By Ed Brock
Some extremely youthful faces greeted customers at the British Airways ticket counter last week.
What they lacked in experience they more than made up for in enthusiasm as they tagged bags and, working together, wrestled the heavy suitcases onto the conveyor belt that would carry them to the airplane. They were the children and grandchildren of British Airways employees, there to spend a day seeing what their mothers and grandmothers do on the job and to learn about the place they do it, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
George and Susan Morton, on their way home to Northern Ireland, were most amused and impressed.
"They're very good," George Morton said.
The six children were the first to participate in British Airways' "Bring Your Child to Work Day." Along with learning the fine art of checking baggage, they spent the day touring the airport, visiting the control tower, seeing the airport's fire trucks and watching a demonstration of the U.S. Customs Service's "Beagle Patrol."
"We have an entire day of activities planned," said British Airways Customer Service Agent Jacqueline Irby-Lee, who coordinated the tour.
Her 5-year-old daughter, Alexandria Lee, was part of the tour.
The day culminated in a tour of the cockpit of a British Airways jet.
"This will be a great opportunity for the children to spend time with their parents and learn about aviation and how an airport is operated," said Joe Xenakis, customer service manager for British Airways' operations at Hartsfield-Jackson. "They will also learn lifelong values that will serve them well, like work ethics and responsibility."
For 11-year-old Lauren Cole, the oldest of the six, the highlight of the tour was the control tower.
"I've never seen one before," Cole said.
Cole said she'd been to see her grandmother, Customer Service Agent Mary Troyer, on the job before, but she'd never been behind the scenes as she was last Thursday.
Troyer said her granddaughter stops by whenever she flies somewhere, but she was looking forward to last week's visit even more.
"Lauren gave up soccer today to come," Troyer said.
For Customer Service Agent Terry Heinberg's grandson, 5-year-old Travis Rambert, the best thing was the fire truck. He proudly announced that fact to a Transportation Security Administration agent as the group was on its way to see Piper, a member of the "Beagle Patrol."
"He loves children," Customs Canine Officer Sandy Seward said.
After greeting the group Seward asked for a volunteer to help her with the demonstration. She had no shortage of volunteers.
The children looked on with awe as Piper searched through a collection of luggage and found the one containing oranges that, if a passenger was bringing them through from another country, would be contraband.
As the children gathered around to pet Piper, a beagle/blue tick hound mix, Seward told them that Piper was 5 years old.
"I'm five, too," Travis announced.
Also on the tour were 10-year-old Shea Zuber and her 9-year-old sister, Haley Zuber, and 6-year-old Megan Bailey.
Xenakis said British Airways plans to make "Bring Your Child to Work Day" an annual event for local British Airways employees.
"We are a company made up of global citizens trying to educate our children to work and live in a world village," Xenakis said. "Air transportation and global trade are a major part of that. We hope to instill that in the children."