Airport skycap believes customer service is vital
A steadfast dedication to mission. It’s what John Miller practiced while serving for five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and continues today as a skycap with the Huntleigh USA Corporation at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport in Kenner.
His airport mission since Sept. 21, 2015: offer the best customer service for passengers mostly in wheelchairs flying American and Copa Airlines.
This proclivity to service has impacted flyers and co-workers.
“I think Miller is the personification of living the spirit of the Year of Mercy,” said Marianite Sister Judy Gomila, who recently was assisted by Miller at the airport. “Before he even knew I was a ‘religious sister,’ John went out of his way to assist me when I had experienced miscommunication getting a ride back to Holy Angels. He stayed with me even after he was ‘off the clock.’”
"It’s not work,” Miller said. “The reason I do what I do is the people. I get the biggest joy out of making people happy.”
Miller, a former marathon runner who stays in shape, said he found the job on Craig’s List after he retired, looking to earn extra money to buy his teen-age granddaughter, Hayley, a car.
He’s quickly earned a reputation of going the extra mile.
“He’s the best,” said Dennis Fox, national director of operations for Huntleigh USA. “He has a good personality. He knows how to handle his passengers. If I had two or three more Johns, I wouldn’t have any problem. I have to throw him out sometimes. He works too hard.”
Miller works four days a week – arriving at the airport as early at 2:30 a.m. to ready wheelchairs for Copa flights to south and central America leaving as early as 5 a.m.
“If he has to come an hour early before his shift, he’s here,” said Aldo Garcia, station manager for Copa Airlines at New Orleans International Airport. “I’ve seen him take money out of his pocket to help people. He just goes and does his duty and takes care of the little details people need.”
Right touch with customers
Before working at the airport, Miller held various customer service roles for GMAC dating to 1969. Among them, he said he was a loan officer, customer relations manager and field representative who collected money from car buyers behind on their loans.
“I tried to explain to people what they need to do,” he said. ‘If you don’t pay your house note, they’re gunna kick you out. If you don’t pay your light bill, they will turn you off.’ If they were two payments behind, I’d tell them to pay one. I’d compromise. It’s a trait I have.”
He also handled customer complaints at Crown Buick until 2009 and worked in accounts receivable for N.O. Publishing Group.
“I’d write down their issues to make sure I understood them correctly and work with the technicians to make it right,” he said about Crown Buick. “I’d often hear, ‘Mr. Miller, they only reason I buy a car here is because you are here, and I know if I have a problem, you will help me.’”
Catholic church work
It was at Crown Buick before Hurricane Katrina that he first met the Sisters Servants of Mary and discovered their work as nuns who “take care of people” in their homes.
“I instantly volunteered and starting picking up the sisters (to bring them to and from overnight sitting jobs) several times a week. I got to know them very well.”
Through the nuns, he learned that he and second wife Pat could be married in the Catholic church – he was previously married in the Presbyterian Church; and Pat’s divorce had been annulled. The sisters offered their chapel for the Millers’ ceremony. In May, they celebrate their 18th anniversary.
“The nuns sang, and it was beautiful,” Miller said. “They were wonderful,” Pat Miller said.
The Millers are parishioners at St. Christopher in Metairie where he is an Extraordinary minister of holy Communion and has helped the bereavement committee.
He regularly attends retreats at Manresa and recently went on his first Emmaus retreat at Rosaryville with men from St. Dominic Parish that was dedicated to his brother, Mark.
He attributes his strong Catholic faith to his grandmother Gertrude Delpuget. The fourth of six children, Miller said the family moved a lot due to his father’s job.
“She was blind,” he said, “but I stayed with her often and she required I attend Mass. I didn’t like to move. I like to be stable, so I would go live with her.”
Miller is about halfway to his car savings’ goal, so he recently reduced his hours from 70 to 40 a week. After all, he is 71 years old.
"We finally found a job that wears John Miller down a little bit,” Pat Miller said. “You can’t keep up with him. Nobody can.”
He loves what he does.
"I’m going to do this for as long as they want me,” Miller said. “This will allow Pat and I to take our little trips with our dog, Sister (a Border collie).”