Insider Tips at PIT, From the People Who Know It Best

In honor of Customer Service Appreciation Week, our agents give us their best travel advice

By Matt Neistein & Elise Gomez

Published October 4, 2021

Read Time: 6 mins


Cheap eats. A colorful ribbon on your luggage. And don’t forget about page 5 of your passport.

Those are just a few of the travel tips offered by our crack team of customer service representatives at Pittsburgh International Airport.

These agents are devoted to smoothing out the inevitable bumps in the passenger journey, said Elise Gomez, who oversees the team of 10 full-time employees and 65 volunteer ambassadors as the airport’s manager of Customer Experience.

“They really look forward to making passengers’ days just a little easier, whether it’s giving directions or finding lost items or anything else. It’s really heartwarming to see,” she said.

Airports are sprawling, idiosyncratic places that continuously evolve while catering to a very large number of people, many of whom don’t fly often. Those guests can easily get confused or lost in that intimidating environment and feel very alone.

PIT’s customer service reps are always at the ready to help travelers with any problem, large or small.

In honor of Customer Service Appreciation Week, we want to give a tip of the cap to the men and women who staff our Information Desks and patrol the terminals looking to lend a hand whenever they can.

We asked them for some expert tips on navigating the air travel journey. They’ve seen and heard it all, and they wanted to share some of that wisdom in the hopes it helps you the next time you’re at PIT.


Bob Calhoun, 10 years


          • Put your name – or at least a phone number – on everything you’re bringing with you in case you lose it in the airport. We see thousands of lost items each year and we really do want to get every one of them back to their owners.
          • Travel as early in the day as possible, so you have more options if your flight delays or cancels. There are quite a few unpredictable variables that can affect your travel plans, and it’s best to give yourself as much leeway as possible.
          • I know passengers hear this over and over, but it’s true: Arrive as early as possible. Better to be sipping a coffee at your gate than running for a flight you may miss.

Ninette Hezagira, 2 years


          • Keep checking the status of your plane on screens and gate changes. You don’t want to be caught off-guard by any last-minute changes to your itinerary.
          • For international travelers, make sure you have your visa and have met any requirements for admission to your destination country. This is especially important during the pandemic.
          • Another one for international travelers: research the etiquettes of the country you’re visiting. You’d be surprised at some of the differences between the U.S. and even our closest neighbors.

Laura Richardson, 9 years


          • This is for before you even get to the airport, but use Google Flights and click on the map. This gives you the lowest airline round trip rates anywhere. My favorite hack!
          • Hungry? Want a delicious meal under $10 in the Pittsburgh International Airport? Order the Simple Salad at Bar Symon and don’t let the word “simple” fool you. This one is huge, packing protein and nutrition, especially when you add chickpeas, roasted red peppers and feta.
          • It may seem basic to those who fly frequently, but one of the most common things we see at the desk are passengers standing in line at TSA with large pieces of luggage that should be checked. Save yourself the hassle and frustration at the gate and check in large luggage at the ticket counter.

Sharon Barley, 7 years


          • One of the most frequent questions we get is, “What can I bring through security?” Our friends at the TSA offer a website that can answer that question in detail.
          • We do suggest bringing permitted medical equipment with you in your carry-on; however, it does have to come out of your suitcase at the checkpoint to be inspected. Attach a sticker with your name and phone number on it in case you forget to pick it up.
          • And when you go through the TSA security checkpoint, always wear socks, so when you take your shoes off, you won’t have your bare feet on the floor.

Philip Sambar, 6 years


        • Don’t take off your wedding ring at the TSA security checkpoint. It’s not required, and we unfortunately end up with quite a few of them in lost and found.
        • Not only should you put your name and phone number on your bags, but you should also put a visual identifier on them to avoid confusing them with similar luggage. A ribbon, a colorful tag, something like that that will make your bag stand out.
        • Check in online through your airline’s website and use the mobile boarding pass option if you can. Avoiding lines at the ticket counter can also mean avoiding long lines and stressful situations.

April Laukaitis, 4 months


          • I always bring earplugs, a comfy neck pillow, and a warm sweater on a flight. My favorite thing to do is take an airplane nap; it makes the time go by much faster and you feel refreshed when you reach your destination.
          • This is a COVID special: Bring extra masks just in case. This is the 2021 version of “always bring an extra pair of socks.”
          • Always double check your carry-on for prohibited items. We hate to see people get flagged for items they forgot they had with them and risk missing their flights as TSA does a more thorough search.

Cyndee Funicello, 2 months


          • This is an oldie but a goodie: Take a picture of the number or letter on the light pole closest to your parking location. You are not going to remember it after you get back from that wild bachelorette party in Nashville.
          • Avoid carrying too much stuff. The more stuff you bring with you, the more likely we’re going to end up with something of yours in lost and found. Checked luggage is your friend.
          • It’s so simple, and yet it continues to be a huge problem: Don’t pack a gun in your carry-on luggage. Just don’t.

Patti Getty, 7 years


          • If you have a lot of bags, or are tugging a cart or a stroller, please use an elevator to help you move between floors. We see too many slips and falls on the escalators from people with too much stuff that risk injuring them and others nearby.
          • If you need a wheelchair, call and place that request with your airline before your flight. Your airline will make sure there is a chair available to you before your flight, during any connections and at your final destination.
          • In your passport, on page 5, is a page to put contact information needed for emergencies. Nearly every passport turned into us is blank on page 5, and we end up sending them back to the government instead of the owner. When you do fill out this page, fill it in with a pencil. As a passport lasts for 10 years, our personal information can change and need updating.
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