Rupen Philloura’s path from the mountains of northern India to his dream job with the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority began on his 16th birthday.
“My father had a ticket for me to fly to New York,” Philloura said. “He told me ‘You can work in the family business or you can move to America and make a future for yourself.’”
“I said ‘Give me that ticket!’ ”
Philloura is now an assistant director of operations at Tampa International Airport. He worked at two other airports before he came to TPA 11 years ago and says there’s no comparison.
“I love it here,” he said. “We have such a great team. And it’s not just the airport staff, but the people from the airlines. Everybody. Everybody works together so well. It’s really amazing.”
He rotates shifts every four weeks, so he might start work in the early morning or in the middle of the night. That gives him an opportunity to learn all aspects of the airport’s operation, and get to know everyone who works here.
It also ensures that every work day is different. A couple of weeks ago, while he was on the overnight shift, he was driving around the airport on routine rounds when, at about 5 a.m., he got a call about a car fire near the airport entrance. He got to the scene about a minute later.
“The car was engulfed in flames,” he said. “The couple was out of the car, and they had pulled their bags out. The woman was a realtor and she had all her files in the trunk and she had pulled a lot of that out. So when I got there they were standing on the side of the road and there was a big pile of stuff on the ground.”
The car was just a few yards from the entrance to the airport. The couple had come from Sarasota to catch a flight to Columbus, Ohio. Their car started acting up on the interstate, so they had pulled over. Suddenly the car burst into flames.
Police and firefighters were on the scene, dealing with the fire. Philloura stepped in to help the frantic couple.
“They were flying out on United,” he said. “They missed their flight, but I worked with United to get them on the next flight. I think they got out about 8 a.m.”
Philloura arranged to have all the couple’s possessions that had survived the fire bagged and stored in lost and found until they returned.
The car was a total loss and was towed to a salvage yard.
“Rupen really went the extra mile by making sure these passengers could continue with their travels and feel comfortable knowing that their belongings were safe after facing this horrible misfortune,” said John Tiliacos, Tampa International Airport’s Vice President of Operations. “That’s the kind of spirit this airport is known for. Hats off to Rupen for a job very well done.”
Most days, of course, Philloura doesn’t have to deal with such drama. But that morning, he took it in stride.
“It was just a matter of providing them with excellent customer service, so they could still make their trip and not have to worry while they were away,” Philloura said.
When Philloura came to the United States those many years ago, he lived with an aunt in Albany, New York before discovering the Florida beaches while in the Daytona area on spring break when he was 18.
His love of the beach and an interest in aviation prompted him to enroll in Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. After college, he worked at the Sanford and Orlando airports, and then Swissport, an airlines services company.
He lives in Carrollwood with his wife Ashley Noa. They’re expecting their first child, a son, in October.