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Customer is First at Tehran International Airport!

By Syma Sayyah, Tehran

The only thing that made me bring myself to seeing my sister off at the Tehran international airport today was the fact that my nephews and my brother-in-law would be so happy to have her back at home. She had come to see our mum who has recently had an operation. The week flew by - we were so busy and happy to have her with us.

At the airport I, and many others, were trying hard to hold back our tears, while at the same time hoping to see our loved ones soon again, here or there. In spite of our emotional state, waiting for my sister to check so we could have tea at the airport café, I could observe a few new things.

Driving into the airport's parking, I had noticed that there were plenty of parking spaces. Thank God for that, I thought, but how come? Was it because it was still too early in the morning? There were other surprises inside the terminal: everything was clean, and the place looked calmer and more peaceful than ever. Even the toilets and wash basins were clean.

It all became clear when we noticed a big sign above the main entrance, inside the terminal building, addressed to all the agencies and organizations, as well as airline personnel and employees of the subcontractors working at the terminal, saying their actions should be based on "takrim for passengers and clients," or recognizing the honor of having them there.

"The customer is the focus," the sign further said, "please treat everybody with good behavior and respect." This was actually a decree from the authorities to ALL personnel to do what much of the world has also learnt: that the customer is the master. The parking attendants were very nice and respectful too. It was unbelievable.

In the past when visiting friends would ask us where they could rent a car, we would just laugh at them. "You must buy one," the visitor would be told, "nobody is going to lend you their car, unless they drive it themselves." So you can see how surprised I was when I noticed a cubicle facing the door to the arrivals area, underneath a sign in big letters reading "RENT A CAR." When I asked for a brochure at the stall, I received one from a very friendly young lady who also said that the rental would be between 250,000 rials to 4,500,000 rials per day, depending on the car you want. They offer a range of cars, buses and minivans. I was impressed.

Since there are no longer any customs checks for outgoing passengers, my sister's checking in took no time at all. She said the desk attendants too had been very kind and cooperative. When we went to have tea, we discovered, sadly, that the customer satisfaction culture had not yet reached the restaurant. It was not as clean as the rest of the airport.

We sat and chatted, as we now had plenty of time to be together. We even had time to buy small gifts for some friends. She left at about 7:45 to go through passport control and hand luggage search. We had agreed that she would call home and leave a message after she had been through all that, so that we could go home. Nowadays, we don't stay around until the plane has taken off. This was done in less than 8 minutes, she going inside and calling home to leave a message so when we called we heard her voice on the machine. Great, we thought, and so we headed home at about 8:00am, one of the worst times of the day for Tehran traffic.

Leaving the airport, we had to pay the equivalent of 60 cents for a two hour stay. I keep saying this is too cheap and that is why we normally can't find a parking space easily.

On the way back, we went round Azadi Square to go to "Shahrak Ekbatan" to drop our cousin who had come to the airport with us. Ekbatan is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, housing complexes in the Middle East. It is almost a town in its own right, with so many people, so much happening and so few sign-posts telling you what's where. If you don't know your way around and are too shy to ask, you're in big trouble. The massive concrete building looks most unfriendly, with apartments which have been called "match boxes." Inside, though, they're roomy, very nice and practical.

From there, we went to the big Nour Square, to the north of Azadi, that is almost always packed; then headed east on Resalat, or "Mission," Expressway; and then north again along the Yadegar-e-Emam, or "the Imam's Memorial," Expressway. When the weather is clear this route shows all the majestic beauty of the Alborz mountains. The view can be breathtaking, but because of the terrible air pollution, you don't often get to see it, even early in the morning. From there I went east again taking Niyayesh, or Prayer, Expressway, with four lanes on each side, which has made it much easier to cross Tehran sideways.

Niyaesh took me to Chamran Expressway, passing the Permanent Exhibitions center at Seoul junction, near Evin Hotel. I then had to cross the Modaress Bridge and turn south to get home. The whole journey from the airport took me only 35 minutes and the only place I encountered some traffic was near the Seoul junction. Another, more common route, along Hematt Expressway, would have meant at least half an hour more on the road, and much more stress. That you could do without, as there is already plenty of stress coming towards you from all directions!

About the author:
Syma Sayyah is a retired business executive and marketing manager who worked for an international business in Iran. She has an MBA from Edinburgh University.

... Payvand News - 1/3/03 ... --

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