Navigating an airport can be a complicated task. Image: David Parker Brown

Navigating an airport can be a complicated task. Image: David Parker Brown

This story was written by Steven Paduchak for AirlineReporter.com

As I sit in front of the podium just past airport security every weekend wearing my “Information” uniform, I watch as passengers make their way through; stopping by and looking at the monitors of all flight information, asking about what’s available to eat, where the lavatories are located, etc…

While I pursue my degree in Aviation Management, I take advantage of any opportunity possible to immense myself in the airport environment. What many people aren’t aware of today is that airports throughout the nation are city or county-owned. The airport represents the first essence of the city looking to bring in potential business.

As a result of this, airports have formed these volunteer-based initiatives in order to give off the best first impression and to ensure a positive experience. As I have observed the world of airport management the past few years through various experiences, I can say with certainty that customer service is vital to an airport and region’s economic success. People could sit down for days and talk about the poor customer service they get while traveling.

Many airports can be larger than small towns. Image: David Parker Brown

Many airports can be larger than small towns. Image: David Parker Brown

It’s no secret that it can be a major hassle. Over the past few years, airports have caught on to just how vital a role customer service is to the traveling public. In wake of this, they have established “Airport Ambassador” initiatives, consisting of the “go to” personnel for anyone throughout the airport that needs assistance. Through the years of traveling I’ve done to visit family and friends, I’ve taken on the stresses of overall travel; making sure luggage is less than 50 pounds, the importance of checking bags onto the aircraft, going through airport security as quickly and efficiently as possible, and more.

Add all that together and it can be quite a nightmare. Going off of personal experience as an airport ambassador, I can honestly say being a part of this new vision has been an awesome opportunity. When I’m at work, I put myself in the passenger’s shoes; running late for a flight, the kids aren’t quite through security yet, objects don’t go through the detectors properly, extra screening is required, the final boarding calls for flights are made – I can relate to them perfectly (well, maybe not the having kids part, seeing that I’m a 21-year-old college student).

At the end of the day, people just want to get to their destination. Photo: David Parker Brown

At the end of the day, people just want to get to their destination. Photo: David Parker Brown

The satisfaction passengers have when they come up to me for help with their flight itinerary is a priceless reaction. The smallest gestures at times can make a huge difference in someone’s day. This also serves as a chance for real aviation geeks (such as… well, you guessed it, myself) to be a part of the airport industry. Though it’s a volunteer opportunity (i.e. no pay – and we all know a college student really values the meaning of a little extra cash) I can’t complain about being an airport ambassador. What got me involved and obsessed with this industry is the sense of traveling.

The fact that I can walk down an airport terminal, pass numerous travelers and know that by the end of the day, they could be on the other side of the world, or just down the street, is fascinating to me. I knew when I was in middle school what I wanted to do with my life (wow, the irony). As crazy as that sounds, it’s gotten me to where I am today; in a position to study and be involved in something that I absolutely love.

People say if you love what you do, you never have to work a day in your life. Thus far, I completely agree. As this concept starts to kick off around the nation, stop by and ask questions to an airport volunteer when traveling. After all, they want to be there and help you!

As I finish my bachelor's degree in school, I knew this industry was my calling. I enjoy all aspects aviation has to offer. With family nationwide, I travel each summer to see them. Being around the travelling community is what sparked my interest in air transportation. The rest is history!

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13 Comments

Awesome! Do you work for Travelers Aid? I do the same at DCA, but I am fourteen. Here is my article: http://30kfeet.us/1a2eCFt.

Ryan,

First off, sorry it took me a greater part of 11 months to get back to you. That’s pretty embarrassing on my part. I enjoyed reading your article though! I have to be honest, you remind me very much so of myself. When I was in junior high, and beginning high school, I knew I wanted to be involved with airports and aviation. It’s also my favorite place to be, if I’m not plane spotting! I heavily encourage you to turn your passion into a career!!!!! I certainly have. I love writing about my experiences in aviation. As you can probably see, I’ve done so here with AirlineReporter plenty of times throughout the course of this year. Regardless of wherever you are, or whomever you write for, KEEP WRITING! And also, start networking with your fellow ambassadors and airport managers at DCA. Have to start looking for that first airport internship soon. It’ll help you in the long run the earlier you start….that’s what I did! Best of luck to you, Ryan. I look forward to reading more about your aviation endeavors. Cheers!

Steven Paduchak
Contributor, AirlineReporter

Steven,

It is no problem whatsoever! I sincerely appreciate your kind response, You keep up the great work as well!

Jonathan Revere

I feel like this post describes me perfectly. Except the college student part, I’m only in high school. I’m a volunteer airport ambassador at Washington Dulles and volunteer every Thursday and I love it. I should’ve written a blog post about it…

JR,

Same thing with what I said to Ryan up above; I encourage you to turn your passion into a career as well! Do you want to work in aviation?

Oh and no worries, it’s never too late to start writing about your passion and experiences. All the best!

Steven Paduchak
Contributor, AirlineReporter

Like the comments above, I also volunteer at Traveler’s Aid, JFK Airport in New York. I am trained to help in every terminal and have even been offered on-the-spot jobs by companies while I am volunteering!

Don,

Seems like you’ve had some great experiences while volunteering at JKF! Glad to hear it!

Steven Paduchak
Contributor, AirlineReporter

Dan Brooks

This is great Steve, since I am doing my master’s thesis on this subject! Thanks and great article!

Dan Brooks — I’d like to learn more about your thesis.

I write a bit about this issue in terms of airports as an element of the visitor experience, tourism marketing, and transit as well as general airport planning. For example:

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/07/more-on-transportation-to-dc-area.html

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/06/more-on-airport-related-transittransit.html

http://urbanplacesandspaces.blogspot.com/2013/06/night-moves-need-for-more-night-time.html

Some airports do a great job with this. Most don’t. DC area airports definitely do not.

I have also been thinking that train stations could learn a lot from developments in airport visitor experience management, but I haven’t written anything public on that theme.

Stephanie Ward

Great article! I’m glad you’ve found your passion!

Thanks for this article. I recently spoke to the Hospitality people at O’Hare and Dulles. To the gentlemen at O’Hare, who seemed to be of retirement the retirement demographic, like myself, I said/asked: “You don’t get paid for this – right?” They affirmed that and kept smiling. I said what they did was valuable – they’d answered my Gate question – and, doing this as volunteers were demonstrating the “community motive.” I’ve also used the services at Dallas-Fort Worth and Denver.

The groups don’t meet to share experience and practices, but know about their peers.

Getting information about how to use public transit systems is one type of information that is need. That might be something ambassadors would know, or it might require other volunteers or staff to provide the information.

What is community motive? http://goo.gl/BIEb9V

Hello!

I am the Volunteer Manager at Travelers Aid Chicago at O’Hare Airport (which is a similar program to the Airport Ambassadors program at other airports) and I love facilitating these volunteers. There is a moment in the first few weeks a volunteer starts with us, where they come into our office after their shift and they have this huge smile on their face. Its that moment when the volunteer makes their first big connection with a passenger and has literally changed the course of someone’s life. Everyone knows how vulnerable we all are when we are traveling and small things make a big difference. Perhaps that volunteer found this person’s passport, or they helped a passenger get a wheelchair, or they helped the passenger make a simple call to their loved ones. It all makes a difference. Airports are such a great place to volunteer because the majority of the day, we just get thanked over and over again providing people with small bits of information and help to get them to their final destination. Check out our website if you want to volunteer in Chicago! Travelersaidchicago.org

Kendra,

I couldn’t agree more. I certainly love volunteering my time at the airport and helping everyone. Helping people has always given me a great feeling. I can relate to your ambassadors as well. I’ve had a few instances where I leave work with the biggest smile on my face. I typically work on Sundays, so it’s always a great end to the weekend. Cheers!

Steven Paduchak
Contributor, AirlineReporter

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