The young woman searched the faces in the crowded airport lobby till she found mine. "I've never been here before," she told me a little anxiously. "Actually, I've never flown before and I need to know what to do."
This was a job for the Peach Corps, hundreds of Delta employee-volunteers who help passengers find their way at the Atlanta airport – Delta's busiest hub. I had volunteered on the Wednesday before Thanksgiving, when many people who fly infrequently descended on the airport.
I guided the lady to a check-in kiosk, helped her print a boarding pass and pointed her to airport security. "Thank you so much," she exhaled.
"We're proud of the administrative team members who pitch in to help their hard-working airport colleagues," said Gareth Joyce, S.V.P. – Airport Customer Service & President - Cargo. "Delta people pull together to serve our customers in busy and challenging times; that's the Delta Difference."
The most common questions and issues that day:
- "I have my boarding pass and I'm not checking a bag. Do I need to talk to an agent?" Answer: No.
- "This kiosk isn't letting me check in." Usually the customer mistyped a confirmation code.
- "Where's the nearest bathroom?"
Like most Peach Corps volunteers, I normally work behind a desk. So I didn't have all the answers – not even close. That meant conferring with an agent myself to help a customer get wheelchair assistance, a law enforcement officer check a firearm and a nervous mother get a gate pass to accompany her son flying alone.
But in each case, the customer was able to avoid standing in the wrong line as I sent them to an employee who could promptly help.
The success of the Peach Corps in Atlanta has led Delta to expand the program. In May, 210 volunteers – some from outside the U.S. – went to Los Angeles to assist customers as Delta and other airlines moved operations across the airport in an epic terminal swap. This past weekend, Peach Corps volunteers helped customers at New York-LaGuardia, where the busy Delta Shuttle operation switched terminals.
And some volunteers have received advanced training so they can perform tasks such as creating extra boarding lines at gates and rerouting luggage. That's especially valuable during severe weather delays, such as those caused by Hurricane Irma.
I didn't do anything so challenging. But I did get to help a few travelers begin their Thanksgiving journey with a little less stress. And for the customer smiles I received, I was thankful.
Charles Gay is the Editor of Delta News Hub.