Meet the smiling faces of the airport’s front desk

Posted: March 23, 2021

Walking into the doors of The Ohio State University Airport, the first smiling faces you will meet are the people of the Customer Service team.

Image of KOSU's Customer Service desk with employees Jacob Hall and Tom Smathers
Customer Service Manager Tom Smathers (right) and team member Jacob Hall

The manager of the customer service unit is Tom Smathers, along with full-time employees Cody Lewis and Jacob Hall. Student assistants round out the ranks. According to Smathers, the customer service unit can be seen as the backbone of the university’s airport.

Behind their workstation in the busy airport terminal is a large screen listing arriving and departing flights, along with weather updates for the area. Team members not only monitor the buzz of activity in the terminal, but also use two-way radios to communicate important messages to and from pilots, line service and the control tower. Their other daily tasks include billing and managing invoices for aircraft; maintaining a welcoming environment for guests, pilots and crew members; and coordinating any transportation needed for guests. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of working in aviation customer service in Smathers’ eyes is being able to help students facilitate their knowledge and learning from the classroom into a more practical environment.

Image of KOSU's Customer Service desk with employees Cody Lewis and Liz Feaster
Cody Lewis (left) and student assistant Liz Feaster in KOSU's terminal

As an airport at an educational institution, students have the opportunity to apply to be on the team and gain on-the-job training. Student employees not only get to see the ins and outs of the airport operations, but sometimes get to meet VIP guests, who fly through the Ohio State airport for privacy and ease. Students are often able to network with pilots and crew, if interested in exploring other aviation career paths.

For future students and those wanting to work in aviation customer service, “learn as much as you can about all the different aviation industry variables or opportunities,” advises Smathers, who also started his career at the airport as a student employee in customer service.

“If you want to work in aviation there's an opportunity for everybody, it's not just customer service and airplane pilots.”

Smathers describes customer service as being the doorway into many other aviation opportunities. His career has allowed him to work at a variety of airports across the country, both large and small. From his position in customer service, Smathers has been able to learn so much about the industry and he feels he can offer insight to others looking to join the team.

by Spenser Jackson, professional writing intern