We’re months away from Mardi Gras, but the iconic statue of Louis is already in the spirit.  So are the customer service agents he stands next to at Louis Armstrong International Airport.  As part of an effort to make the ticket counters, heavy luggage and long lines less painful, the airport is stepping up its service.

Over the past few months, customer service manager Reed Barnes says his staff has increased from 2 people to 15.  "So instead of just having a customer service desk where people come to us, we're actually out there among the passengers now."  The changes don't stop there.  "As we discussed things that we could do to make it more interesting, more exciting for the passengers, we decided to do throw me something Fridays, so we have beads that we're handing out every Friday."  As passengers step off the plane, they’re greeted with recycled beads and a smile.  Among visitors, those smiles seemed contagious.

They were caught a bit off guard, but Norman and Monica Blane were pleasantly surprised by the warm welcome.  Norman Blane, who is visiting from Philly, says "I've been here maybe 2 or 3 times in the past, it's been awhile.  It's been maybe 10 years since I've been here."  When asked if there were any beads at the airport last time, Bland exclaimed, "No!  That's why I was surprised."  The Mardi Gras beads have been so popular, customer service agents gave out 900 pounds of them in August.

Customer service agent Arielle Brown says the unique approach better fits the culture of New Orleans.  "I think it's very different because the culture of Louisiana and the culture of New Orleans on its own is very different and as a customer service representative for the airport and for the city, you represent that culture and that energy."  And she helps keep our visitors coming back for more!