A Vaya Health member offers a friendly face and a warm welcome to visitors at the Asheville Regional Airport
If you watch Logan carefully, you can catch him quickly tapping his ears mere seconds before an overhead announcement comes on through the loudspeakers. A Vaya Health member with an intellectual/developmental disability (I/DD), Logan shares his love of flight with others as the first AVL Welcome Crew member at the Asheville Regional Airport.
“He’s very in tune to the sounds around him and anticipates the announcements before we hear them,” said his mother, Juliette. “It’s his entertainment while he’s waiting for passengers to arrive.”
The first time Logan flew on an airplane, he was around 10 months old. Now in his early 20s, his love of aircraft has grown into a passion. His is one of the first welcoming faces passengers see as they exit the plane and walk into the airport.
Welcome to Asheville
Logan’s volunteer job started in July 2021 and puts him in a position to interact with all guests as they arrive in Asheville. His small kiosk is positioned at the gate entrance into the main lobby of the airport where he welcomes passengers as they make their way to the baggage claims area and the exit.
A stack of paper airplane instructions sits on his kiosk to hand out to small children, and he directs guests to the restrooms or answers other common questions. In addition to greeting, he also helps return wheelchairs to the correct airlines and will soon be refilling some of the brochure racks around the lobby.
As his abilities and comfort level have grown over the last year so have his independence and confidence. If someone asks a question that he doesn’t know the answer to, he motions for his mother, Juliette, to step in and assist. But that walk from her chair to the kiosk has grown steadily longer as Logan honed his skills.
When Logan first started, Juliette sat in a chair beside him. When he took on more responsibility, Juliette moved to the waiting area seats and has been slowly moving back row by row to give him more independence. He’s also learning skills like dealing with change. There’s a volunteer piano player that’s sometimes on duty at the same time as Logan. And with numerous people moving through, there’s no telling what might happen during his shift.
“It can make it a little challenging when there’s other background noise, but he’s getting good with handling it,” said Juliette. “There will always be some unpredictability and distractions, but these are all growing opportunities for him.”
With those growing opportunities comes something even more important to Logan – inclusion. He’s one of the crew. He wears an AVL Welcome Crew shirt, has a similar badge as other employees, has his own designated area in the breakroom for his things, and now even has a parking spot in the staff area.
Making a vision reality
Growing up, Logan’s parents would often bring him to the parking deck where he could watch the planes take off and land. Logan found an app on his phone that allowed him to see when the flights were coming in, and he could listen to the control towers communicate with the pilots. With his information, he knew which direction they would be coming from.
Juliette knew there had to be some way for Logan to be more involved than just watching. She came up with the idea for the greeter position as something that he could handle on his own and still be immersed in the world of aircraft.
“We had a vision and just walked up to the right person,” said Juliette. “You never know if you don’t ask.”
The right person was David King, guest services and sales supervisor at the Asheville Regional Airport. David loved the idea and created the AVL Welcome Crew, complete with Logan’s own kiosk. And he’s glad he did.
“We’re very happy he’s here. We get so many great compliments from tenants and even passengers,” said David. “It’s amazing to see Logan improve his verbal skills and develop his social skills with our team here at AVL. We’re excited to grow with him in the future.”
Order and connections
Logan’s happy he’s there, too. He loves everything there is about flight — from flying himself (which his family does almost every year) to the organization that surrounds it. He loves order and schedules in his life, and flights provide that for him.
“His whole life is about schedules, and I’ve always created a schedule for him,” said Juliette. “He likes the consistency and predictability. When you’re in an airport, there’s a lot of that around you.”
But there’s more to being in the airport as a crew member than just schedules. For Logan, it’s a way for him to build connections with others. The TSA agents know him by name, and Logan makes sure to greet them as they walk by. One of his goals is to build those relationships.
“As quiet as Logan is because he does not have a lot of communication skills, he’s still very social. He’s social in his heart and his mind, and he likes to make those connections with people in the best way that he can,” said Juliette.