18.35 Activism - Young Union Leaders
Soaring High In Flight And Solidarity

Once while cruising on a short 3-hour flight, a passenger gulped down 2 bottles of white wine. When he asked for more, his drinks were diluted then served. The aircraft started to descend and the seat belt sign turned on. He started shouting, refused to sit down and began jumping up and down the aisle, making other passengers on-board anxious.

An experienced crew staff would know what to do in this situation and fortunately it was on Lakshmi Rai’s watch. She got the authorities to handle the drunk passenger at the end of the flight. Even after 10 years, a day in the life still captivates Lakshmi, an air stewardess in Silkair.

From mastering the art of handling people in all sorts of situations to roaming the streets of a different country every now and then, the wanderlust in Lakshmi is rewarded with intriguing travel tales she would share upon her return.

Her outgoing disposition is seen in her hobbies too. They include cycling, travelling and learning about foreign cultures. “We had spent a whole day in a mountain tribe at Chiangmai once where the means of earning is solely from selling handcrafted souvenirs to tourists. I felt really lucky to be a Singaporean then.”

Lakshmi’s off days are also well-spent in activities of the Singapore Airlines Staff Union (SIASU). Following her union head Abhirajan, whom she truly respects, Lakshmi attended sessions such as the Collective Agreement (CA) where she is inspired by how he negotiates. He focuses on macro issues, its consequences on the future and benefits to the industry. She has learned the importance of give and take and intends to fight for improvements in transport allowance and salary for flight crew in the next CA negotiation.

As the first member in Young NTUC to be representing the flight crew, Lakshmi endeavours to spearhead a monthly cycling session. At work, she hopes to boost the morale of her younger colleagues by asking them to be proud of who they are and what they have achieved during flight briefings.

Outsiders may liken air stewardesses to waitresses serving drinks or collecting trash, but in fact they are trained Emergency Medical Technicians and first responders in times of terror. Yet beyond duty calls, this young union leader aims to better the life of others; going by the motto: “We only live once, so make a wise decision and live every moment with no regrets”.