December 13, 2012

A Day in the Life: Airport Operations

Welcome to A Day in the Life, where we take you behind the scenes at JetBlue to learn more about the important jobs that work in concert together to run a major airline. This time, we visit with Rachel on our Airport Operations team at JFK who have one of the most customer-facing jobs at our airline.

Rachel starts each shift with a crew briefing behind the scenes at our Terminal 5 at JFK. The shift leader Ricardo gives an overview of the day’s operations, any special items the team should be aware of, and hands out assignments. Rachel works gate-side (some airport operations crewmembers work pre-security at the ticket counters or assisting in the ticketing area or at baggage services. Her assignment for the day is Gate 16. She picks up a headset and heads to her gate to prep for her first flight.

“It’s good to get to the gate an hour before the first flight to leave enough time to set up,” Rachel says. She is responsible for ensuring a timely and orderly boarding process for our customers. As soon as she arrives at the gate, regardless of how early she might be, a barrage of requests find her immediately. Someone wants to change their seat; another is a pilot from another airline wanting to be added to the standby list; a lost customer needs guidance on how to get to baggage claim. Rachel gracefully assists each request; all while logging into the computer and prepping the paperwork for her flight.

When the plane arrives at her gate and the customers deplane, Rachel hops onto the aircraft to check that it has been cleaned and stocked with provisions (all of those free and unlimited snacks that you enjoy), and returns to the gate to print the paperwork for the flight crew. She greets the captain, first officer and inflight crewmembers, checks their IDs and hands them paperwork that let them know flight details like how many customers are onboard and whether there are any special assists like wheelchairs, unaccompanied minors, or groups traveling. She prepares bag tags to check gateside luggage like strollers and wheelchairs and bags too large to fit on the plane, and has that ready to go when it’s time for the flight to start boarding.

Rachel makes several announcements to the gate area to let customers know that the flight is getting ready to board and then begins the boarding process, checking customers in with a smile and an air of awareness. When all customers have boarded, including last minute stragglers that she ensures are onboard for a on-time departure, she makes her way down the jetbridge for a final face-to-face communication with the crew on the plane. She confirms that they’re all set, closes the aircraft door, and pushes the jetbridge back from the aircraft. The pilots wave to Rachel from the cockpit as the tug pushes the plane back and onto the taxiway.

Rachel finalizes her paperwork, closing out the flight, and it’s time to get started on the next flight. Every day is different and the types of flights vary. There are myriad factors she needs to be aware of: what customers are connecting from an international partner airline; where the crew is (whether arriving from another flight or originating at JFK); what special needs customers may have (calling for a wheelchair to assist someone); any weather or operational updates that may impact flight times or where the scheduled aircraft may be; random TSA security checks. It’s the diversity of tasks that interests Rachel. More than anything, though, what Rachel says she likes best are the people. Though it’s not always easy, particularly during peak travel times or challenging operations like weather events that delay or cancel flights, Rachel maintains her helpful demeanor and perspective that “tomorrow is another day.” Above all, she understands how far a friendly smile and a helpful attitude can go towards making our customers happy and making her job most pleasant.

Rachel is extremely bubbly and sweet, and that personality is evident in her interactions with fellow crewmembers and with customers. She is jokingly called the mayor of JetBlue at JFK because she says hello to everyone and almost every crewmember walking by, no matter how busy, waves hello to her.

“I feel like I grew up here,” Rachel relays, and she’s not exaggerating. She celebrates 11 years with JetBlue this January, almost as long as JetBlue has been flying the skies. She worked for United at Terminal 6 at JFK and saw a little airline in the corner with a single ticket counter. She observed JetBlue’s growth and its friendly customer service that resonated with customers and knew it was somewhere she wanted to work.

When asked what she might do after JetBlue, she tsks at the question and says, “I’m a lifer.” She believes that she’s grown a great deal during her decade-long tenure at JetBlue and looks forward to continuing to mature alongside the airline.

Check out the previous editions of A Day In The Life and meet:

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