Support program for aviation workers means better service for passengers
Friday, February 01, 2008

By Vicky Karantzavelou

The Aviation Resiliency Project, an effort to improve air passengers’ travel experience by offering support to front line aviation workers, was launched last week at JFK International Airport’s Terminal 4. The initiative is geared toward improving customer service by helping airline and airport workers to develop “resiliency skills” to handle the pressures of today’s busy air travel system. Fordham University is teaming up with the Reclaiming the Sky Institute for the study, which kicked off at JFK Terminal 4 with a pilot group of 50 airline and airport workers. The project is part of a broad effort to support the resiliency of aviation workers as a way to manage stress and make them more responsive to the needs of distressed passengers, using lessons learned from aviation professionals on 9/11.

The Aviation Resiliency Project will commence at JFK Airport with a total of 300 participants – including 50 in the pilot group at Terminal 4 – and will be rolled out nationally to other airports in the coming months.

“We have all heard the recent woes of air travelers – the crowding, delayed flights, packed airplanes, being stuck on the tarmac for hours, etc., yet, we must take into account that today’s airport hassles are also affecting the airport workers who serve these beleaguered passengers,” said Tom Murphy, author of the book “Reclaiming the Sky: 9/11 and the Untold Story of the Men and Women Who Kept America Flying,” on which the resiliency training is based.

“The Aviation Resiliency Project will, for the first-time, offer support to airline and airport workers, who have endured many challenges in their day-to-day work by providing them with skills to help manage stress, feel better about their jobs and serve passengers better.”

During the workshop at Terminal 4, aviation workers who perform a wide variety of duties at the airport, learned of the stories of courage of aviation workers who lived through 9/11 as cited in Mr. Murphy’s book. Guest speakers included Susan Baer, General Manager of JFK Airport, who is featured in the book.

The workshop focused on resiliency, or the ability of workers to bounce back from the everyday pressures of their jobs. Fordham University researchers will use the book as a touchstone for study and discussion to identify workers’ needs and gain input into designing solutions.

“The purpose of this Resiliency Project is to explore how supporting workers, including helping them build on resiliency strengths such as remaining adaptable, positive, engaging and more – all of which are demonstrated by the examples of aviation workers under pressure in the book Reclaiming the Sky – can provide an effective way to increase service levels for travelers,” added Mr. Murphy.

“In a nutshell, we are helping aviation workers put the stretch back in their rubber bands by giving them tools to manage the everyday stresses of their work,” he continued.

The program is being supported by JFK IAT, LLC, which operates JFK Terminal 4, home of 45 international and domestic airlines that serve close to nine million passengers annually. Other industry groups also supporting the Resiliency Project include KAAMCO and TFAC, the airline manager councils at the airport. In addition, volunteers from the Transportation Safety Administration and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey will be participating in the study.

Findings of the study to be compiled by Fordham University’s Graduate School of Education will be released in March 2008. The program will then be expanded to other New York area airports and to airports nationwide.

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