Like Starbucks baristas before them, airline workers are going back to school...or at least mandatory training sessions. JFK airport is gearing up for a busy summer of travel, and they're preparing to meet delays and frustrated airline passengers head-on, and with a happy face.
At least 500 employees are getting "nice" training; from the AirTran to the parking lot to the ticket booth, travelers should be greeted with a smile -- albeit a forced one. Training started yesterday, with a lesson in resiliency.
"Those who help travelers help themselves," Tom Murphy, told the first students yesterday in the program run by the Human Resiliency Institute at Fordham University. "The travelers will be happy and you will go home more rested at the end of the day."
Murphy plans to roll out the program nationwide, and says that Newark and LaGuardia are already showing interest. Complaints reached an 8-year-high last year, and with American Airlines canceling thousands of flights last month, and the whole Carol Anne Gotbaum and faux-bomb incidents -- training may be arriving just in time (unlike 41% of flights into JFK last year!).
The sage advice for those on the frontline boils down to staying calm and keeping one's voice down even as the passenger's goes up. Executive director for the Coalition for an Airline Passengers Bill of Rights, Kate Hanni, commented on the program, saying, "I think it would be a short term solution but it's not going to solve a lot of the problems. They need to bring in more employees now more then ever."