How to Build a Post-COVID Customer Experience Action Plan


By Liliana Petrova, Founder and CEO, The Petrova Experience

As we welcome the new wave of travelers, ensuring safe, seamless experiences is make-or-break for airports in the next 6 months. It is incumbent upon airports to create human-centered experiences that alleviate customer anxiety and transform passengers into advocates for travel. To do this, airport operators must serve passengers differently, both in the terminal and online.  But where do you begin? You can start by making a Post-Covid Customer Experience Action Plan.

CX Assessment

The first step of the Post – Covid Customer Experience Plan is a CX Assessment -a  comprehensive evaluation of the experience you currently offer.

Before you start your CX Assessment, do a mindset check. Do not think like yourself. For you, the terminal is your second home. Instead, think like an anxious traveler who has not been in an airport for a year, who may still have doubts that she/he should be there at all.

This is not merely an ideation exercise; it should involve interviewing customers to hear their voice and spending time in your terminal and on your website as if you are traveling that day. Divide your assessment into sections: Communications and Hospitality; Services and Entertainment; and Amenities.

Digital Experience: Build Connection and Alleviate Anxiety

Think about being at home, ready to make your first trip of 2021. Check your airport website. Is your website language alleviating or increasing anxiety?

Can you easily find:

1) information about airport expectations and/or regulations regarding masks, concessions working hours, suspended services, etc.

3) updates on airport construction projects

4) relevant wayfinding information

Physical Experience: Strengthen Connection and Promote Confidence

Next, examine the physical experience. Walk through the terminal as if you have never flown out of your airport. How clear is the wayfinding?

Now, think about the service changes to travel following COVID. Do you have any kind of substitutes for the in-person volunteers? Digital/self-service concierge solutions, virtual volunteers, even robots that roam the airport are all ways for your volunteers to maintain strong connections with your guests remotely.

The final, crucial, step of the Airport CX Assessment, is to check if your airport is inclusive. Put yourself in the position of an individual in need of a wheelchair, or a parent with a young child. Are there support services that are still not available because of COVID? Lastly, if you are an international airport, are there any communication materials for passengers explaining local COVID protocols and other important information?

Programming and Funding

Once you have completed the CX Assessment, identify and categorize gaps and opportunities in your guest’s journey. Formalize those aggregate findings into a program that includes projects that close customer experience gaps in the next 6-12 months. Now, you are ready to secure CX funding.

Getting funded can be an even greater challenge than designing transformative customer experiences. To streamline the process and start delivering better travel experiences fast, remember to align your thinking and communication with your brand strategy. Leverage the data you gathered in the CX Assessment, share your programming ideas, and connect your CX program outcomes with your airport’s bottom line.

Do not be afraid to create a sense of urgency. This is a classic case of “you never get a second chance to make a first impression.” We have one chance to meet our returning travelers where they are. And to pave the way for a return to travel that sustains and uplifts our industry.

For help executing your Customer Experience Action Plan in time to welcome your new travelers, contact The Petrova Experience.

Leveraging Brand Values to Win back Customer Confidence

By Roel Huinink, President & CEO, JFKIAT

At JFKIAT our T4 is MORE culture is driven by our greatest asset, our people and community. However, as an air terminal with 12,000 employees and numerous stakeholders, sustaining a customer-centric culture is an ongoing effort. Together with our partners at the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (PANYNJ), we align our T4 is MORE customer experience program with their WE SOAR program to create a consistent and holistic customer-centric culture. Over time, this strong cultural foundation has allowed us to be resilient, persevere, and win back customer confidence.

“MORE” or “Making Outstanding Rewarding Experiences,” is delivered by thoughtfully acting on our brand values that each employee wears on their lanyard: Be Happy and Friendly, Be Informative, Be Safe and Be Memorable and are directly aligned with our efforts to win back customer confidence in air travel.

Be Happy and Be Friendly

It’s been said that happy employees create happy customers, and we agree. Although it would have been easy to cancel the 2020 Employee Appreciation Day event due to the pandemic, we decided to move on with this beloved event to create cheer and show empathy and appreciation when it was most needed.

Creating a community culture is key, especially in the midst of a pandemic. We approach our stakeholders, service providers and airline customers as partners in our shared success and ask for their collaboration and feedback at all levels. After implementing our initial COVID-19 response and recovery initiatives, we actively surveyed our airline customers to measure effectiveness and gain improvement insights.

Be Informative

Being informative is at the core of what we do, and customers are quick to ask any one of our employees a question. This year we transformed our traditional T4 is MORE classroom training to a new interactive and gamified web-based training. From the beginning of the pandemic we have consistently communicated with employees via our online T4 Safe Travel Resource Center, T4 is MORE email newsletter, and virtual T4 community meetings.

Be Safe

Safety is our highest priority and creating a safe environment that wins back customer confidence depends on our employees’ behaviors and actions. For example, we have methodically increased our deep cleaning routines throughout the terminal using anti-viral solutions and electrostatic cleaning in high touch areas. Optics are critical to building customer confidence and our cleaning employees are highly visible.

Throughout the pandemic, JFKIAT’s Health and Wellness pilot program has tested Thermo Temperature platforms from FLIR, Thales, and Omnisense. We are now testing the Health Pass by CLEAR thermal temperature screening platform. We also continue to closely collaborate with the PANYNJ and all of our stakeholders, including the CDC and the New York State Department of Health, to support them in their efforts to create a safe environment.

Be Memorable

As part of our larger COVID-19 response and recovery initiatives, we developed a communications strategy to generate awareness, educate and inform both employees and customers of what to expect and what is required of them to keep everyone safe.

Rather than implementing the standard institutional instructional strategy, we developed and executed S.M.I.L.E at T4. This multichannel digital and print campaign personifies the ‘Be Memorable’ brand value, and brings positivity while informing and educating.

Although this a small sample of what we’ve done here at T4 to successfully leverage our brand values to win back customer confidence, we hope that you can apply this learning to increase customer confidence and regain business.

Looking Forward One Year In

By Kevin M. Burke, President and CEO, ACI-NA

Now at the one-year milestone of widespread travel and local restrictions to help stop the spread of COVID-19, we are reminded that this past year has been incredibly challenging for so many, both personally and professionally.  While so much has changed in our industry as we continue to respond to this prolonged crisis, airports remain fully committed to ensuring the health, safety and security of the traveling public and airport workers.

Although North American airports quickly mobilized to protect travelers and workers, the significant drop in passenger traffic has wiped out record growth in air travel and decimated the airport industry’s financial outlook. In 2019, more than 1.9 billion people traveled through North American airports.  At the start the pandemic, air travel dropped by upwards of 95 percent.  ACI-NA estimates that the pandemic will cost U.S. airports more than $40 billion and Canadian airports more than $5.5 billion — a number that will only grow if the pandemic drags on.

There is no shortage of issues confronting the industry.  Early in the pandemic, ACI-NA created the Airport Industry Recovery Advisory Panel to provide the industry with valuable recommendations on immediate term, medium term and long-term measures to address the public health concerns and assist airports coming out of the pandemic.

These initiatives, ranging from restoring confidence in air travel to implementing a wide variety of mitigation strategies, are fostering a completely new level of collaboration across aviation industry stakeholders.  We each have a role to play, and the value of partnership has never been more important. As we think about the future, airports leaders should remain cognizant of the ever-evolving airport business model.  Our ongoing relationships with airline partners, concessionaires, retailers, service providers, and government regulators are essential to our continued success.

ACI-NA led the charge in an effort secure $20 billion in immediate financial relief for the U.S. airport industry.  We are immensely grateful from the strong support of the U.S. government for airports and their concession partners as they remain open and fully operational though this crisis.

Thanks to the proactive leadership of our team in Ottawa, Canada’s airports received some of the only sector specific COVID support in Canada, with some CAD $1.4 billion through ground rent waivers and deferrals, wage subsidy, and infrastructure funding.  However, as the situation in Canada grows more dire each day, our work continues in Canada to secure addition relief to meaningfully address the financial challenges Canada’s airports face.

One of the silver linings to come out of this pandemic is the rapid innovation and the deployment of new technologies to allow for a seamless – and contactless – passenger experience.  While most of this progress had seemed years away, the pandemic has accelerated this effort to turn our industry’s aspirations into reality.  One thing is clear: the passenger experience will look different than it did before. It is going to be better.

Airports have taken unprecedented actions to limit the spread of COVID-19.  As the eternal optimist, I am confident there is a light at the end of the tunnel and much to be done when we emerge from it. From enhancing airport sustainability and resiliency to taking full advantage of automation and big data to enabling a new generation of aircraft to operate at our airports, we face myriad opportunities to make a difference in the aviation industry. All of these opportunities require a ready and able workforce. We look forward to working with the industry to develop training that will help current airport workers adapt as well as prepare the next generation to make their mark on aviation.

Thank you for the continued trust you place in ACI-NA and the immensely talented team here at your trade association.  I continue to be proud of our team, our members, and the important work we do on behalf of North American airports.

 

Mask Over Matter: Communicating in the Age of the Mask

By Lise D’Andrea, CXE

So, here we are, facing our new reality behind a mask. Since the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended the use of cloth masks or face covering in early April to prevent the spread of COVID-19, we have been struggling with our new normal of trying to talk, listen and breathe behind masks. Compounded by physical distancing, from the boardroom to the frontline we find ourselves in uncharted customer experience territory.

In many countries around the globe, face coverings and masks are usually only worn by healthcare professionals or for religious or cultural observances. Overnight, this changed. While a seemingly simply and small shift, the impacts on how we communicate are profound. For those not used to wearing a face covering, many find it hard to breathe and talk, that words appear muffled, and that to be heard you have to almost yell.

Beyond words, human beings have long relied on reading entire facial expressions to reduce misunderstandings and guide interactions. The eyes and mouth provide some of the greatest clues to feelings and intent. Now, a smile that signifies a friendly hello and a chance to build understanding is covered. In the travel and hospitality industries, where the first step of customer service has always been to smile, we find ourselves having to rethink our approach.

A recent article by the BBC, “How face masks affect our communication,” shares that all is not lost. If we take cues from other cultures and professions accustomed to masks and face covering and amplify our body language, we can continue to create positive and meaningful connections with customers and coworkers.

While there are several ways to overcome the barriers of masks, these five techniques can quickly place you on the path to overcoming the “mask challenge”:

Eye Contact: Eye contact is the go-to means to make a connection with people. Continually scan to make eye contact with others around you to create connections and help proactively spot the needs of others.

Eye Gestures: It is possible to say a lot without saying anything at all – especially with your eyes. Gestures made with eyebrows, eye lids and overall eye movements can help customers better understand you, and you them.

Head and Facial Gestures: Although your face is covered, you can still support your voice with gestures using your head and face. For example, a tilted head for questions and “smiling” eyes can help deliver your message.

Hand Gestures: Hand gestures can be the megaphone for communication tactics. From a thumbs up to a wave, hand gestures help to clearly reinforce verbal and nonverbal communication.

Active Listening skills: Active listening skills are vital when you are masked, and facial and verbal cues are limited. Nodding and leaning-in show that you are listening.

In this new age of social distance, customer experience dynamics are evolving. Honing your communication skills can lead to increased confidence, stronger customer and coworker relationships, and less frustration and disappointment. As we navigate our new normal for customer and employee experiences, an innovative reality will redefine how we communicate, connect, and carry on to chart a new course towards customer experience excellence.

Lise D’Andrea is the Founder and CEO of CXE (formerly Customer Service Experts), an organization that specializes in helping airports, hospitality, food and beverage, retail, business, and government clients to define and deliver innovative and successful customer (CX) and employee experience (EX) programs. Harnessing over 25 years of experience developing customer and employee experience strategies, CXE has developed a practical eBook guide, “Mask Over Matter,” to help businesses quickly adjust to a society where mask wearing is prevalent. In August, CXE also plans to release an employee-centric, interactive, web-based training designed to acclimate employees to the new post-pandemic workplace and help them continue to make meaningful connections with customers.

Americans Are Starting to Fly Again

States around the country are taking their first steps to safely reopen our economy and to start rebuilding a sense of normal life. This Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer in North America — a well-deserved benchmark that we’ve made it through a difficult start of this year. This typically marks the beginning of our busy travel season, and while COVID-19 has quieted the typical buzz in our airport terminals and dramatically reduced the crowds, we are finally seeing an uptick in passengers who want to travel again.

Despite the challenges we still face, the Transportation Security Administration expects more than 350,000 people to travel through our airports this Memorial Day weekend. That is a far cry from the 2.7 million air travelers who passed through our airports last Memorial Day weekend, but it nearly doubles our traffic from weeks prior. Airports welcome these early signs of a rebound, and they are ready to help passengers navigate the new normal as we work to adapt to the future of travel together. If you’re traveling this Memorial Day weekend, here are a few tips to get you started:

  • Arrive early: Airports around the U.S. have enhanced safety standards and measures for all passengers. This could mean more delays as you travel through security checkpoints. Be sure to arrive early so you are able to make it to your gate and flight on time.
  • Adhere to physical distancing: Remember to keep your physical distance (6 feet) when going through checkpoints, shopping at concessions shops, or standing in line at customer service. By keeping your distance, you can help stop the spread of germs and keep you and others in your party healthy.
  • Wear a facial covering: Many states and local governments as well as airlines are requiring that masks be worn when occupying a public space. Please be sure to bring a facial covering with you to the airport and wear it throughout your duration there. For facial coverings to be worn properly they must cover your nose, mouth, and chin.
  • Practice good hygiene: Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds throughout your time while traveling. Cover your mouth and nose with your elbow or a tissue when you cough or sneeze, and then throw the tissue away in a trash bin. Avoid touching your face.
  • Be patient: We are all learning these lessons together, so please understand that our dedicated workforce is doing everything in their power to adapt to these new requirements as quickly as possible to ensure the travel experience remains as seamless as it can be in the face of new health and safety guidelines.

As the nation continues to open up and more people begin to travel, implementing these best practices will help to keep you and your loved ones safe and healthy. Our airports are eager to welcome you back.

Members of Congress Announce Framework for Infrastructure Bill That Includes a PFC Increase

Last week, ACI-NA welcomed the news of an infrastructure investment framework – called the “Moving Forward Framework” – which was announced by a group of Members of Congress, led by House Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman Peter DeFazio (D-OR). The start of the new year represents an important opportunity for Members to announce their top policy priorities and we are pleased that improving airport infrastructure across the U.S. is a high priority for so many Members, as well as the American people.

The Moving Forward Framework calls for raising the federal cap on the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) and indexing it for inflation. If enacted into law, a lift on local PFCs would allow airports to fund necessary infrastructure improvements, including repairing aging facilities and making expansions to accommodate record-breaking passenger traffic.

In his remarks, Chairman DeFazio highlighted how airports are in dire need of infrastructure upgrades and addressed the fact that the very same airlines who are comfortable with increasing baggage fees oppose an updated Passenger Facility Charge because they know it will increase airline competition in many airports. You can watch his remarks here.

Immediately following their announcement, ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke thanked the group, and specifically Chairman DeFazio, for their leadership.

“The House Democrats’ infrastructure framework recognizes the time has finally come to increase the woefully outdated PFC,” said ACI-NA President and CEO Kevin Burke. “A long-overdue adjustment to the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC) will provide the lift America’s airports need to take off into the future. Unlike a $40 bag fee that just pads an airline’s bottom line, a modernized PFC will help our terminally challenged airports make transformative investments in new infrastructure that will improve the passenger experience for millions of travelers. I am particularly thankful for the leadership of Chairman DeFazio, the father of the PFC, for making this one of his top legislative priorities.”

Burke also joined American Association of Airport Executives President and CEO Todd Hauptli and Airport Consultant Council President T.J. Schultz in a joint letter thanking Chairman DeFazio for his leadership on this issue. In the letter they write:

“…we strongly support proposals in the House Democrats’ infrastructure framework that call for raising the federal cap on local PFCs and indexing it for inflation. We are grateful for your leadership. We look forward to working with you and your colleagues to advance legislation that would help airports finance critical projects and repair our nation’s infrastructure.”

Just this month independent research from RAND Corporation confirmed the best way to fix America’s airports is by modernizing the PFC. Further, according to a recent ACI-NA study, U.S. airports face more than $128 billion in infrastructure needs by 2023, with over 56 percent of the needs inside aging terminals. President Trump has repeatedly called for renewed investment in American airports, so we will be listening closely for any references to infrastructure investments in his State of the Union address.

We look forward to working closely with Congress to get this framework over the finish line so that we can finally empower airports to improve their infrastructure and continue to meet the demands of the traveling public.

Houston Airports Strengthen Veterans Community

As community partners, airports are continually embracing opportunities that recognize the immense contributions veterans make to our communities and empower them as they move beyond their military service.

Houston Airport System is one of several airports across North America leading the effort to bring the Edge4Vets jobs training program to prepare and connect veterans to jobs that can lead to careers in aviation.  This work is incredibly important in Texas, which boosts one of the largest veteran populations in the United States. Edge4Vets is part of Airports Council International – North America’s “Workforce of the Future” initiative.

Developed by the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University in New York, Edge4Vet is operating at several airports currently, including Houston, LAX, Greenville/Spartanburg, Cincinnati-Northern Kentucky, Edmonton, Memphis, Jackson, MS.

The program combines a workshop series with online training to help veterans do what business leaders say they most – that is, learn how to translate their strengths from the military, including values and skills, into “tools” for civilian success. The program enlists HR executives and hiring managers from partner companies, including airport authority departments and stakeholder companies, to attend the Edge4Vets workshop and serve as “mentors” to offer feedback to the veterans as Edge4Vets teaches the participants how to create a Plan4Success.

The Plan4Success guides them in the creation of statements in four areas – vision, values, skills and action – that identify their strengths and gives them an opportunity in clear, concise language to express how they will APPLY their military strengths to land a job that can lead to a career for the life they want.

Houston introduced Edge4Vets in 2018 as a pilot and now is working with partners in its employer network – that includes Houston businesses as well as airport employers – to grow and expand the scope and reach of the program.

Part of this expansion includes bringing in Goodwill Industries and its Operation GoodJOBS program as a partner to provide wrap-around support to veterans. Edge4Vets registers participants through a recruiting effort with support from the City of Houston, the Texas Veterans Commission and local schools, then Edge4Vets refers those who register to Goodwill for preparation in advance of the workshop.

Following the workshop, Edge4Vets channels participants back to Goodwill for personal support to refine their Plan4Success, hone their resume, and follow up on job interviews they lined up at the Edge4Vets workshop.

The combination of career preparation and this enhanced wrap-around support provided through the Edge4Vets/Goodwill partnership is giving Houston Airport System a powerful “one/two punch” to add talented veterans to the HAS workforce to strengthen the airport for the future.

The Countdown Begins: REAL ID Will Be Required for Air Travel in Exactly One Year

Earlier today, Airports Council International-North America (ACI-NA) President and CEO Kevin Burke teamed up with travel industry leaders and government officials to urge the traveling public to obtain REAL ID compliant identification.

The REAL ID Act, which was passed by Congress in 2005, implements a 9/11 Commission recommendation for the Federal Government to “set standards for the issuance of sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses” as a way to enhance aviation security.

“Ensuring the safety and security of the traveling public is the top priority for airports – and REAL ID is an important component of our efforts,” Burke said. “We are encouraging the public to ensure you have a REAL ID compliant license by October 1st of next year. This will be critical to ensure you are able to travel.”

According to a recent study by the U.S. Travel Association, many Americans may not be aware all Americans will be required to have a REAL ID compliant license in order to board a commercial aircraft beginning on October 1, 2020 – just one year from today.

The purpose of this week’s event held at Reagan National Airport in Washington, DC was to encourage the public to obtain proper identification before the rapidly approaching deadline. It also marks the start of a yearlong educational effort by TSA, airports, airlines, and other stakeholders about the importance of obtaining a REAL ID compliant license.

“We are working hard to ensure the public is aware of this fast approaching deadline,” Burke said. “Despite the ongoing efforts to raise awareness, we remain concerned about the small number of travelers who have obtained a REAL ID compliant licenses”

 

 

Some states and airports are already taking advantage of local opportunities to educate travelers. ACI-NA joined with our airline partners and other associations to send a joint letter to each governor of all 50 states and territories, encouraging them to launch public awareness campaigns to more effectively educate residents about REAL ID requirements.

In lieu of a REAL ID compliant license, air passengers are able to use other federally approved identification for air travel, including U.S. passports or Global Entry, NEXUS or SENTRI identification cards.

Burke was joined by Transportation Security Administration Acting Deputy Administrator Patricia Cogswell, as well as officials from Airlines for America, the American Association of Airport Executives, the American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators, and the DC, Maryland, and Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles commissioners.

You can learn more about the importance of REAL ID here. And don’t forget to save the date for October 1, 2020. Act now to ensure you have a REAL ID.

Building Up a Collection: Airport Trading Cards

By Jeff Lea, St. Louis Lambert International Airport

Whatever combination you arrange, three letters can carry a lot of prestige, economic power, a region’s reputation, and even better, generations of travel memories.

The International Air Transport Association’s Location Identifier – or IATA Airport Code- has grown to become both symbols and brands in the travel world. They are also the standout element in ACI’s North American Airports Collectors Series trading cards program. The debut of airport trading cards will celebrate its fifth anniversary this fall.

Well before that 2014 launch, I floated the airport trading card idea as a member of ACI-NA’s Marketing & Communications Committee. There were blank stares, looks of doubt and few hurrahs for the pitch that was purely on paper- and yet to be on cardstock. There were no slick gloss cards to touch. No series of air traffic control towers or airfields aerials. And no airport codes all aligned on the top left.

The genesis for the creation of the trading cards was born out of the constant request from aviation fans and trinket collectors making requests to STL for any type of memorabilia with the airport’s name or airport code. I received lots requests from as far away as Russia. It would be a costly venture to meet that demand with our traditional mementos. The trading card solved that. Paper. Low Cost. Mass quantity. But still highly collectible. It was my belief that if baseball teams, football teams, and entertainment franchises could offer palm-sized collectibles in mass, so could airports.

The pitch became a better sell when STL , ATL and SAN worked up proposed graphic elements and suggested location maps, GPS coordinates, bullet points of airport facts, airport logos and the like. With a unified design, YOW and PIT joined in the development to create the digital mockup of the first five airport trading cards. That overwhelming support tipped the concept from pilot to campaign with the debut in Atlanta, GA at ACI’s Annual Conference where attendees got their hands on the first 17 airport trading cards in the series. From large and mega-hubs, to small and general aviation airports, the series has since grown to nearly 80 U.S. and Canadian airports and a legion of followers, collectors and aviation buffs.

The trading cards travel tremendously well to market the industry with those highly visible airport codes and beauty shots that range from gleaming terminal atriums, airfields at sunset or terminals perfectly framed in front of snow-capped mountains. AUS made its trading card debut featuring one of its giant guitars from an art installation in its bag claim. In 2018, JAX went old-school with a 1968 terminal and airfield shot to commemorate the airport’s 50th anniversary.  The photography options are endless. The backside of the card is more than just traditional statistics, it allows each airport to share their stories, their history, and their importance to the region’s they serve.

At STL, we share the cards at our information booths. We pass them out at community speaking events. They’re perfect for our airport tour handouts for schools and other groups. And of course, they are increasingly in high demand from our “Av Geek” community or, as one former airline executive described himself, from the “world of airline collecting.”

The program has grown so popular that, as one of its ambassadors along with the ACI team, I get complaints as to why there are no cards from this or that airport. Large and small. And then there’s the biggest request, “How do I get the complete set?”

The best answer we can give- travel, visit our trading card airports and pick up one in person. Is there someone with a complete set? We don’ know. Some first year cards – especially those original 17—have been printed and all handed out. That certainly makes them more valuable and exclusive. And some cards are harder to get than others as the program is flexible and allows for member airports to print quantities based on their own marketing budgets. And print locally. When the cards run out, airports can always print more or release a new edition (the STL or YOW series, for example, within the greater Airport Trading Card series). Many airports are into their second or third sets because there are new stories to tell, new art installations or new terminal improvements that yield a stunning visual that is worthy of a new trading card. And there are new terminals themselves (SLC in 2020 and MCI to follow) that will be ripe for a trading card debut or a new edition.  This September, several more airports will debut trading cards for the 2019 Series at ACI-NA’s Annual Conference in Tampa, FL.

The program’s primary goal has always been to use the cards to amplify how airports, individually and as a collective (and vital) transportation system, impact our communities and the traveling public. Then there’s that other goal, giving collectors- young and old- a memento, which leads to them to want a bigger collection from past years and with each new annual collection that arrives each fall in the evolution of the airport trading card series.

About Jeff
Jeff Lea joined the executive staff at St. Louis Lambert International Airport in August 2007 as the Public Information Manager. Jeff is the airport spokesperson managing the Airport’s media relations and crisis communications. He also manages website and social media programming, customer service programs, special events and the Lambert Art and Culture Program.

Jeff is a former broadcast journalist who spent 14 years in television news as a reporter, anchor, producer and photographer. Before joining Lambert, Jeff was a reporter with the CBS affiliate, KMOV-TV, in St. Louis where he covered developments at Lambert including the new runway project. Prior to his post in St. Louis, Jeff was a reporter and anchor at KTUL-TV, the ABC affiliate in Tulsa, OK. He started his news career as a producer and reporter at KXII- TV in North Texas. Jeff is a graduate of Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas.

Celebrating – and Growing – the Airport Industry Workforce

For some, Labor Day (or Labour Day for our readers in Canada) is a much needed long weekend culminating with a festive backyard cookout.  For others – our industry included – Labor Day weekend marks the end of another record breaking summer travel season.

At its core, Labor Day is a time to recognize the important contributions of a productive workforce to communities and economies. Today, we celebrate the nearly 1.5 million people working at airports across North America who make flight possible.

The aviation industry workforce extends far beyond pilots, flight attendants, and baggage handlers.  Airports are proud to employ innovative leaders from all of the disciplines found at a Fortune 500 company. From accounting to IT and real estate to business development, an airport represents a full ecosystem of professionals.

Managing a workforce as diverse and complex as that of an airport is tricky.  It might even be the biggest challenge of our time, says Candace McGraw, CEO of the Cincinnati / Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) and Chair of ACI-NA.

“I think the issue of workforce development and talent development is a huge challenge to us all,” McGraw said.  “Historically, we in the airport business are focused on air service development, contracts and leasing, operations and planning for the future physical footprint of our spaces. As much as we focus on the infrastructure of the runways, taxiways, etc., I think we need to double-down on our human capital infrastructure.”

That’s why CVG launched a strategic workforce collaborative late last year.

“We have brought together all the airport employers, from the air cargo side to the passenger airlines and everyone in between, to talk about the issues on which we can collaborate today to achieve real results—exposing young people to careers in aviation, solving the ever-stubborn issue of better connecting people to their jobs, and creating aviation career pathways on airport, and more,” McGraw said.

One of the key components of CVG’s workforce initiative includes the inclusion of military veterans who will transition into the civilian workforce at the end of their service.  By including the successful Edge4Vets program into their initiative, CVG is able to tap into a highly skilled and trained talent pool.

In 2014, ACI-NA partnered with Edge4Vets with the shared goal of connecting veterans with airports to place them in careers that utilize the valuable skills they learned while serving in the military. At these workshops, Edge4Vets also teaches military veterans the skills they need to market their skills and themselves to civilian employers. Many veterans do not know how to search for civilian jobs and how to communicate with employers after they leave the military.

“Many veterans have valuable skills that are beneficial to employers, but they sometimes have difficulty selling themselves,” said Tom Murphy, Edge4Vets’ founder. “People serving in the military learn to work as a team and they sometimes don’t think in terms of their individual accomplishments and skillsets.”

While the Edge4Vets program continues to grow across the United States with several successes, the program recently launched in Canada.  Edmonton International Airport (YEG) hosted the nation’s first Edge4Vets workshop in May of this year.

“Edge4Vets is such a win-win program because it not only helps to expand the skilled workforce available to our aviation industry, it also provides rewarding careers to those who have served and protected our country,” says YEG’s President and CEO Tom Ruth.

The success of Edge4Vets speaks directly to the needs of airports as they plan their workforce for the future.  Ensuring airports have the right team with the right talents at the right times requires coordination and collaboration across the airport complex.

“Even if technology shifts the world of work for different types of jobs, we must have qualified, skilled people in all of our regions to support all the functions that thriving airports require,” McGraw said.” This is true for training the right people for leadership roles as much as it is to think about those front-line positions.”

Get Involved

Is your airport interested in becoming an Edge4Vets partner? Airports across North America are partnering with Edge4Vets and ACI-NA to help connect veterans to aviation careers. Current participants include GSP, LAX, HOU, MIA, JFK, CVG, YEG and more.

Contact Tom Murphy to learn more about hosting a workshop in your community. Edge4Vets is offered by the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University. Learn more here.