When Air General started the Traveller Services division in 2014, providing meet and greet services at airport and train stations was necessary primarily because of the decline in special services provided by airlines as they downsized and outsourced and also as a result of social media and the difficulty in maintaining privacy for celebrities and dignitaries who require it for safety and security reasons.
This past year complaints about air travel have nearly quadrupled compared with pre-pandemic levels after waves of cancellations, delays and lost baggage have disrupted plans for millions of passengers – in short, air travel is more complicated and travellers are more apt today to book a personal greeter.
Air General saw demand for private greeters by families and individuals with disabilities spike last summer when air travel began again in earnest precisely because the terminals were crowded, porters were scarce and still are at some airports, so a little extra help is needed and above all comforting.
“Air General greeters look after departing, connecting and arriving passengers with all the extra touches to surprise and delight to create the wow factor,” said Donna Blanchard, Vice President, Passenger Service at Air General.
How it works
Air General greeters assist people from the moment they come to the airport from their vehicle, having pre-checked them in and with luggage tags and porters ready to take their bags so that the greeter can then walk them straight through TSA security and to a lounge or restaurant, or shopping, a meeting (they arrange conference rooms) and then to the gate.
“Our greeter remains with the passenger until boarding, but stays in the airport terminal until the aircraft departs. In this way, we are there to assist if the flight is delayed or cancelled. Likewise, we meet arriving domestic passengers at their gate and assist with luggage collection, liaise with their ground transportation and remain with them until they depart from the airport. Our service is flexible and we will meet a passenger at their hotel, meet with US Customs in advance if there is a carnet involved, await passengers at private air terminals and assist them to the main terminal, or whatever they need,” explained Blanchard.
On top of this passengers are supported by a team from a call centre who gather information in advance of the service, and assist the greeters in the field by phone and text in case of delays, cancellations or any unexpected occurrence.
Who is it for?
Besides celebrities and dignitaries who opt for Air General services for security reasons, those who are elderly or with reduced mobility are just as keen to employ them.
“Our service is for anyone who needs or wants assistance; we look after elderly, unaccompanied young people, people with disabilities, sports teams, groups, celebrities, dignitaries, business people, etc. We charge between $240 and $260 for a private greeter to remain with a family of four for three hours of personal service. If the departure is cancelled we assist with rebookings as well. One of our greeters stayed overnight with an unwell passenger in transit; another took care of an infant after the passenger fainted, and accompanied her in the ambulance for medical treatment. Items left on the aircraft are often retrieved and mailed to the passenger. We go above and beyond for our clients.”
“Our biggest challenge is obtaining formal permits at airports in the USA. Unlike many competitor companies, we only operate with formal permission so that we have the full backing of the airport authority at each location, while participating in airport activities that make us a valuable player in the marketplace. Convincing the airport authorities to provide formal permits can take time, but we believe this is the best way to operate,” said Blanchard.
The application process to obtain a formal permit from airport authorities involves obtaining a state license, providing insurance naming the airport operator as "additional insured," paying a security deposit, and convincing the operator that Air General will follow the regulations, manage and train their team, and provide a superior service.
“Without the permit, it is not possible to apply for security badges which are essential to passing back and forth through the TSA security checkpoint, so our greeters would not be able to accompany passengers throughout their airport journey,” said Blanchard.
Customers tell Air General that the reason they prefer their services is because they provide well-trained and well-groomed greeters with ID badges. “These greeters are our own employees which means they enjoy company benefits and tend to stay with us longer, and our price point is extremely competitive. I believe it makes a big difference that we employ many former airline staff who understand the intricacies of the airport environment and can react quickly and efficiently to unusual circumstances - and these days, there are unusual occurrences to contend with every day. Our call centre team is exceptional, loyal and flexible, and our corporate support is amazing - so we really have a winning combination at Air General Traveler Services,” said Blanchard.
Outlook for 2023
In the middle of last summer when people really began to travel again, Air General experienced their best months since they started service in 2014.
“2023 is already projected to be our best year ever, we are hiring more greeters and applying for more airport permits. These are the key to our growth. We do not want to change our business model and subcontract our business to other agencies, so full effort is on expanding the number of airports we serve.”
The greeters are Air General employees, trained and professionally attired, and offer a vast array of custom-tailored services that seamlessly connect all the pieces for busy and overwhelmed travellers, making the experience as painless as possible. Air General’s Meet and Greet service operates in the following airports: Boston Logan, Newark Liberty, LaGuardia in New York City, Washington Reagan National Airport, Dulles International Airport, Charlotte, Tampa, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago O'Hare, Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Baltimore and New Orleans. Celebrity names could not be revealed due to privacy reasons but Air General were happy to confirm that they look after United Nations delegations, screen and music celebrities, and many other entertainment set people including movie producers.