Soaring against the headwinds into Los Angeles International Airport (LAX), with the sun shining across rows of palm trees, sandy beaches, and endless traffic, you can’t help but sense the uniqueness of the city. Life inside the American Eagle remote terminal is no different; the Envoy operation at the gate and on the ramp is truly in a class of its own.
From the confident stride in the agents’ walks and the high-fives passed around like candy, to the gathering around a conference table like a family as diverse as an Old Navy ad — the cohesive teamwork is palpable. And with dozens of flights passing through ten busy gates, the Envoy LAX team has proven to be small but mighty.
Together with American Airlines, LAX has won six Customer Cups since 2008. The award measuring on-time performance, customer feedback and baggage handling is a big deal, considering LAX is up against Envoy hubs such as Dallas-Fort Worth, New York, Chicago and Miami.
Led by managers who have earned the respect of their employees by focusing on safety, communication and celebrating the team’s diversity, the Envoy LAX team is poised for greatness no matter the challenge tossed their way.
All in a day’s work
If you ask any LAX employee, they’ll tell you that their job is to help customers. Whether they’re boarding flights on time or handling passengers’ luggage, customer service at LAX is focused on safety and care.
A unique challenge for LAX is the bus system that shuttles passengers from the main terminal out to the American Eagle remote terminal. Depending on departure times and if they’re connecting to another flight, some passengers have to rush to board one of the shuttles and make it to their gate on time.
“It takes a little more coordination with the bus drivers and our flight crews, but we’ve become pros at handling the bus system to continue getting flights out on time,” said Shift Manager Priscilla Montes. “And even though it can be frustrating to customers, they can see that we’re doing our best to help them out.”
All of that coordination and dedication doesn’t happen overnight. It comes from years of teamwork, cohesion, excellent leadership and the overall enjoyment of the work they do. Some have a great time with their flexible schedules that allow them to take advantage of their flight privileges, while others take pride in the daily duties of their job and the variety of challenges from day to day.
“It’s the people that make LAX special,” said Manager of Ramp Services Adrienne Ferris. “Overall, we have a team that is motivated and gives 110-percent effort. It makes my job easier and the operation run smoother when you can trust your people to work autonomously.”
Besides customer service, another critical part of the LAX team is the operations tower that serves as the airport’s nerve center. Through constant communication, the tower and terminal teams work together to monitor connecting flights, know where passengers are coming from, and orchestrate the ground traffic on the ramp.
Room for growth
It takes a village to be as successful as LAX, but the village is only as strong as its leaders.
“The ship goes as the captain does,” said Baggage Supervisor John Nicholson. “As the company grows and we get more and more flights, it’s not just performance numbers that managers are measured by, it’s about how we support the growth and help our employees grow, too.”
On a personal level, a lot of the supervisors and managers at LAX like to get to know their employees and learn about their strengths and goals. They feel that if they can help them grow as people, they will shine in their work because they are given that freedom to pursue their aspirations.
“I am living proof that there is always opportunity for growth at Envoy,” said Deesha Desai, who was recently promoted to Vice President of LAX Hub Operations. “I started 12 years ago as an airport agent and took advantage of every opportunity that came my way. I worked hard to get where I am today, and also took a lot of advice that was provided to me by my mentors and peers. I’m so thankful to work in a company that encourages each employee to strive to be their best.”
By either encouraging people to move up or bid for a transfer, LAX managers are setting their employees up for success that not many companies offer.
“We hear all the time from airport employees that they want to work with us,” said Adrienne. “They heard how well we treat each other, how we encourage promotions, and give opportunities to those who want them.”
First and foremost, safety
Just by doing the little things like handing out popsicles or holding an employee barbecue, the LAX management can perk up some of their agents. But to keep everyone on the same page, especially when it comes to safety, LAX management holds hyper-inclusive meetings that take into account all departments and all issues.
“Sometimes it just helps to talk things out and hear everyone’s voice, because at the end of the day, it creates a structure centered on safety, respect and teamwork,” said former Manager Passenger Services Miranda Key, who herself was just promoted to a new role at Envoy’s headquarters.
That first tenet of safety is paramount at LAX, as it is all across Envoy. It’s something that requires a leadership team that can galvanize the troops, but also a willingness to be taught the right way and a commitment from everyone on the team.
“You have to get every employee to see the same vision,” said Ramp Shift Manager Akuete Kpodar. “We learn safe practices by working together as a team and looking out for one another.”
Maybe that’s the most unique part of all – the I’ve-got-your-back attitude that makes each person feel like they’re part of something bigger. Envoy’s other airport teams also support one another, but LAX is loud and proud about it.
At the gate, they use a buddy system to ensure each agent has someone to count on; on the ramp, a constant chatter over walkie-talkies keeps people safe; in their marathon meetings, managers call on each person to voice their opinion. Everywhere you turn, there’s a show of LAX-solidarity as unique as the City of Angels itself.