalled it.
We are still in contact regularly…..and Eve got married to her Prince Charming, to live Happily Ever After.
When she sent me her photo, as a Bride, leaving for the Church to get married, it was more than just another bridal photo. – Yes, I did have the proverbial ‘Lump in My throat and Tear at the Corner of my eyes’.