Welcome back! Bluecoats return to the Auckland Airport

07 December 2023

  • 23 customer service ambassadors return to their former volunteer roles post pandemic
  • Auckland Airport boosts summer workforce by 72 new employees

Auckland Airport is delighted to have its much-loved ‘bluecoats’ customer service ambassadors back on-hand offering support and care to travelers around the airport.

The ambassador programme was put on hold in March 2020 when New Zealand’s borders closed at the start of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But with international travel now back-to-normal and the airport’s frontline customer service roles fullystaffed, the volunteer roles are being reinstated.

“Our bluecoats are treasured members of the airport community who help with almost any issue from directions to lost toys,” says Auckland Airport Chief Operations Officer Chloe Surridge.

“Many have long-standing links to the airport as retired staff of ours or our agency partners, and bring a wealth of aviation experience that makes for a special welcome or farewell to our travelers.”

This month 23 customer service ambassadors will return to Auckland Airport after a three-year hiatus during the pandemic, with more expected to return in the new year.

Identified by their distinctive blue coats, the ambassadors can be found at six help desks across the domestic and international terminals.

“Just as we have missed having the bluecoats around the airport, we know many have missed the activity in our busy and buzzing terminals,” Ms Surridge says.

“Auckland Airport has been on a recruitment drive to get our frontline team ready for the summer peak. We also have a flexible workforce coming on board for support during school holidays and other peak travel periods.

“Our bluecoats complement our frontline teams, and we are lucky to have these wonderful volunteers helping our customers in their journeys.”

Auckland Airport’s volunteer programme began in 1995.

Meet the bluecoats!

Janet Igrisan was almost bursting when she returned to the airport as a bluecoat customer service ambassador this week, after three years away.

“I felt like throwing my hands in the air and yelling, ‘we’re back!’” she says.

Needless to say, the Bluecoat team leader of five years missed being at the airport while the ambassador programme was on hold due to Covid-19.

Her team of Bluecoat colleagues didn’t want to lose contact during that time and continued to meet for lunch each month. “It kept our team together,” Janet says. The majority are returning now the programme has resumed, with Janet herself rostered on for three morning shifts a week.

As a former Air New Zealand flight attendant, and with her husband being an aircraft engineer, aviation has always been central to her life. When retired, she went in search of a volunteer programme to help fill her days, and the Bluecoats ambassador programme was the perfect fit.

“I’ve always loved travel, and with family in the UK, I’ve always been between the two countries, so the airport is a familiar environment,” she says.

“I love meeting people and love being an ambassador for the airport because I feel that I’m actually an ambassador for New Zealand. It may sound corny, but once travellers have collected their bags and made their way through Customs, we are often the first faces they see. If we greet them nicely, it can set the scene for their whole visit.”

Returning Bluecoat Paul Wong is also happy to be back amongst the buzz of the airport.

“I travelled during the Covid-19 pandemic and saw the airport at its quietest during that time. It’s great to see it has sprung back into life and I’m loving seeing people arriving from all over the world once again.”

Paul’s 25-year career with Bendon as a production manager quality assurance manager made him a frequent flyer and familiar with the airport experience, which means he appreciates some of the concerns or worries international travelers can experience upon arrival.

He likes to be able to greet anyone who may look anxious with a smile and tackle any problems they face with a positive attitude. Mostly. those range from how to get from A to B, connecting with transport or help with lost items.

“They appreciate that even if you can’t solve an issue they may have, we can point them in the right direction and there’s relief they have somewhere to go and someone who cares.”

Paul’s favourite part of his role is making sure people are welcomed into the country and receive a good impression. Being part of the ambassador programme means a lot to him, personally.

“It keeps me in touch with people. I’m retired, but I can still be active in the community.”