Behind a nondescript frosted glass door in Terminal 2, a team of dedicated staff play a very important role to help Changi Airport run like clockwork. This 16 all-woman team is responsible for the public address system that you hear in each terminal. Changi Journeys speaks to 20-year public announcement veteran at Changi, Usharani D/O Mugiarayan, 45, for an insight into her craft.
To the uninitiated, Usha and her colleagues just do public announcements. But in reality, they play a critical role to help keep our passengers informed and updated so that all of them catch their flights. In situations when Changi needs to get the word out quickly on changes to departure gates, baggage arrival details, or even to reunite a child separated from their parents, our “Voices of Changi” spring into action delivering the information in a crisp, clear, and calm way.
Instead of having announcers at each terminal, announcements for all three terminals are made from the centralised public announcement headquarters at Terminal 2. Each Central Announcement Room, or CAR for short, houses a broadcast system for a specific terminal. In fact, the CAR for announcements at Terminal 4 is ready and raring to go, well ahead of our newest terminal’s opening in the second half of 2017.
According to Usha, it is non-stop action in the CARs, as they receive periodic requests from information counter staff to make various announcements. The actual process from receiving a request, to making the actual announcement is kept simple to ensure everything moves smoothly in this pressure cooker environment. Each time Usha receives a call from an information counter staff, she quickly jots down the message on a notepad, analyses it, prepares the script, and proceeds to make the broadcast via the public announcement system. To target the message at the correct group of passengers, each announcer is able to control the broadcast location. This level of precision is critical not only in making sure Changi reaches the correct people, but to maintain the ambience in the rest of the airport –something essential in our delivery of the Changi Experience.
Announcements are typically made in English. However, the team is ready for different scenarios. For example, during the Umrah and Haj period when more Muslim passengers travel through Changi Airport, announcements meant for them will be made in Malay. Language ability is definitely one requirement for the role. Usha and her colleagues are well-equipped to communicate with an international audience. Between the 16 ladies, they can make announcements in English, Chinese, Malay, Tamil, and Japanese. Usha also shared that the team receives yearly voice training and refreshers at top vocal communication centres. The team also makes it a point to constantly practice during their free time. So what is the special ingredient needed to make a really good announcement? You must enunciate words well.
So far, among Usha’s most challenging task has been to announce Russian names. “Surprisingly, these passengers always manage to turn up at the counter,” she said sheepishly.
Usha enjoys her job as she feels that working at the airport gives her opportunities to make a positive difference. In fact, she received the President’s Distinguished Star Service Award in 2008 after helping an elderly tourist from London reunite with her lost item. Seeing that the elderly lady was travelling alone in Singapore, Usha contacted her after work to check if she was settling down well in her hotel. She ended up showing her new friend around Little India as the elderly lady was keen to visit the area and they also enjoyed a good dinner together.
Receiving affirmations for being an effective announcer always lifts Usha’s spirits. She feels heartened whenever the information counter staff calls to inform her that a lost item has been claimed by the passenger after hearing her announcement.
“It’s a nice feeling knowing that I have managed to help someone with the announcement I made,” she says, beaming.