Edita Barauskyte and Dimitris Papoutsis will be working at Heathrow on Christmas Day
Edita Barauskyte and Dimitris Papoutsis will be working at Heathrow on Christmas Day
 

Santa's not the only one who takes to the skies on Christmas - in fact with around one and a half million people expected to be on aeroplanes this festive season it’s a wonder he can manoeuvre his sleigh amongst them all.

In order for these passengers to be in the air in the first place they need to pass through Heathrow.

The terminal buildings of Heathrow can be confusing even at the best of times, caught up amid the festive getaway rush they can be positively mindboggling. Happily a number of passenger ambassadors are on hand to point them in the right direction, offer advice on duty free bargains, or just cheer them up with a friendly word and a smile.

Edita Barauskyte, who lives in Bedfont and has worked at the airport for three years, and Dimitris Papoutsis, who lives in Slough and has worked there a year, are two such employees. Both are due to work on Christmas Day and both are expecting to be as busy then as they are on a normal working day.

Dimitris said: “I usually have dinner with all my family and even though I will be working this Christmas Day they will still be doing that without me. I’m down to be in from 1-9pm so hopefully I will still get to see them for a couple of hours.

"I do miss them, but they understand that I have to work and they are pleased to know that I am helping other people have a merry Christmas.”

Edita, who would normally be back in Lithuania with her family, said what keeps her going is the thrill of meeting new people, often from different countries, and finding out how Christmas is celebrated in other cultures.

She said: “I see many people who are flying home to surprise loved ones and I love chatting to them about their plans and traditions. Even those from cultures that don’t celebrate Christmas still get caught up in the festive spirit and still want to buy last minute gifts in the airport to take home.

"It’s my job to stay up-to-date with information and shopping trends and help them get the best out of their time here. The most common thing we see is people worried they will miss their flight while shopping so we have to reassure them and make the experience as smooth as possible.”

Dimitris added: “As it gets quieter here you get more time to talk to people and the great spirit amongst our team helps keep morale up. This year we teamed up with the people behind The Snowman and the Snowdog to entertain passengers and that’s helped cheer us up as well.”

Christmas is traditionally a time for children, and it won’t be a surprise to learn there are several thousand of them passing through Heathrow at any one time. For parents who want to keep their offspring amused while waiting for a flight, salvation is at hand in the form of the Stay and Play facility. These are soft play spaces designed like jungle gyms and done up in bright colours with the theme very much about flight and things that fly. Each terminal has one of these and one of the playscheme managers is Clare Schauerman, who lives in Feltham and has worked at the airport only 13 weeks.

Heathrow playscheme manager Clare Schauerman
Heathrow playscheme manager Clare Schauerman
 

She said: “We’re here to take the pressure off parents and keep little ones occupied while mum and dad shop or eat. We see dozens of excited kids every session, up to 80 at the Terminal 5 site, and I love talking to them about where they’re travelling to and what presents they would like for Christmas.

“You get kids who are nervous about flying so we explain what’s going to happen when they get on the plane, but also you get those who’ve done it so often they tell you what it’s all about!“We’re open every single day from 6am-9pm all over Christmas and it can be a challenge, especially dealing with the children who don’t speak English.

“The beauty of play though is that you can still communicate with them through toys and games and send them off on holiday with a smile on their faces.“It never fails to help get me in the festive spirit and I’m looking forward to Christmas with my husband and two boys aged 14 and 16 when we get to do all the usual yuletide celebrations.”