Flight Attendant Escorts Overseas Chinese on Return Home

ByIrene Chen September 16, 2023

During the National Day holiday (October 1-7) in 2022, Home Coming, a hit action-thriller, touched the hearts of countless Chinese viewers. The film was based on the Chinese embassy's 2011 evacuation of more than 30,000 Chinese nationals from Libya, as unrest unfolded in that country. Liu Shiying, now deputy-general-manager of the Second Section of the Cabin Service Department of China Eastern Airlines, understood how eagerly the Chinese wanted to return home. In February 2011, Liu and her colleagues helped the Chinese Embassy in Egypt evacuate Chinese nationals from the then-turbulent Egypt.

During the past 16 years, Liu has participated in many major aviation-related missions. In addition to helping the Chinese Embassy in Egypt evacuate Chinese nationals from the then-turbulent Egypt (in February 2011), she participated in China's airlifting of aid (transporting rescue workers, food, medicine and other materials) to the Republic of Haiti after a magnitude-7.3 earthquake razed large regions of the country (January 2010). In February 2022, Liu and her colleagues escorted more than 100 Chinese tourists, who were stranded in Singapore due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, during their return home (in Wuhan, capital of central China's Hubei Province). The crew also transported many medical workers, from various regions of the country, to Wuhan, to help combat the disease.

Liu has also played an important role in ensuring the safety of other countries' State leaders, during their flights to Shanghai to attend the Fifth China International Import Expo, hosted by China's Ministry of Commerce and Shanghai Municipal People's Government, in November 2022. While fulfilling her tasks, Liu has remained committed to CPC's original aspiration — always putting the people first, because nothing in the world is more precious than people's lives. Given her outstanding achievements, she has received many titles, including being named a Model Worker in Shanghai, and being elected a delegate to the 20th CPC National Congress (held in Beijing in October 2022).

Mother Country Is People's Strongest Backing

It has been 12 years, but Liu clearly remembers the details of events that happened during the two days when she and her colleagues were dispatched to Egypt, to help the Chinese Embassy evacuate Chinese nationals from the then-turbulent country. It took the crew more than 10 hours to fly from Shanghai to Hurghada (a city in Egypt), where they picked up more than 50 people. As they were landing at Cairo (capital of Egypt)'s airport, they heard the sound of gunfire in the distance. "When it was time for the plane to take off, only a few Chinese nationals had arrived at the airport. We waited there for seven hours, until the embassy staff brought more Chinese to the airport," recalls Liu.

Although they looked worn out, many of the Chinese smiled as they ran to the plane. They were aware they would arrive home, safe and sound, after a long journey. Liu could feel how tense they were, especially as some of the passengers on the plane shared their experiences in Egypt. Finally feeling a sense of relief, the passengers drifted off to sleep. Fearing they might disturb the passengers' sweet dreams, the crew members tiptoed through the cabin.

The plane entered China's airspace at midnight of the first day of Chinese New Year (February 3, 2011). When the captain announced "Welcome Home," all of the passengers cheered, and they sang China's national anthem. At that moment, Liu burst into tears. "I was aware that our mother country is our strongest backing," recalls Liu.

Despite the passage of time, she is excited when she recalls her experiences during those two days. Through her experiences, Liu has gained a better understanding of the creed of workers with China's civil aviation organizations: "Perhaps we cannot send you to every part of the world, but as long as our country needs, we will go to any part of the world to pick you up and bring you home." As she realizes the value of her work, Liu takes pride in being a flight attendant.

Lofty Ideal

In 2007, Liu began working at China Eastern Airlines, shortly after she received a master's degree, in laws, from East China University of Political Science and Law (in Shanghai). Before she began working, she imagined she would travel around the world in her beautiful work uniform. However, things turned out to be quite different. In addition to coping with jet lag, she had to complete various training programs, provided by the airline, to help new employees improve their professional skills.

Several months after she began working as a flight attendant, a flight Liu was working was delayed five hours due to a thunderstorm. She had a hard time comforting the passengers, who grew impatient while waiting at the airport. When the plane finally took off, several passengers told Liu, "Thank you for your hard work." At that moment, she felt that all of her efforts were worthwhile.

During the past several years, Liu has shared her work experiences with many new employees. "We flight attendants should play important roles in linking passengers with the outside world. Putting ourselves in their shoes, we should explain the situation to our passengers when something unexpected (such as flight delay and/or aircraft turbulence) happens. That might help the passengers dispel worries and/or anxieties," Liu has been quoted as saying.

Numerous passengers have offered positive comments to Liu (over the years), who has provided thoughtful, considerate services to the passengers. "My heart is always filled with delight during a flight," says Liu. "To me, a passenger's smile and/or an approving look in his/her eyes are invaluable treasure."

As a "star" mentor with Li Wenli Air Service Innovation Studio (under the airline), Liu during the past few years has devoted much effort to developing air-service products, optimizing the customer-service process and cultivating outstanding new workers. Liu has also offered courses to flight attendants, to help them improve their ability to better protect the safety of passengers.

Strengthening Party Building

Many of the organizations under the Civil Aviation Administration of China have a hard time organizing activities aimed at strengthening Party building, as the organizations find it difficult to arrange for their employees to participate in the activities at the designated time and place. It is especially so for China Eastern Airlines, which has a complex global airline network. In April 2016, the airline held a ceremony to initiate the Blue Sky Party Group Project. Liu was the hostess during the ceremony. The airline established Party groups, each of which is composed of Party members from a flight crew. When they organize various activities to strengthen Party building, the groups take their members' work schedules into consideration.

A short time after the airline initiated the project, Liu discovered a problem that affected the project's implementation. As the members of each flight crew are chosen from thousands of flight attendants in the airline's Cabin Service Department, some of the members are not familiar with each other. Liu brainstormed how to solve the problem. Her idea: Arranging for crews' members to visit revolutionary sites while taking a break during flights to regions with "red" tourist attractions. As the members gradually got to know each other during the visits, they could communicate with each other more easily during activities to strengthen Party building.

In February 2020, shortly after the outbreak of novel coronavirus disease, the Civil Aviation Administration of China arranged for China Eastern Airlines to dispatch a plane to escort Chinese tourists, who were stranded in Singapore due to the pandemic, during their return home (in Wuhan). Liu, then an 18-year member of the Party, took the lead (within the airline) in signing up to work as one of the flight attendants on the plane.

In addition to organizing workers with the airline to study the Party's historical development, Liu in recent years has provided many lectures to workers, to help them better understand laws and regulations. Since the Civil Code of the People's Republic of China was promulgated in May 2020, Liu has provided many lectures, to help the workers increase their legal knowledge about marriage, family and property inheritance. She has also become many workers' "legal advisor," who helps, for free, the workers solve legal problems. Liu takes delight in using her legal knowledge to help her colleagues solve difficulties in their lives.

When asked to name her most favorite country, Liu replies, "I've been to so many places around the world. So, I can say one thing for sure, China is the best nation in the world."

Through the development of China's civil aviation industry during the past decade, Liu has been able to catch a glimpse into the country's rapid economic development. "Over the years, both aviation software and hardware have been constantly improved. For example, many electronic and/or intelligent facilities have been used to improve aviation services. Also, there has been a substantial increase in the numbers of passengers, flight routes and fleets ... All this has shown the rapid development of the national civil aviation industry, which has provided strong support for China, as it strives to build itself into a country with strong transportation network," she has been quoted as saying. She adds she will continue helping her crew members improve their ability to provide quality services to passengers, so the crew can make greater contributions as they help to build China into a country with a strong transportation network.


Photos Supplied by Interviewee

(Women of China English Monthly August 2023 issue)


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