YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan -- It’s been over 12 hours since feeling solid ground. Flying from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Washington, to Yokota Air Base, Japan, on board a Patriot Express aircraft is mentally and physically exhausting. When finally landing, the thought of getting the chance to stretch, breathe fresh air and get settled in, is on the forefront of the mind.
Enter the members of the 730th Air Mobility Squadron Passenger (PAX) Terminal.
“We are the gateway to the far East,” said Airman 1st Class Alexander Blankenship, 730thAMS passenger service agent. “People who are traveling to the Tokyo region, or heading to South Korea or Singapore, weather for PCS or leisure, literally pass through us. What we do here is essential.”
The Yokota PAX terminal supports flights for service members who are going through a permanent change of duty station, or PCS, as well as flights for those who are traveling on space available, or Space-A, status. Both types of travelers headed to Asia make their first stop at the Yokota Passenger Terminal in order to begin the process.
“The mission of the PAX terminal and the agents who work here is to ensure that all passengers that are traveling through Yokota on Air Mobility Command organic or contracted aircraft get to where they need to be on time and have the most pleasant experience possible,” said 1st Lt. Cathryn Krakie, 730th AMS passenger services officer-in-charge.
Processing the approximately 76,000 passengers per year is no easy feat. The challenges faced by both the agents and passengers can vary, from a lost bag, to agents searching through regulations to ensure people are able to get on a flight; Maintaining a great customer service presence, throughout, is important in overcoming the difficulties.
“Traveling, whether in PCS status or Space-A, is a stressful experience,” said Krakie. “By emphasizing customer service, we are setting our team up for success and ensuring that our passengers are treated with the utmost respect and courtesy.”
In order to ensure the PAX team is providing the best experience possible, IPad kiosks have been installed throughout the terminal, Blankenship explains. Allowing passengers to give feedback quickly and conveniently, whether they are waiting for their luggage or to board a plane.
“The Kiosks really help,” said Blankenship. “If there is anything we need to fix, change, or if someone wants to highlight an Airman who exceeds expectations, the information gets sent straight to leadership. This gives us an immediate understanding of where we need to improve, as well as incentive to keep going above and beyond.”
The PAX also provides travelers with a variety of amenities to include; a movie lounge, an eatery, a family and infant lounge, and car rental services.
A new addition to the terminal is the designated pet area, Blankenship said. He and a fellow PSA, Airman 1stClass Smith, teamed up to get the area created in order to help ease the stressors that come when pets and owners are apart.
“As soon as people check-in their pets, we no longer put the pets aside, where they are separated from their owners,” said Blankenship. “We now have an area, located within the terminal, where they can sit with their pets until boarding the plane.”
From take-off to landing, the passenger service agents of the 730th AMS work tirelessly to make sure the transition through the PAX is as seamless and stress free as possible.
“No matter the person’s destination, it’s important for us to get them in and out of the PAX terminal as efficiently as possible," said Blankenship. “Providing excellent customer service is a priority with us. Making sure passengers have everything they need from us in order to travel safely and on time, is vital to our mission here.”