Leimamo "Lei" Thompson is starting a new career in the airline industry after working in customer service for State Farm Insurance.

Working for airline
is longtime goal

Leimamo "Lei" Thompson

>> New Kona station manager for Island Air, which was recently sold by the parent of Aloha Airlines and is expanding its interisland flights

>> She is formerly customer service representative for State Farm Insurance in Kailua-Kona

What's the job like?

It's a new field, career for me. I've been in the insurance industry for the past three years and so coming into an airline industry, it's actually my dream. I've always wanted to work for the airlines. It was a perfect opportunity, perfect timing. Every day is a new experience. You have a schedule, but you run into different things such as delays, a lot of working with the passengers. It's a rewarding thing. You try to give.

Can you give an example?

Most of our passengers have been traveling and they are tired. They just want to get where they want to go and you want to make sure you get them there with their belongings. Because we're a 37-seater we have to keep the weight restrictions. Not all of the time we can't keep the passengers happy because we can't get their baggage on top of the plane. We try to accommodate them by getting their bags onto another carrier such as Aloha. We expedite the bags and try to get them to their destination.

How did airlines come to be your dream?

When I graduated from high school, I applied with Aloha Airlines and at that time I applied for a greeter and I never got called. I always had it in my heart. I knew that somehow how this would happen for me. You just know it, you just don't know when it's going to happen. When this opportunity came up, it came true.

How is it different from insurance?

When I was working in insurance, I built up relationships, solid relationships. How we've done it in State Farm, I serviced about closer to about 1,600. You want to make sure everything is taken care of. In the air industry you don't have that fine connection with them. They come and go. Actually, all of my customer service experience has brought me to the place I'm at. I try to make customers comfortable and in the perfect and professional way. I thank everyone and I always say this, I was brought up with this and I always keep it with me: You always treat someone the way you want to be treated. You just have to be positive.

The flights are full?

Pretty full and we will be having two more lines added and that will be Aug. 16. Everyone's going to Maui. Maui is a popular thing for our tourists. So we're beefing up our staff.

What's the process of the opening a new station been like?

I think the hardest thing, the biggest challenge for me is staffing. Right now as far as the staffing, I have three people with ramp and I also have four people with customer service and we're in the process to help boost our personnel, and we're running an ad right now. We're looking to fill positions.

We're looking for about four full time and two part time. We are growing, so we are adding two more lines to our already five scheduled lines serving Kona. Right now we serve three flights to Maui and two to Honolulu.

What do you hear from passengers?

They love it. Kona is a direct flight to Maui, whereas Aloha and Hawaiian do not have that luxury. It's a deal for the passengers and visitors and they love it. They just want to get to the destination. In the past, when the station opened, we had some problems with the delay, but much of that has improved so we've been on time. So passengers are happy.

We want to make sure that they're happy. Passengers are used to flying bigger airlines. Some of them have a fear of a smaller airplane. I tell them from my experience. I tell you, it's smooth. I took the flight from here to Honolulu and I just loved it, it was great. It was just different.



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