Dedicated volunteers keep air passengers on the move

Nearly every Tuesday for the past 14 years, Ken and Gail Hepp head to the Edmonton International Airport without any luggage.

'This is always a happy place to be': Air ambassador program soars at Edmonton International Airport

Ken and Gail Hepp are volunteer air ambassadors at the Edmonton International Airport. (Adrienne Lamb/CBC)

Nearly every Tuesday for the past 14 years, Ken and Gail Hepp head to the Edmonton International Airport without any luggage. 

The retired couple spends four hours each week wearing the blue and black uniform of EIA's Airport Ambassador volunteer program helping travelers navigate their way through the busy airport.

"My job is to help them along the way if they need some assistance, whether it be finding the car rentals or their luggage, or whatever they ask me about," Gail Hepp says.

The program, in place since 1992, has over 70 volunteers.
Air Ambassadors Gail and Ken Hepp were named volunteers of the year in 2017. (Rick Bremness/CBC)

"Airports can be confusing and very stressful, so the more people to help the better," says Sarah Cox, manager for passenger experience at EIA.

She estimates volunteers put in 150,000 free hours assisting passengers throughout the terminal.

Some people haven't been in the terminal before and they have no idea what they are doing, says Ken Hepp, who is retired from the Royal Canadian Air Force.

Edmonton International Airport has been using volunteers since 1992. (Rick Bremness)

In addition to answering a long list of questions asked by passengers, every so often a passenger will mistakenly exit a secure zone and the ambassadors will help them get back to where they need to be.

Every ambassador has their strength and preference where to work.

While Ken likes to guide people heading into security on the departure level, Gail prefers waiting in arrivals to greet people coming off the aircraft

That's because arrivals is a happier place than departures as friends and families reunite or an occasional celebrity comes through, she says.

"This is always a happy place to be."

Meet Gail and Ken Hepp, volunteer ambassadors of the year at the Edmonton International Airport for 2017. 2:09

You can see more about what is new at the EIA on Our Edmonton, Saturday at 10 A.M., Sunday at noon and Monday at 11 A.M. on CBC TV.