By Maria Jose Subiria
Ralph Kressel's voice can be heard over the bustling crowds at the world's busiest airport, directing passengers to security checkpoint areas.
His directions are repeated again and again, with the same level of energy. Kressel, who has been working at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for six months, said passengers compare him to a "walking sign, lit up, like a Christmas tree."
Kressel is one of dozens of customer-care representatives at Hartsfield-Jackson. He works full time, Wednesday through Sunday. He said he and his co-workers are mainly responsible for directing the flow of passenger traffic at the airport, and providing helpful information. Crowd control, meeting and greeting passengers, balancing wait times at security checkpoint areas, and knowing the locations of all of the security checkpoint areas, bathrooms and smoking rooms at the airport, are all part of the job.
He said it's also important for him to know about the variety of businesses operating inside the airport. "I am just looking forward to helping people," said Kressel.
Kressel said he begins his day at 5:45 a.m., with fellow representatives, and attends briefings conducted by officials from the Operations Division at Hartsfield-Jackson. At those briefings, representatives are informed of passenger traffic-flow predictions, any mechanical malfunctions within the airport, and any flight delays.
"I wake up with an enthusiastic attitude to come in to help passengers flow seamlessly through the airport," Kressel said.
According to Kressel, customer-care representatives are stationed at a variety of locations at Hartsfield-Jackson, such as the North Security Check-Point, the Main Security Check-Point, the South Security Check-Point, the Terminal South corridor, Concourse T's Automated People Mover (AMP) stop and on the concourses, if needed.
Kressel said he enjoys working at Concourse T's Automated People Mover stop, because it is the busiest part of the airport.
He said it is also where most of the confusion occurs for passengers who have arrived at Hartsfield-Jackson and are trying to reach the baggage claim areas in Terminal North and Terminal South. Passengers who are unfamiliar with Atlanta's airport may confuse Concourse T with a baggage claim area, he said.
"If they listen, they'll get it," said Kressel, about passengers following his directions.
Kressel said that when he is stationed at any security checkpoint area, he is responsible for helping the lines move efficiently, by directing passengers to the correct color-coded lanes. The black lane is for expert, elite, or business travelers; blue is for casual travelers with carry-on bags; and green is for passengers flying with young children in strollers, or passengers with disabilities.
Every 30 minutes, Kressel said he times the 10th passenger in line with a stopwatch, to see how long it takes the individual to get to the security screening area. The length of time is then posted on a marker board, by the entrance of the security checkpoint area, so passengers will be aware of the wait time.
According to Kressel, when customer-care representatives work the Main Security Check-Point area, they have additional responsibilities, such as reminding passengers to have their documentation ready before approaching a Transportation Security Administration officer, assisting passengers with their luggage by placing it on the screening belt, and knowing TSA's policies, such as the 3-1-1 rule.
Kressel said the most challenging part of his job is the language barrier he experiences from time to time when speaking to passengers who are not fluent in English. He said he understands some Ukrainian, but is unable to speak it. When Kressel is unable to communicate with a passenger, he radios for a co-worker who is able to speak the language of the passenger, he said.
"It is good to know that there are so many of them [customer-care representatives] that I can reach," he said.
Kressel said he was, at first, intimidated by the responsibilities of his position, but he caught on quickly.
"This is the most challenging job in the world," he said. "You have so many numerous people that you're dealing with."
Kressel said he was born in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on April 17, 1945.
He said he attended Chancellor University, formerly known as Dyke College, in Cleveland, Ohio, and graduated with a bachelor's degree in business administration in 1966.
Kressel said that after graduation, he worked as an assistant manager for McCrory, McClenna and Green, a retail store in New Jersey, from 1966 to 1968.
He later landed a job as an accountant for the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and was employed there for 31 years.
Kressel said that although he retired from the state of New Jersey in 2002, he went on to pursue a career in real estate.
He said he worked for Weichert Realtors, in New Jersey, for several years before retiring again and moving to McDonough in 2005, with his wife Geraldine Kressel, to be closer to family.
After four years, though, he began looking for another job.
Kressel said he wanted to find a job at Hartsfield-Jackson, so he went to the airport with resumes in hand.
According to Jan Latourneau, project manager for ICS Contract Services, Kressel was hired by Airport Employment and Training Center, Inc., a staffing agency that screens and hires employees for ICS Contract Services, the company responsible for the management of the customer-care representatives at Hartsfield-Jackson.
"Ralph has a desire to serve," said Shawnalea Garvin, owner of Airport Employment and Training Center, Inc. "He is a prime example and a wonderful example of service."