One thing you should know about me: I love my company. I love it for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is the opportunity to meet and spend time with people I consider true heroes. Take for example Glena Harding and Annie Webeck, two American Airlines agents working at our Dallas/Fort Worth hub, whom I recently met at a ceremony to recognize their heroism. Late last year, Glena and Annie noticed a woman in serious distress near one of the security checkpoints. Without hesitation, they called paramedics and rushed to her assistance. The woman, it turns out, had suffered a heart attack and — according to her doctor — would have died were it not for the quick and effective care Glena and Annie provided.
Lifesaving heroics such as these obviously — and fortunately — don’t happen every day. But the caring attitude and grace under pressure displayed by Glena and Annie are in many ways standard operating procedure for our airport agents. Agents often represent the first human contact between our customers and our company. So what they do — and how they do it — can set the tone for an entire trip.
As new airport technologies have evolved, our agents’ jobs have changed. With our customers increasingly using automated check-in options, an agent’s typical customer contact has become much less routine. Now they often serve as technology instructors for those customers not yet familiar or comfortable with the raft of new tools we have developed in recent years to streamline the airport experience. What’s more, to get your trip off to a good start, an agent must handle a number of important responsibilities simultaneously. For example, during boarding, he or she will likely assist travelers with disabilities, check last-minute items such as strollers at the gate, change seat assignments as requested, and handle upgrades and standby passengers — all while making multiple announcements and doing what it takes to get everybody onboard for an on-time departure.
All these duties are important. But as with all American and American Eagle employees, safety is the top priority of our airport agents. Indeed, they play a vital role in maintaining a safe and secure operation — operating the jetbridge that connects the boarding area to the aircraft, meeting incoming flights, helping open the aircraft door, and monitoring the boarding process to prevent unauthorized access. Our agents are also knowledgeable about dangerous goods and vigilant about keeping them off our aircraft.
As everyone knows, despite our best efforts, things don’t always go as planned in the airline business. Bad weather, air traffic control problems, and other unplanned events sometimes conspire against us. That’s why poise is such an essential quality in our agents. When there is a delay or cancellation, it is usually the airport agent who delivers the bad news to customers — a difficult job if ever there was one. Just as important as poise, however, is the knowledge our airport agents have about air travel. They are a great source of information about airline procedures, security, required documents, or just about anything else related to your trip.
As you would imagine, airport agents know a lot about what customers like and dislike — and about what works and what doesn’t. And part of my job is to make sure we are tapping that expertise. For several years, an advisory board made up of agents from around the American Airlines system has been collaborating to streamline and improve our airport processes. More recently, agents have been meeting to discuss and design new ways to make our customers happy, even as we keep our costs — and by extension, our fares — as low as we can.
At American Airlines and American Eagle, we are working hard to make our entire operation as efficient and productive as possible. But we understand that ultimately it is not just the efficiency, but also the kindness, helpfulness, and grace of our people that will bring you back to us again and again. I want to thank our airport agents for embodying all of those qualities — and I am sure they join me in thanking you for flying with us.
GERARD J. ARPEY
President & CEO