Philadelphia International Airport’s (PHL) volunteer program is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2021. The recently expanded PHL Volunteer Navigators program is managed by Christine Datesman of Travelers Aid and is part of the airport’s Guest Experience department. Datesman, who recently moved to Philadelphia from Atlanta, said, “The airport atmosphere is electric. Every day is a new adventure here! I am very excited about living in a city with a rich history.”
Datesman oversees two program coordinators and is the main liaison with PHL. She is actively recruiting and training Volunteer Navigators, who will lend a hand throughout the airport at information desks and throughout the terminals. Volunteers are available to direct passengers to their gates and to baggage claim areas, provide information about ground transportation, suggest dining options and offer assistance to help guests enjoy the airport. Whatever questions passengers have, the volunteers will provide friendly and accurate information.
“My vision for the program is to instill a customer service philosophy so the volunteers can enhance the overall passenger experience as they arrive home, pass through PHL or visit the Philadelphia area.”
Datesman has had extensive hands-on volunteer experience with Order of Malta, Special Olympics Ireland, and the Junior Lions Club. In Atlanta she was an active volunteer with ReLeash Atlanta, Passion for PAWS, GLAAD Atlanta, and Variety, the Children’s Charity Georgia. During her 17-year volunteer time with Variety, she received the Presidential Volunteer Award and the Kip Smiley Sr. Volunteer Award.
While working at Travelers Aid in Atlanta, Datesman’s duties included overseeing the Hartsfield Jackson International Airport (ATL) program. Volunteers provided tailored meet and greet services for people with special needs, seniors needing some extra attention and unaccompanied minors ensuring their passage through ATL was seamless.
Datesman also worked with the Department of State International Visitor Liaison Program (IVLP) to ensure all of the arriving guests to the USA were welcomed and assisted, often inside Customs, ensuring that their arrival experience is positive and that they successfully connect with their program liaisons. Current and emerging leaders in a variety of fields are among many of the IVLP participants. She was responsible for overseeing, promoting, and planning all-volunteer events, recruiting, training, and working alongside all of the volunteers throughout the year.
“In the aviation industry you're part of a bigger picture, helping to keep things moving and keeping up with the speed at which things happen,” she said. “Our Volunteer Navigators will go the extra mile when they need to help out a passenger. They will be engaged and updated on all airport happenings because the smallest gestures at times can make a huge difference in someone’s day.”
For PHL, Datesman wants to recruit volunteers who are fluent in many languages and in American Sign Language. She will maintain a database of qualified interpreters and translators as well as train staff and volunteers on how to utilize language assistance services when helping passengers.
“Listening is a very important skill and how we listen has a major impact on our job effectiveness, and on the quality of relationships with others.” said Datesman.