Meet the Heroes of SOU
Celebrating our amazing people...
We had a chat with some of the everyday Heroes of SOU for them to share a little bit about themselves and their time and experiences while working at Southampton Airport!
These individuals are a huge assett to the airport and their work to ensure the smooth day-to-day running of the airport is greatly valued.
Jordan & James (Engineering)
The thought of doing an apprenticeship at the airport was very compelling and interesting. It really stood out to us compared to all the other opportunities, and we knew we would be doing something different every day. We both came from Eastleigh college as we wanted to get work experience whilst studying at the same time.
One day you could be working on a scissor lift changing high-level lights on the runway with a breath-taking view, and another day you are covered in mastic while working with your team! But it’s really the team that makes the job so interesting and enjoyable – you get this family feel, which is very rare at other workplaces.
The aviation industry is constantly changing, there is so much information that you get every day, especially with the current plans of the airport for the future. We will definitely be staying to see the airport grow and help bring new systems in. It’s exciting times!
Sometimes I have to do work in ridiculous places, that then make some really funny stories. When I first started at the airport, I had to explore some places that were previously sealed, which meant I had to cut through walls to get to a specific area. One day I was working in such area, singing away, and heard a WHSmith employee reporting over the radio that there was music coming from the ceiling through vents, which was obviously me!
You can call me a work-nomad – I’ve been jumping from one team to another before finally settling in our engineering department, so overall I’ve served for more than 25 years at the airport. I work with some outstanding guys that got a vast amount of knowledge, and we have apprentices that are very keen to learn. What you got to realise that some of our guys are getting old now, and we are handing over the mantle to the younger ones, so they can carry on the work. But I have full confidence in every single member of my team – absolutely cracking individuals!
Milli (Fire Service)
I was travelling in Australia when I saw an opportunity to become a fireman and fly to their fires there. I thought it was really cool, as firemen here don’t get to fly to other fires, so I came back to the UK to get the ticket and never went back. But it was the flying and the fire that got me into the airport service, and 11 years later I am still here!
I like being one of the few girls within the Fire Service, getting to drive huge trucks, training to save lives and always being on standby. As part of our EchoFour Training Centre, I get to share my knowledge with other businesses and people, teaching First Aid and Fire Safety. It will be interesting to see the airport develop, to see more passengers coming through en route to their exciting new destinations.
Mike (Getronics, IT)
My grandfather was killed in the Air Force during WW2. My father retired from the Air Force and became a commercial pilot for British Airways here at the airport. When he retired, the airport did one of the first water-arches in history to commemorate his services. I always wanted to join the Air Force, but for one reason or another, that never happened. However, I never gave up on the idea of working in the aviation industry.
I started washing up pots at inflight catering when British Airways used to provide meals. From there I went on to the airport restaurant, then to loading aircrafts and working for hauliers. I was asked to join Airside Operations in 1998 to help with the runway resurfacing project before finally joining Getronics providing IT services here on site. Southampton Airport is just the right size and the right amount of people to still make it feel like a family, which is one of the reasons I’ve never left.
Jem (Airport Duty Manager)
I used to be a groundsman, looking sports pitches, but that was never my passions. One day I was looking in the paper for any new opportunities when I saw Air Traffic Control and underneath that – Fire Service. I thought this would be quite interesting, so I joined the service in April 2000 and stayed for 11 years there. I guess you can say that I fell into it rather than had a burning desire for it, no pun intended of course!
When the Airport Duty Manager (ADM) job came up, I didn’t hesitate, and nine years later I am still here. You see and experience things that no one else gets to do. I mean, how many people get to host six Heads of State on the same day, including the President of the United States? Or welcome the Olympic Torch aircraft? So having dived into the aviation industry without any expectations at all, I just really enjoy what I’ve got now and the relationships I’ve got not only with the people here but in other airports too. It’s just simply brilliant!
I remember myself being a young girl gaining work experience in Going Places Travel Agents at the age of 14. I worked my way up to managing my own Store at 19. I always wanted to see the other side of the holiday experience, and after working at Bristol Airport for a bit, I started as a Customer Service Team Leader at Southampton Airport. Twelve years later, I am managing the whole of the Commercial Team, which is a fantastic experience.
The people are definitely what makes the airport tick. It’s evident through the numerous customer service awards that we win, from our high Airport Service Quality scores, and working with all of our business partners that have the same ethos as the airport. We all are one big family and we work so hard together. I’ve seen the airport grow from 1 million to 2 million passengers, and with the airport’s vision of our future, it’s truly an exciting place to be.
Amy and Sarita (Business Innovation)
Innovation is not something that you just wake up one day and decide to do. The whole aspiration is that you are innovative in everything you do, and it’s great for us to be at the start of that journey not just for Southampton, but for the whole of the AGS Group. You get an opportunity to do something different every day, have a different mindset and influence others to embrace the change.
It’s all about looking through different lenses. We have so many people working at the airport with different backgrounds, and we use their experiences to come up with something new. Talking about innovation and seeing people’s eyes light up, seeing the recognition on their face is why it’s exciting to be in this role. Working here means you get to be a part of a worldwide industry that constantly evolves. The passion for innovation is here, it’s present in every single person no matter the background, and it’s great to be at the forefront of this change.
Hazel (Customer Experience)
I studied Travel and Tourism at college, so the aviation industry was always an area that I was particularly interested in, but I didn’t know which specific avenue I’d choose to go down. I started at the airport back in 1993 as an information assistant, providing front-facing customer service for our passengers; from there I moved around a lot from learning and development to HR and airport duty management. But it was the love for the customer and for passenger operations that brought me back to the customer experience role.
Throughout my service I could see a lot of opportunities to improve things and influence the services we are providing. My job was always very varied, which was what kept my interest for the past 25 years. It’s all about providing the unexpected for the customers, creating that wow factor with our services, so winning the Best Airport in Europe award this year was a moment of great pride and personal satisfaction.
Jotty (Customer Experience)
Being an ambassador at the airport is so much more than just answering phones or pointing people in the right direction. Our roles are very varied - you can be interviewing passengers as part of a market research team, and next moment you get a First Aid call, and your brain momentarily switches. I remember getting a call about a passenger passed out in front of the train station, and I was so nervous trying to remember everything I knew about delivering First Aid. But as soon as I saw that person on the floor, the adrenaline kicked in, and I just knew that I needed to do everything I could to help him. That moment stayed with me until this day.
I’ve always been in customer service roles, but a lot of them were working in call centres. I wanted to experience a new challenge, which is why I started working at the airport. For the past ten years I’ve met people from all around the world and learned so much, I just absolutely love it!
Phil Turner (ICTS, Security)
You will be surprised to learn that working in security is actually a very physical job. You are always lifting bags when doing thorough searches, going up and down scanning passengers, so it’s actually a very demanding role. Greeting passengers can be challenging at times, but then I am always here to correct them and point them in the right direction. We always try to throw a bit of comedy in now and again to make our interactions with passengers a bit more interesting and to put them at ease, especially when we see someone being a nervous flier.
Back in the day, it was a very small terminal, literally consisting of two gates. You let passengers through one gate, search the outbound passengers, then shut the gate, and wait for another flight to come in. I’ve been here since 1991, spending 14 years in Airside Operations and the rest in Security. The year that really stuck with me was 2004. I was 35 then and thought I would be a bachelor all my life when I finally met my wife here. We’ve been together ever since!
AJ (Airside Operations)
Amanda started working in Security just when I was about to leave the team to join the Airside Operations. She was put under my wing, so we were doing the fence line patrols, and I was showing her all the bits and pieces that she needed to do. Her first impression of me was that I was an arrogant person, but obviously things have changed as now we have been married for 10 years.
All the time I’ve been here, it’s the stuff that you don’t expect to happen at the airport, and you get a chance to be a part of. I was here when the airport hosted the only two flying Canadian Lancasters, and they did a flypast over the airfield. When you help to push back a Hurricane into the hanger, having your hands on an aircraft that flew during the Battle of Britain that still got bullet holes patches up from that particular flight; or sitting in the cockpit of a Spitfire having your photo taken by the engineer – you just don’t get those opportunieis anywhere else.
Rose (Emcor, Cleaning)
I was working at NATS Swanick, when I was brought in to oversee the cleaning services here at the airport in October 2014. I was only supposed to be here for a month, but as you can see I never left. Working here is so diverse, every day is different, and I absolutely love it here. I don’t get to interact with passengers much, but whenever I walk to the terminal I always get approached by passengers that need assistance, and you just need help, it comes quite naturally to me.
Overall I’ve been exposed to the aviation industry for the past 16 years, but I never wanted to be out there in the field. For me, this is my land – I like to see the difference that we make here, on the ground. I really enjoy working with my team; we have such a diverse bunch here, and you have the right approach to everyone. You get to work with people who go above and beyond, and even though every day is a challenge, I wouldn’t have it any other way.
Wendy (World Duty Free)
It was Saturday morning, and I just started my shift. I saw a couple of my colleagues talking to this young lad, and apparently, he was en route to visit his father in France and forgot to buy him PG tips and The Times paper – something that you can’t get over there. I messaged my husband to see whether he was passing the airport by any chance and could bring them over. 30 minutes later I picked them up from him, and the passengers left absolutely happy. Sometimes it’s all about thinking outside the box!
I’ve been in the retail sector for 30 years, but this is my first experience working in the airline industry. I love working at the airport, I know that it’s safe, I like meeting the people, and they always seem to be happy to be here. You build a connection with passengers when you meet them at the front of the store, then you help them with a product, and it’s so lovely when they leave saying how grateful they are for my help.
Helder (TRG, Restaurant)
When I was a kid, I participated in Junior Masterchef in Portugal. I always had a passion for cooking, I loved cooking for my friends and family, but I never dreamed about becoming a chef. It’s only when I came to the UK more than five years ago, I started working in catering and gaining experience until I got transferred here at the airport.
I do miss my family because that’s the most important thing in everyone’s lives. My son comes to visit me from time to time, and that always makes me happy.
I don’t get to interact with all of the passengers as I am always in the kitchen, but the funny thing is I still see them through their orders. When the ticket comes through with a food order, I know exactly the kind of customer that ordered food thanks to certain identifiable points that you look out for. It’s all down to experience! I do miss my family though, and when my son comes to visit me that always makes me really happy. I mean, isn’t family the most important thing in the world?
I always wanted to get into the aviation industry as I used to live near Heathrow Airport. I liked seeing all the aircraft, the passengers rushing off to their holidays, and I always hoped for a job at the airport to experience the buzz. After my kids were all grown up, we moved here, and I got the job at Southampton Airport.
I started as a Security Officer 25 years ago when I was asked to help to set up a new ID Pass system. You see, passes before that almost looked like polaroids, and I feel very proud that I was one of the first officers to make it all new and digital. I was here for the opening of the new terminal when Prince Andrew was here, I saw the airport change its owners and develop. I was at the forefront of all the training and setting up all the security systems and rosters and distributing it to other departments. We are such a small team, but that’s what makes it really lovely working here.
I actually retired when I was 48 after working for News International for 24 years. Thought it was all good, until I got really bored 14 months later, and decided to get a little job just to do something. I chose working here because of the pride in everything to do with Southampton, and nearly 10 years later, I am still here.
I started working in the forecourt directing traffic until new opportunities came up, and I took on a Service Delivery Manager role. A job that was just supposed to keep me going for a bit has actually evolved so much since I first started, which is why I really appreciate being here! We get to do all sorts – from helping passengers with their tickets to chasing little dogs that jumped out of passengers’ car windows. And it was here when I met my wife, who was my boss at that point, so yes, it’s a great little place to work in!
Liz (Airside Operations)
I never really knew much about the aviation industry when I started working at the information desk here 16 years ago. It was only when I secured the airside operations job I realised that it was something that everyone wanted to have. Training back in the day was much more comfortable as we didn’t have that many flights, but as the airport started developing and more aircraft began coming in, our lives have become pretty busy. A lot of people still don’t really understand what we do in airside operations, and you have to explain that no, it’s not table tennis bats we are using to marshall aircraft!
I know a few people that are scared to fly, but when you see aircraft take off and land on our airfield all day long, it sort of becomes the norm for you. I’ve always loved the fact that being a shift-worker you come in, deal with whatever happens on that day: emergencies, fire alarms, runway checks, and at the end of the shift you go home to your family without thinking about work at all. It’s about striking that work-life balance, and my job here allows me to do that.
I’ve always been very active and liked spending time outside playing football, so I guess the teamwork and comradery kind of emulated my passion for getting a job that would be an excellent fit for my active life. When I saw the advert for an airport firefighter in Daily Echo paper, I listened to the advice of my wife-to-be and applied straight after college. 17 years later, and I am still here!
The training was quite interesting and varied – we spent eight weeks in Gatwick as part of the BAA group and learned the basics: ladders, aircraft familiarisation, military aircraft tactics and techniques and the whole range of the aviation industry topics. But really for us the training never stops – we have to always be prepared for any incident, whether its an aircraft emergency or first aid call. Everyone from the driver to the monitor operator has responsibilities, and I can rely on anyone to know their duties to a tee. It might sound like a cliché, but working here really feels like a big family.
Jim and Matt (Swissport, Ground Handling)
J. I’ve been at the airport for the past 24 years. One of the first rules I made when Matt started here 18 years ago was that we don’t bring work home and vice versa. It was vital to do that because when I am in a management position, I need to know that the team trusts Matt to be a professional and talk to him about anything.
M. When I left college at the age of 18, there were not that many jobs around, and my dad already started working at the airport, so I decided to join too. We’ve worked together for so long it doesn’t feel like we are father and son here, and we’ve done that on purpose to strike that work-life balance. We don’t talk about work at home, and we never use our family ties at work.
What really helped was the fact that when I started, Jim was working in a different department, which means I could find my feet without having Jim as my supervisor. By the time we actually got to work closely together, I was already established in my career, so it was great to work in agreement and having that clear distinction between our experiences.