Volunteer Ambassadors Provide Key Customer Support in New Terminal

Volunteer Ambassadors Provide Key Customer Support in New Terminal
Kristen Rindfleisch
Published in: 

New and experienced travelers alike ask for information and recommendations from the Airport Ambassadors at Kansas City International Airport (MCI). The volunteer helpers are easily identifiable by their uniforms embroidered with the Kansas City Aviation Department logo. Collectively, they spend more than 10,000 hours per year greeting and assisting travelers, which provides substantial relief for airport staff. With the new terminal opening earlier this year, the unpaid cadre is proving more valuable than ever.

Previously, MCI had a horseshoe-shaped terminal that was a third of a mile long and only 70 feet deep—a design that didn’t allow for a central information desk. The volunteer program, which began in June 1998, offered a solution—with a smile. Airport Ambassadors walk the terminal at MCI, looking for travelers with inquisitive facial expressions, answering common questions, such as, “Where is the closest bathroom?” or “How do I get a rental car?” and “Where is baggage claim?”. They also provide travelers information about local hotels, dining and shopping options, attractions and special points of interest around the Kansas City area.


Airport Ambassador Program

Kansas City (MO) Int’l Airport

Established: 1998

Current Size: 
13 volunteers (mostly retirees)

Annual Contribution: 10,000 hours of support to travelers & airport staff

Details: Volunteer ambassadors work minimum of 4 hours/week; airport provides training, resource materials, uniforms, free parking during shifts & concessions discounts

Key Benefits: Providing information & assistance to travelers; creating warm, welcoming impression on visitors; aiding paid airport staff with basic customer service functions; extra pool of trained personnel for special events

Currently, MCI has 13 Ambassadors and is planning to onboard more soon. In general, the Aviation Department looks for individuals with a strong commitment to service and helping people, good interpersonal skills and a welcoming smile. The airport provides each Ambassador with training, handbooks, information about area attractions and a uniform. The volunteers also receive free parking during their shifts, concessions discounts, appreciation banquets and more. The Aviation Department is currently planning a special celebration for the upcoming 25th anniversary of the program.

Ambassadors typically volunteer for a minimum of four hours per week, but often more during special events such as the 2023 NFL Draft, various sports tournaments, Planet Comicon Kansas City and the recent annual convention for the National Society of Black Engineers. Most days, there are three or four volunteers circulating throughout the terminal to help guests.

There to Help

Shirley Murray has been volunteering at MCI since the program began. “Our program makes a great impact,” she remarks, noting that Ambassadors help create a positive first and last impression of the airport.  

As a seasoned veteran, Murray typically stations herself near the terminal entrances or in areas where passengers are departing for flights. “I love being an Ambassador to meet people coming to KC maybe for the first time,” she says. “We try to make our visitors feel welcome and help them any way we can.”

Murray and other volunteers are especially helpful in a few places of the new terminal where wayfinding signage is not finished or is being tweaked. “I walk the terminal to see who needs help or directions,” she notes.

A newer Ambassador, Beverly Hogle, joined the program in December 2018. Airport personnel describe her smile and enthusiasm for the program as contagious. Hogle says she enjoys helping people and hearing their stories, but especially loves seeing the smiles on children’s faces when she hands them a sticker or an “airport passport” filled with fun activities.

Beyond helping travelers, MCI Ambassadors support airport staff. Having uniformed volunteers in the terminal helps minimize the number of common questions airport staff—and airline employees—need to answer while also performing their primary duties. Justin Meyer, deputy director of Aviation – Marketing and Air Service Development, notes that the volunteer ambassadors have a knack for providing a warm and positive experience. “Kansas Citians, we’re the heart of America, and our touchpoint with travelers is one of kindness and hospitality,” he explains. “This program just allows another opportunity to deliver that.”

Most MCI Ambassadors are retirees, and many worked as airline crewmembers or directly for the Kansas City Aviation Department. “It’s a hard job to give up,” Meyer says wistfully. Some of the Ambassadors simply want to continue working in an airport environment because they thrive on the hubbub of air travel. 

“I don’t know of anywhere else volunteers can have that kind of experience and help a thousand people in one day—in some cases, just by smiling, or in other cases by saying, ‘There’s the bathroom’ or ‘Here’s the way out’,” Meyer remarks.

The Ambassador program works in conjunction with MCI’s Customer Experience team, a group of full-time employees the Aviation Department established in 2022. The Customer Experience team includes a manager, four supervisors and 12 agents who staff three information desks in the recently finished terminal—two on the Departures level and one on the Arrivals level. Customer Experience agents provide travelers with a variety of information, from gate directions to which restaurants have gluten-free options. “They are a smiling face for customers, representing our facility to travelers,” says Meyer.

In addition to leading the frontline agents, team supervisors assist with other airport amenities, including the Kansas City Air Travel Experience (see story). Supervisors meet participating families on the non-secure side of the terminal and assist them through the entire process of becoming more familiar and comfortable with air travel.

Beyond Kansas City

As an experienced volunteer at MCI, Murray believes other airports could benefit from creating Ambassador programs. “It speaks for your city,” she remarks. “It makes a better impression of your city. It benefits those who don’t travel much, as well as our older citizens. We need all the help we can get.”


2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement

Giving back to the community is central to what Charlotte Douglas International Airport and its operator, the City of Charlotte Aviation Department, is about, and last year was no different. 

Throughout 2022, while recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, we continued our efforts to have a positive impact on the Charlotte community. Of particular note, we spent the year sharing stories of how Connections Don't Just Happen at the Terminal - from creating homeownership and employment opportunities to supporting economic growth through small-business development and offering outreach programs to help residents understand the Airport better.

This whitepaper highlights the construction projects, initiatives, programs and events that validate Charlotte Douglas as a premier airport.

Download the whitepaper: 2022 Charlotte Douglas International Airport Report of Achievement.



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