Our story - Leo Van Dongen

A dazzling 31 years of service represented in one person

Former Raptim general manager recounts many beautiful anecdotes

Leo Van Dongen, former general manager of Raptim in the Netherlands, just recently retired. He started working for Raptim back in 1982 and stayed with us until his retirement in 2013 – totaling a dazzling 31 years of service.

It’s fair to say that Leo personally embodies our institutional memory, at least when it comes to Raptim’s Dutch history. Although he wasn’t there in person, he is able to recount many beautiful anecdotes dating back to Raptim’s early years. Which is why we love chatting with him.

“Back in the day, airplanes could only fly during daylight hours and would have to land in the evening to spend the night on the ground.”

Leo Van Dongen, former general manager Raptim Netherlands

Raptim’s very first charter flights to Africa, for example, would need 10 days to complete a return trip. “It’s hard to imagine today, but back in the day airplanes wouldn’t use radar-generated information. That’s why they could only fly during daylight hours and would have to land in the evening to spend the night safely on the ground,” he recounts.

Those initial flights would take off from Amsterdam and would touch down in Rome – to pay a visit to the Pope, before continuing on. His Holiness would bless the passengers – at the time all Christian missionaries – and would wish them a safe journey as well as success at their final destinations.

“En route to Africa, there would always be quarreling on board regarding the exact timing of the Holy Mass,” Leo says. “Traveling through time zones would affect the exact timing of the Mass, and passengers would have a hard time agreeing on the best solution.”

To make matters more complicated, attending Holy Mass required passengers to refrain from eating and drinking starting at midnight the night before. “Because of the time difference at the place of departure, passengers would get very confused about how to deal with the situation appropriately,” Leo tells us.

Leo feels privileged to have been able to contribute professionally to making the world a better place. “Raptim offers affordable and comfortable travel arrangements to a unique set of travelers. I’m grateful that I was able to contribute to that,” he says with pride. “When I would read in the evening paper about the arrival of urgently needed food supplies to a disaster area, I would say to myself, ‘Leo, these are your passengers’.”