Flight steward who helped driver that collapsed at wheel wins SIA service award
He was sitting at the back of a private-hire car en route to Changi Airport when he heard a loud groan and saw the driver slump in his seat.
Instinct kicked in and Mr Venoth Balasubramaniam, a flight steward with Singapore Airlines (SIA), pulled the car’s handbrake to stop the vehicle.
The 34-year-old, who was on his way to report for a flight to London, switched on the hazard lights and dialled 995 immediately. He then stepped out to direct traffic.
Helped by his first-aid training at SIA and his experience working at Changi General Hospital as a care ambassador at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic, Mr Venoth performed cardiopulmonary resuscitation and revived the unconscious driver, who was in his late 40s or early 50s.
This act in November 2022, along with his personal touch in the skies, won Mr Venoth plaudits at the national carrier’s annual award ceremony to celebrate the achievements of its employees.
The father of two was among 69 individuals and teams who received SIA’s CEO Service Excellence Award on Monday at the Shangri-La Singapore hotel.
Speaking to The Straits Times before the ceremony, Mr Venoth said the incident happened at about 10.30pm while the car was on the left-most lane and about to enter the expressway near Simei.
He carried the driver out of the car with the help of a pedestrian, who left the scene soon after.
Several other passers-by later came to the driver’s aid. The driver’s heartbeat returned after an ambulance arrived and paramedics used a defibrillator on him.
Mr Venoth said he usually reaches the airport an hour before his flight reporting time, so he still made it to work on time.
But he later learnt that the man’s heart stopped again an hour after arriving at the hospital.
“When I returned from London, the driver’s wife called me to thank me, but that was when she told me that he died,” Mr Venoth said.
He is still in touch with the driver’s family.
Mr Venoth, who will mark his 10th year at SIA in November, was also lauded on Monday for his ability to remember and greet passengers by name without checking their boarding passes.
Asked about this, he said he does not have a special technique. He looks at the flight manifest before take-off, and observes what each passenger is wearing and if they have unique features.
He said he does this in all cabin classes, from economy and premium economy to business.
“Some of my passengers, when they fly again, they remember me. That is very sweet and the beauty of being a flight steward.”
Mr Venoth said the award would motivate him to work harder and set an example for up-and-coming cabin crew members.
“I feel I have a role to play to uphold the reputation of the airline,” he added.
In June, SIA was voted the world’s best airline in research firm Skytrax’s global poll of more than 20 million travellers, wresting the top spot from the Doha-based Qatar Airways.
Asked about its recruitment plans for the coming financial year, SIA would only say that the hiring of cabin crew and cadet pilots is in line with its operational manpower needs, as well as its fleet and network expansion plans.
As at March 31, the airline had a staff strength of 15,504 – an increase of 1,403 from the previous financial year. About 7,740 were cabin crew, up from 6,661 in the previous year.
Last week, SIA announced it would significantly increase services to some key markets from March to October 2024.