How many people do you encounter when flying in or out of an airport? The bus driver in the parking lot shuttle? The agent at the ticket counter checking your bag and handing over your boarding pass?
Maybe it’s the bartender at Martini, or the agent at the front desk in the Hyatt Hotel. One way or another, you’ll likely be interacting with more than a few of the 6,405 employees at Pittsburgh International Airport.
So let’s hear it for the men and women who work every day to make your travel a little less stressful. Better yet, let’s hear from these employees, in honor of National Customer Service Appreciation Week (Oct. 7-11).
Richard Veney Shuttle Bus Driver Pittsburgh Transportation Group On the Job: 31 years
What I find interesting almost every day is when you pick up a husband, wife and kids down here on the curb and you ask them, ‘Where are you parked?’ The husband 75 percent of the time is wrong. The wife 50 percent of the time she’s wrong. The kids are right about 75 percent of the time — almost always.
So when I hear all of these different numbers getting called out when I ask, I almost always listen to the kids. The kids are normally dead on most of the time.
I like to create a positive experience for the customer by making their transition easy. They are already stressed out and worried about flights and times and how much their luggage weighs. If I can smooth some of that out by explaining what they may encounter inside the airport, I will. I try to keep a positive mood, and I’m a positive person.
Tarren (Tee) Starling Bartender Martini Bar – Airside Center Core On the Job: 20 years
My most impactful moment is when two sisters actually met here at the bar for the first time in their adult life. They never met each other and they only had interaction on social media. It was a Sunday morning, so the bar was empty.
They really just included me in that experience. They were laughing and crying. They were asking questions and talking to me about it. I still feel the joy from that moment. I really couldn’t get that from anywhere else. There was a lot of emotion that day.
[Martini] is not like bars anywhere else. I get to talk to people from our city. I get to talk to people from all over the country and all over the world. I get to live and have experiences through my guests.
I think [customer service] is all about exceeding the expectations of the guest. It is such a stressful environment that whenever they come to me and sit down and have a drink they forget about all the stress for just a second. Besides getting their order right and taking care of them in a timely manner, it is just the energy I like to put behind it. I generally want everyone to have the best experience possible that I can give them.
Customer Service Agent
On the Job: 13 years
Every day is interesting. My shifts are normally 4 a.m. to noon, and my interactions with the passengers between the morning and the afternoon can be totally different.
Typical travel destinations for passengers flying from Pittsburgh are Orlando – we have lots of families go there for their Disney fantasy. We get a lot of spring breakers too that come in, and they are funny because their bags are always heavy. Its like they never have enough stuff with them – they’re always hurrying with the other passengers moving their stuff in other bags [before the flight departs].
We also have passengers going to Vegas, and usually its younger couples that go. I always tell our passengers when they come back to stop by see me and I will be here for them. We tell them what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.
We love our passengers and are here for them and our co-workers, we’re all into the Southwest culture here.
Kelli Finnerty Customer Service Representative Allegheny County Airport Authority On the Job: 7 years
My most memorable and unusual moment involved a lost wallet about four years ago. I received a women’s wallet turned in at the airside information desk. After looking through it, I was able to see that the woman was traveling on United. I called United and they told me that her flight was boarded and ready to depart. I asked if they could hang on a moment for me to run the wallet down to the gate. By the time I got there, they had already pulled the jet way.
However, a gate agent said they could take it down and drop it to a ramp agent. At this point I was a little hesitant because the wallet was stuffed and I had not put a rubber band on it. But I gave the wallet to the gate agent who did drop it down to a ramp agent outside the plane. I couldn’t believe what happened next. The pilot put the window of the plane down (I never knew they opened!) and the ramp agent tossed the wallet up to the pilot who caught it out the window!
I will never forget that. We never heard from the woman but I’m sure she was happy to get her wallet back.
Skycap and Wheelchair Escort
Prospect Airport Services
On the Job: 7 years
I had a passenger who was from Pittsburgh and needed wheelchair assistance. He was a Vietnam War veteran who loved the country so much even through the war. He saw the beauty in the country and decided he wanted to move there.
He was flying out to buy a place in Vietnam. I remember his family was here at the airport to send him off and were upset that he was going, but this was what he was destined to do.
Every once in a while I get a passenger that really makes you feel like you are doing something. A passenger once told me that without our service he and his wife wouldn’t be able to take all their trips. They were both wheelchair bound and were appreciative of my service. That makes you feel like you are doing something.
Aleksa Thomas Front Desk Agent Hyatt Regency at PIT On the Job: 3 months
I am a really big people person. Working in a hotel connected to Pittsburgh International, we can get a lot of interaction because there is a lot of traffic that goes in and out of the airport.
When people check in, some say this is their first time in Pittsburgh. Whenever we hear that, everyone here tries to give their best advice on what they have done inside or outside the city, because in Pittsburgh there is a lot to do.
Providing good customer service is important because we want to bring the business back and want people to enjoy their stay and the atmosphere here. We’re connected to the airport, so it’s very convenient for everyone to come here and stay with us before their trip.