Sunday, December 14, 2003

Look Who's Talking: Carol Zupancic

Carol Zupancic has been hooked on the airline business since taking her first trip from her hometown near Lexington to Los Angeles, flying most of the way on a Boeing 747. Zupancic, 46, now is in charge of all terminal operations as station manager for Delta Air Lines' hub at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. She oversees baggage, customer service and gate operations and about 2,000 workers. She took the job three weeks ago, just before the busy holiday travel season was to begin.

SO YOU'RE FROM just outside Lexington. Do you bleed UK blue?

You bet. I'm a big sports fan - my husband was a split end for the UK football team that went to the Peach Bowl one year, although I always say he must not have been that good or I would not have to be working. UK basketball is my passion.

YOU SPENT A DAY following a bag around the Delta luggage system in Atlanta. What did you take away from that?

I did that because I wanted to know how the process worked so I could better deal with customers. That experience led to me getting this job, because I realized I wanted to be on the front lines. I walked away from that with an understanding that while I was on the side that saw when things went wrong, in the bigger scheme of things it's amazing we did as well as we did. Now, people who lose bags do not feel that way. But we touch millions and millions of bags, and the number we actually misplace or don't have delivered to customers is very small in comparison. Actually, we do a pretty good job.

YOU'VE WORKED AS customer complaint manager for Delta in Atlanta and handled customers over the phone in reservations. What is the biggest complaint you hear?

The majority of complaints are not based on what we did. People generally understand that planes can be late and bags get lost. The biggest complaint I get is that the agent was not responsive to that customer's need. There has to be an understanding that at that very moment, that issue is the biggest thing in the mind of the customer, the most important thing to the customer.

HAVE YOU GOTTEN into the de-icing truck yet and sprayed off a 757?

I have my uniform and my steel-toed boots, but I'm still waiting for training. I know it's part of the job, and I actually can't wait. It's funny, because one of the first things I was asked when I got this job was whether I was afraid of heights. I hear those de-icing buckets can get up pretty high to spray off the tail.

WHAT IS THE WILDEST thing you've ever seen or heard at an airport or in taking phone reservations?

One time well before Sept. 11, a gentleman asked me if we would still board him if he had all his ID but was dressed in feminine clothing. I had to tell him yes, that we would not deny him if he could prove he was who he said he was. Things have changed a bit since then with security, but I'll always remember that one.

James Pilcher

Look Who's Talking: Carol Zupancic
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