Hire Personal Help at the Airport

Something I saw today on http://www.smartblogs.com/ Smart Brief written for the Business Traveler:

written by Barbara Cockburn
Would you use a personal assistant at the airport?
Sounds like a great idea at some of the airports without English directional signs!

New ‘Airport Butler’ provides concierge service throughout Vancouver International

airportbutlerIII 150x150 New Airport Butler provides concierge service throughout Vancouver InternationalMarch 12, 2013
Negotiating your way through an unfamiliar, huge and busy airport terminal can be a daunting prospect if you’re a child, a senior citizen, a large group of non-English speaking people or a celebrity. That’s where the Airport Butler comes in. A new concierge service available at Vancouver International Airport (YVR), Airport Butler provides real hands on customer service.
Airport Butler ‘s assistant manager, Christine Glen – who says business is going “gangbusters” – explains how the new service works.

Who uses the Airport Butler service?
This is something that is for absolutely everybody. We have lots of VIPS and celebrities who use the service because they just want the reassurance of seeing a face who will help them in and through the airport and know that there’s a porter there waiting for them, somebody who knows their way through the airport.
Elderly people need that bit of assistance, and with the golf cart, they won’t have to walk the whole way through the airport. Parents will want someone to be with their children under 12, when they’re minors, and up to the age of 17. We charge less than what the airlines charge for looking after minors, and we’re with them the entire time.
We had helped a passenger who is visually impaired. We were able to assist him from the time he got to the airport, right to his departure gate and then up to the aircraft doors.
We have also looked after a popular singer here in North America who travels with loads of luggage and her child, and all the stuff that goes with that. Knowing she has some assistance takes a load off her mind.
A woman, who lives in Ottawa, whose father was coming to see her from Victoria, on Vancouver Island, called us to make sure he was looked after, to make sure he got on his flight and assisted through the airport, so that she didn’t have to fly to collect him.
We have looked after a woman who had dementia. Her daughter was concerned that her mother would be left alone and that her mother would not catch her flight so we sat with her mother for as long as needed, even with a flight delay.

What will Airport Butler do to assist a traveler?
We offer three levels of service; gold (without a golf cart), platinum (with a golf cart), and VIP.
We will meet [a traveller] at the curb, or right outside the priority check-in line, help them through check-in, help them with their bags onto the carousel [to be sent to the aircraft] and proceed through security. We will then either take them to the lounge, or assist them through duty free shopping and then to the gate.
For an arrival we’d meet those passengers right off the aircraft at the gate. We won’t fast track them through customs unless a passenger is mobility challenged or if they’re a high profile celebrity and customs has approved it.
We can put them on a golf cart and whisk them down to customs, which is helpful especially as it’s a long terminal. From there, they’ll join the customs line. We’d meet them at the baggage carousel, help them with their luggage and get them out to the ground transportation or we’ll take them gate to gate.
It [provides] a bit of reassurance [to travellers], a nice comfortable back up when you come into the airport. These concierges know what they’re doing, know how long it takes to get from A to B and they’ll do everything they can to help with that.

How would passengers avail themselves of the Airport Butler service?
The Airport Butler concierges don’t have a high visibility profile in the airport. Usually it’s prebookd by a phone call ahead of time.
We don’t get a lot of walk ins, but that said, if someone comes into the airport there is an information desk and there is always someone available. But we like to have as much notice for obvious reasons.
If it’s last minute we need to have someone to meet them at whichever gate and then another person available to assist a passenger in the terminal. If we have a heads up we have time to get someone to assist them.

What do you charge for the service?
x 1 person, gold service starts at $95
x 2 people – $130
x 3 people – $165
x 4 people – $200
Platinum service, with the golf cart, is $160 per person.

Can you share any anecdotes of famous people travelling through the airport?
We’ve had a famous singer on a departure back to Los Angeles. He got held up in secondary because he forgot his Green card. His tour manager was a bit concerned about how long this would take, and whether they would they catch their flight on time. His tour manager phoned the White House, if you can imagine, to help this guy get out. We were there as soon as he got out of secondary, got him on a golf cart and they just made their flight.
It’s an add-on service. Some people like to have a face-to-face service. Airports can be big and daunting but by using our service, they don’t have to worry about that. We can take of them. We call it a premium and personal meet and greet service.

Is the Airport Butler widely available in the airport business?
There are other [concierge] services, such as in Dubai, but this is the first of its kind in North America.We started in September here in Canada, and we are owned and operated by a ground handling company Airport Terminal Services (ATS) in St Louis.

It’s clearly a niche offering. Why don’t airlines provide the service?
Air Canada has one for its super elite passengers. Many airlines provide a concierge service a long time ago but because of cutbacks we’re able to pick up where the airlines have left off.

What challenges did Airport Butler face when setting up operations, knowing how security is extremely tight at airports?
The biggest challenge for us before we could get going, all guns blazing, was to wait for approval with the Canadian government to allow us to take customers through customs.
We don’t fast-track them through customs but we definitely assist passengers. We meet & greet passengers at departures and arrivals. We are all accredited because we have all worked for the airlines. We can go through security areas because we all know the airport inside and out.

What are the opportunities for growth?
Increasingly we are taking care of large groups. We had a group of executives from KIA, the car manufacturer. They didn’t speak any English so we had a pool people, who speak all different languages, to meet them off the flight, walk them through the airport and get them up to the ground transportation.
We can help get groups organized and expadited out of the airport. If there are, say, 46 people coming off the aircraft, we have one concierge per each group of four people, to get them to the baggage carousel.
We can get celebrities out through an exit point that the regular traveler won’t know about, so that’s really helpful, especially if there’s a big fan base that will want to see them, touch them, take pictures of them. We can get them out, quickly, efficiently, and without hassle.

New ‘Airport Butler’ provides concierge service throughout Vancouver International

Published by Lee Laurino

A traveler not a tourist, searching for experiences not in travel books. Solo traveler who travels as long and far as possible sharing photos of the people and places I discover

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