When Kristen Tunno recently lost a seed-sized diamond from a ring at Pittsburgh International Airport, she was sure she’d never see it again.
By the next day, she had it back.
April Laukaitis, one of PIT’s customer care agents, arrived for her 5 a.m. shift and saw an email from Tunno about the missing diamond right away. She didn’t waste any time searching Concourse D, where Tunno thought she lost it.
Sure enough, hidden between the cracks in the tiles on one of the bathroom floors, was the missing diamond.
Kristen and her husband, Brett, arrived at the airport later that day to collect the gem. Although Kristen was wearing her engagement ring, it turns out the missing diamond belonged to a different piece of jewelry.
“It’s my grandmother’s ring,” Kristen said. “She turned 99 this week. She just gave it to me.”
Tearfully, Kristen explained why the ring means so much to her: “I really want to see you wear it while I’m still alive,” her grandmother told her.
Laukaitis dropped everything to look for the diamond as soon as the Tunnos contacted PIT.
“I love making people happy,” Laukaitis said. “There’s something about reuniting somebody with something they lost because I know how it feels to lose something sentimental.”
It’s no secret that airports can be stressful environments. From delayed flights to busy concessions and crowded TSA lines, some passengers dread flying. Customer service workers like Laukaitis make it easier.
October 2-6 is Customer Service Week, a time to celebrate the heroes who serve customers every day. At PIT, their efforts are very much appreciated by airport officials.
“Our customer service staff is so dedicated to making the airport experience as comfortable and smooth as possible,” said Elise Gomez, Manager, Customer Experience. “It’s not easy and it’s not glamorous, but it’s a critical job and our team is just phenomenal.”
From a young age, Cin Schuster knew she wanted to work with people. As a wheelchair runner at PIT, Schuster meets dozens of passengers every day.
Though Schuster’s role is to assist passengers who travel through the airport in wheelchairs, her job doesn’t stop there. Schuster always meets people who find the airport to be a high-stress environment, and she helps alleviate their worries.
“I try to make them feel at home,” Schuster said. “By the time I drop them off, they say, ‘I don’t know what I was worried about.’”
Schuster has been working at PIT for seven years, and her impact at the airport hasn’t gone unnoticed. Another wheelchair runner calls her “the best in the game.”
“This can’t just be a job to pay your bills,” Schuster said. “You’re assisting somebody’s relative, somebody’s daughter, son, mother, father sister, brother, uncle, grandparents; there’s a human being in the chair.”
While some passengers may need to use a wheelchair to travel around PIT, some may need extra emotional support.
Jennifer Woistman is a TSA supervisor and passenger support specialist who’s been a part of that program since it started.
The program is available for passengers who may need assistance passing through the TSA checkpoints. Travelers can sign up beforehand, but Woistman doesn’t just rely on that list. Usually, she can tell if a traveler needs extra support when passing through TSA, and she never hesitates to help them, too.
“I start out the whole process with a smile,” Woistman said. “I think if you start out on the right foot and make them feel at ease, the whole process will go along a lot smoother.”
Woistman’s passengers range from military veterans traveling alone to children with autism accompanied by their families. No matter who she’s helping, her goal is to make passengers feel safe.
She may demonstrate a pat-down search on another agent or promise children that they’ll get back any toys they send through the conveyor belt in security. To Woistman, it’s most important to make sure she puts herself in the passengers’ shoes.
Her best piece of advice to new TSA agents is simple: “Treat people the way you want to be treated. That’s what I try to do.”
Making life easier
With 18 years of experience at Delta and five years as a flight attendant, few people know the aviation industry like LaRayne Orvosh.
As a Delta Red Coat—a group the airline describes as “elite airport customer service experts”—Orvosh is no stranger to frustrated passengers, and she’s an expert at making their experience at the airport the best it can be. Her job is to support airline agents and helps with customer issues.
Patience is one of the most important parts of her job, and it’s the first thing she tells new hires. The airport is a busy environment, and it’s impossible to predict the constant changes and curveballs that come along with working in aviation.
“It takes time to learn everything,” Orvosh said. “Eighteen years and I’m still learning something every day.”
Outside the landside terminal, Will Pratt sits in his shuttle bus and waits to drive passengers to parking lots. Frequent fliers at PIT recognize Pratt by the yellow Steeler hat he wears when he drives his bus.
“Every time I see you, I smile,” one flight attendant told him.
Pratt has been driving at PIT for almost a year. While he brings passengers from the terminal to the parking lot, he also helps them with their bags, talks to them about their trips and helps lost passengers.
“I love this job; I am passionate about this job,” he said. “I want to make everybody’s life easier.”
Pratt strives to do just that. When he started driving, there was no list of routes posted anywhere in the bus. Knowing how confusing this could be for passengers, he decided to create his own list and post it in his shuttle. Shortly after, every bus had that same list.
No matter what customer service staffer Blue Sky News talked to at PIT, they all had the same factor driving them to do their jobs: a passion for helping people.
Schuster explained it best: “If you really don’t like helping people, I think this is the wrong place for you.”