Landside Operations Includes Behind-the-Scenes Work of Many Unsung Heroes
May 16, 2019

At George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH), unsung heroes work among us every single day.

Ordinary men and women doing extraordinary things and getting little or no recognition.

Dedicated workers simply “doing their jobs.”

For instance, the employee who recently encountered a woman sitting on an overpass contemplating suicide. He stopped and reasoned with her, calming her enough to where she could get some help.

And the employees at Terminal A on April 28 who noticed panicked activity coming from a car and ran over, ultimately rendering CPR and using a defibrillator on a mother who just had a heart attack. The employees rendered aid long enough for EMS to arrive and take over. 

These were only a few employees and two individual stories – but they are employees and stories that come from the often-unheralded work of Landside Operations at IAH. “These are two recent examples of the type of situations employees are faced with at IAH on a routine basis” said Steve Runge, Division Manager-Interim, IAH Landside Operations. 

Runge said that within HAS, other staff are often surprised at the variety of functions that the 132 individuals who comprise Landside Operations perform on a daily basis.  He said he is consistently impressed by their dedication, working in all weather conditions, 24/7/365.  “Daily,” Runge said, “we’re interacting with customers, ensuing the terminals are safe and operating smoothly, we’re keeping traffic moving, we ensure compliance to security regulations, and we’re making sure the ground transportation companies are providing good service to our customers.”

“Our whole job is to ensure a seamless process from when a person enters the airport until they exit, via aircraft or ground vehicle. “

Runge has been in his role for nine months but has been with HAS for 16 years in various capacities of increasing responsibility. He said that he has been most struck by the professionalism and pride the staff takes in the day-to-day operations of caring for customers in roles that can change in a moment. “Landside Ops is looking to provide every passenger and customer a five-star experience - smooth, friendly, safe, and secure,” Runge said.

Senior Agent Nester Rodriguez is one of those dedicated staff. Rodriguez, a former School Officer in Chicago, Illinois, has been with IAH since 2006 and said a typical workday can be anything but typical. He can start in Terminal A, move to the Permitting Office, and move to any other terminal in any given day. He said that the area of greatest need was where he will be.

Runge said that staff must be flexible and ever-vigilant about the goings-on at IAH. “They are the eyes and ears of the airport and respond to security incidents, fire alarms, medical calls, provide customer assistance, monitor traffic flow, all in a single shift. Everything we do is coordinated through the Airport Communications Center (ACC) and with other groups at IAH.  It is a team effort and this combined approach makes for a safe, secure, and more efficient airport that caters to the customer.”

Because monitoring traffic through terminals and roadways is a constant part of the workday, Landside Ops staff can write parking tickets and municipal citations. Additionally, limousine drivers, cab drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers, hotel shuttles, etc. must obtain permits to operate at the airport.   Runge said that many people are surprised to know that the Permitting Office, also a part of Landside Operations, processes about 1,000 permits per month. They are moving the process online. “In two months, applicants will be able to complete the application online and make a drive-through appointment at our new building at the ground transportation center,” Runge said.

“The team is amazing,” he added, “and the focus is truly on the customer. There are times when someone will be directing traffic, then be called to respond to a security call for an unattended bag, then respond to a fire alarm. The demands of the operation drive what we’re doing.”

Landside Ops responds to more than 5,500 calls for service a month, with requests varying from the mundane to the extremely urgent. Currently, the staff includes 75 Agents, 35 Senior Agents, and 18 Supervisors.  Position assignments are rotated each shift so all Landside Ops staff are cross-trained to perform all the duties.

Rodriguez added that among the lighter moments he has had was when shepherding traffic through, he has been approached by people insisted on him taking tips that he cannot accept by Airport rules.

“It’s rewarding to serve others and it has also been a lot of fun,” he said.

Words from the lips of one of Houston Airports unsung heroes! Landside Ops – we salute you!