Airside managers focus on customer service and safety

(July 5, 2017) Chris Giokas steps out onto the guideway to Airside E, surveying everything around him, eyes peeled for anything out of order. Chris Giokas - Airside E

“Like this,” he says, gesturing to a screw protruding from a temporary railing. “That’s a potential safety issue. It’s my job to see things like this and get them addressed before they become a bigger problem.”

It’s the kind of detail most people wouldn’t notice.

But it’s Giokas’ job to notice everything related to Airside E - from the ticket counters the Airside E airlines use to the security screening stanchions, flight information monitors, gate hold areas and ramps.

He’s part of Tampa International Airport’s Airside Management Program, which assigns managers to a single airside where they get to know every corner of the terrain, develop strong lines of communication with stakeholders and address issues before they turn into complaints.

Those issues may be a carpet stain near a ticket counter, a restroom that needs a clean-up or ground service equipment that needs to be relocated on the ramp.

“A lot of it is basic stuff,” Giokas said. “We’re here handling the minor things on a daily basis while also building relationships, so when the big things happen, like a plane diverted from another airport, we all know each other and work better together.” 

Since January 2017, the team has seen more than 100 airside work orders through to completion and managed a make-over for service animal relief areas. They also keep tenants up-to-date on construction impacts, safety-related topics and concession openings.

“The tenants and our partners come to know us as their friends and neighbors and co-workers,” said Mark Witt, who supervises the program. “We’ve become a source of information. They have a familiar face they can ask questions to. It’s almost like a concierge service.”

The airside managers also play a big role in year-round upkeep that supports the airport’s annual Part 139 safety inspections conducted by the FAA.

They organized a series of FOD (Foreign Object Debris) walks in March and April where teams of HCAA employees and airport tenants worked together to pick up foreign debris on the airport’s air operations area (AOA) that poses a safety hazard to aircraft, passengers and employees. The Airside E walk turned into a friendly competition, with an award given to the person who contributed the most - by weight - to the effort.

“We’re talking about collecting pebbles and luggage zippers. It takes a lot to get any real weight,” Witt said.

The total haul at all airsides: 67 pounds.

Those types of initiatives strengthen camaraderie and improve performance, while also keeping our ramps safe.

“Instead of a phone call or an e-mail, we’re meeting face-to-face,” Giokas said. “It’s been great getting to know people on a personal level. And that always results in better outcomes.”

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