Relieving the stress and confusion of air travel has won the helpful Brisbane Airport volunteers a well-deserved gong, writes Julie Thomson

In a perfect world, passengers arrive and depart the terminals at airports in an orderly, calm and placid manner.  Signs are clear and noticed, public announcements are made — and heard — and things go like clockwork.

However Brisbane – and any other city on the globe – is not a perfect world. People lose their way, their luggage and their cool, so thank goodness for people like the Airport Ambassadors to smooth the way for air travellers.

There are 120 Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) volunteers whose friendly, helpful, knowledgeable and efficient manner has just won them silver at the Queensland Tourism Awards. They have been acknowledged, not for the first time, for their outstanding and unpaid contribution to tourism in this state and, to the thousands of tense and lost passengers they help feel welcome and reassured every week, they are worth their weight in gold.

Jenni Greaves runs the Brisbane Airport Ambassador Program and the Visitor Information Centre  and ensures the calibre of these Ambassadors,  who could be the first encounter a Brisbane visitor has with a local, is the highest possible.

They come from all walks of life — most of whom have travelled — from retired doctors, teachers, business people to former tuckshop workers and students. The oldest on her books is 85 and the youngest is 20, with an average age of 60. Only about 15 per cent have come from an airline industry background.

The key ingredient Jenni looks for when recruiting new ambassadors is the right attitude. They also need enthusiasm, a familiarity with local knowledge, physical fitness, a willingness to learn airport procedures and stay abreast of them (because they change frequently), reliability, empathy, an outgoing manner and a genuine desire to help people.

After a training and induction period, the Ambassadors work across the international and domestic terminals, usually undertaking a four-hour shift a week, but sometimes up to three shifts. They are also expected to read and understand the 130-page manual of procedures.

They are dressed in smart royal blue corporate uniforms, so look and act like an extension of the BAC culture. Some of the Ambassadors have a second language which is helpful when dealing with international arrivals with little or no English, but not compulsory.

Jenni says the Ambassadors should know Brisbane and the South-East of Queensland well, as well as Australian geography and be able to recommend places for visitors to see.

“They have become a tight little unit and many strong and lasting personal friendships have formed in the programme,” she says.

“There is at present a nine-month waiting period for those wishing to join, so I am in an enviable position of being able to pick the best on offer.”

The Ambassadors also conduct significant fund raising for the Cancer Council and the Smith Family children’s charity.