SIA team helped missing S'porean, brother in Turkey

SIA team helped missing S'porean, brother in Turkey

It was a normal working day at Singapore Airlines' (SIA) Istanbul Airport station when the phone rang on April 17 last year.

Mr Lim Chuan Kai, 31, the station manager, picked up the call - it was the Singapore Embassy in Ankara, Turkey's capital.

The embassy had called to inform him of a missing Singaporean in Istanbul, Mr Yang Tiong Wei, 35, and requested assistance in searching for him.

On April 15, Mr Yang was reported missing after he had left home the day before. He had withdrawn all his savings and booked a one-way ticket on Turkish Airlines to Tel Aviv, Israel, via Istanbul, Turkey. But he did not board the connecting flight at Istanbul.

"It was quite shocking," recounted Mr Lim, who is part of a team of three which clinched an SIA customer service award last Friday for helping Mr Yang.

On April 20 last year, Mr Lim accompanied Mr Yang's elder brother, Mr Yang Tiong Hock, 40, who had flown there, to Istanbul University to meet a Turkish psychologist who said she had seen the younger Mr Yang.

Ms Banu Surucu, 41, an SIA customer services officer and native Turk, helped with translations over the phone.

With a stroke of luck, they located the younger Mr Yang, who was wearing tattered clothes and shoes in winter time in Turkey.

As both brothers were worn out and their hotel was not ready for check-in, Mr Lim put them up at his home, gave them warm socks and cooked for them.

The younger Mr Yang had also lost his passport and was unable to book a flight back to Singapore. The brothers had to wait for about seven more hours the next day on April 23 for the embassy to deliver replacement documents from Ankara to Istanbul.

Throughout the wait, Mr Lim and his team ensured that the brothers were well taken care of.

Meanwhile, the Yangs, who had been exhausted by the ordeal, wanted to return home on April 23, but SIA did not have flights to Singapore that day.

Ms Derya Gerceker, 39, head of digital sales and marketing at the SIA Istanbul office, stepped in and used her contacts at Turkish Airlines to get two seats for the brothers to fly home.

For their efforts in helping the Yang brothers, Mr Lim and his two Turkish colleagues won the Team Winner award for Airport Operations at SIA's Transforming Customer Service awards.

Said Ms Evelyn Lim, chairman of the awards ceremony's organising committee: "What is remarkable is that they went beyond their capacity to aid someone who was not flying SIA."

This article was first published on June 1, 2015.
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