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For Huang Chia-ying, a 26-year-old flight attendant for Spring Airlines, accompanying passengers on their trips home means she can"t make her own journey home to Taipei, Taiwan, despite the fact that she often works on flights between that city and Shanghai.
This is the fourth time Huang has spent the Lunar New Year holiday up in the air.
"We cannot go home because soon after the landing we must start preparing for the return flight," she said. "Of course I miss my dad and mom, but I feel happy that my work helps others reunite with their families."
Huang was one of 26 flight attendants from Taiwan recruited by Spring Airlines in 2014. She was promoted to cabin crew chief in May.
"Being a flight attendant was my dream back in my college years at Fu Jen Catholic University," Huang said. "I have a very good impression of Shanghai, so when I learned that Spring Airlines is based in Shanghai, I applied right away."
During the recruiting interview, which included a teamwork test, Huang gave a dance performance that she had been practicing since childhood.
"All the attendants who were recruited are the cream of the crop," said Xiao Fei, the airline"s human resources manager. "They fly mostly to Taiwan. Since they joined the crew, we have replaced the recorded cabin broadcast, and their Taiwan accents now make passengers feel at home."
Spring Airlines is not the only one from the Chinese mainland to recruit flight attendants from Taiwan. Xiamen Air, which is based in Xiamen, Fujian province, also started hiring flight attendants from Taiwan in 2017. It has launched a talent program that aims to recruit 1,000 people from Taiwan for its cabin crew, marketing and IT staff members by 2021.
Having grown up in Taipei, Huang said she was confused at the start of her job by some expressions in Mandarin that differ between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan, but she quickly adapted. Her colleague, Wang Jialing, said flight attendants from Taiwan are welcomed by passengers, because their tone sounds softer and sweeter.
"They tend to be good communicators and are very detail-oriented, which are vital to this profession," Wang said.
Huang said she has grown a lot over the past three years. "Since I became the chief of the cabin crew, I"ve learned to lead others and shoulder more responsibility," she said. "Luckily, my colleagues are all good team workers."
She has spent about 3,200 hours in the air.
According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China, more than 600 additional flights had been scheduled between Chinese mainland and Taiwan during the Spring Festival rush from Jan 22 to Feb 19.
"Spring Festival is the most important festival for all Chinese, and related departments have started their work to ensure a convenient trip for Taiwan people traveling back home," said Ma Xiaoguang, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, during a news conference on Wednesday.
Huang recalled that she once assisted an elderly couple carrying a large bag of red dates onto the plane. It was heavy, but they insisted on taking it back to their hometown for their grandchildren, she said.
"That is one of the moments during the Spring Festival rush that reminds me of the importance of reunions," Huang said. "I really thank my parents for their understanding of my job, and I told them I would be back soon after the rush."