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SAN’s Airport Ambassadors make friendliness top priority

Monday, June 14, 2021

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Visible in their blue shirts with an “Airport Information” insignia and a demeanor that says, “I’m here to help!”, more than 250 highly trained ambassadors provide information and wayfinding assistance seven days a week, 365 days a year.

As any ambassador will tell you, no two days are the same. They might spend three hours giving directions to the taxi stand and then, zing! Somebody shows up at the airport who needs to get to New York City right away but doesn’t have a ticket (yes, this happens in real life!). Our ambassadors will look up flights and send the would-be traveler to appropriate ticket desk, and off they go, just like in the movies.

Something else ambassadors will tell you is that they LOVE their work. We recently caught up with three of our amiable ambassadors to find out why they do what they do.

Meet Sandi (ambassador since 2011)

Sandi loves working the information desk and being immersed in the hustle-bustle of the airport. When we asked her why she volunteers, she told us “I love being able to help passengers the way I want to be helped when I arrive in a new city and an unfamiliar airport.”

Sandi has also had the pleasure of assisting in the arrival of an Honor Flight and greeting junior special Olympians at their gates and guiding them through the airport. Being a part of heartwarming experiences like these is a big reason why Sandi loves what she does.

Meet Ken (ambassador since January 2019)

During the pandemic, the ambassador program was paused to keep our volunteers safe, but Ken gets along with his co-workers so well that he still met up with them for socially distant coffee once a month.

Ken was inspired to volunteer at SAN because his traveling life was made easier by an ambassador at an airport in Japan. When Ken flew into Tokyo a few years ago, an ambassador who was specially trained to assist non-Japanese guests helped him navigate through the complexities of a large, unfamiliar airport.

Ken also has an important PSA: If you accidentally leave a piece of luggage or your surfboard on the other side of security, the ambassadors cannot easily pop on over to the other side to retrieve it. They must go through security to do this! Ken says when the ambassadors do retrieve lost items, the look of relief on the passenger’s face is priceless.

Michael (ambassador since January 2020)

Michael loves all the positive interactions he has with passengers. He’s thrilled to report that, “People are so thankful, even if they just need directions to a taxi!”

Like the other ambassadors, Michael spends a lot of time giving directions and pointing people in the direction of the best coffee stand, but occasionally he receives an extraordinary question.

One day during Michael’s shift, a couple from South Africa came to the airport, not to fly, but because they were going to be traveling around the world for six months for work and needed to figure out how to get their dog home to be cared for by loved ones. Fortunately for the couple, our volunteers are famously resourceful. Michael quickly found a website called TravelPets that facilitates international dog travel and was able to direct the couple to Delta cargo to transport their beloved dog.

We appreciate everything our ambassadors do to ease the travel experience for our passengers (and their pets). Next time you’re at SAN, stop by and say hi!

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