Texas Border Business
By Roberto Hugo González
The celebration was big and there was Robbert Van Doin talking to the press and holding the valuable prize, the cup. American Airlines, renowned for setting high standards within the airline industry, has achieved yet another milestone. The airline’s servicing team at Valley International Airport in Harlingen, Texas, has won an important distinction in their internal friendly competition. In an exclusive interview with the General Manager representing American Airlines in Harlingen, Robbert Van Doin, we dive into the details of this victory and what it means for both the company and its customers.
According to Van Doin, American Airlines conducts a friendly competition among its airports across various categories. For the second quarter of 2023, comprising the months of April, May, and June, the team in Harlingen was evaluated across 11 different performance metrics. Out of these, they ranked number one in nine categories, an achievement that Van Doin is rightly proud of.
He pointed out that the competition includes a wide range of measurements, from on-time flight arrivals to customer experience. While some metrics, such as customer feedback, cannot be precisely measured, as not all passengers provide feedback, the airline still managed to achieve top rankings in the majority of the measured categories.
This isn’t the first time Van Doin has tasted victory in such competitions. Having won previously in another city, he expressed his joy at replicating the success in Harlingen, a place where he decided to come for specific reasons and where he wants to be.
Joining the team in November 2021, Van Doin has quickly adapted to the hot and humid climate, focusing on what truly matters: safety, quality, and cost. As a ground handling company for American Airlines, Van Doin’s team ensures the safety of customers, equipment, and employees.
When asked about the pressure to win again, Van Doin stated, “Unfortunately, yes. And I say unfortunately it’s a great accomplishment, but if you don’t repeat it, it feels like a failure.” However, he emphasizes the importance of controlling what can be controlled and letting go of the rest, a mantra passed down by his bosses.
Despite the challenges of unforeseen circumstances like bad weather affecting performance, the dedication to perfection remains the same. As Van Doin puts it, they handle “one passenger at a time, one flight at a time.”
With 14 cities in four countries and five years with American Airlines, Van Doin has rich experience in the industry. He has found Harlingen welcoming and sees a bright future for American Airlines at the airport.
His final thoughts resonate with the spirit of the team and their commitment to excellence: “People are very welcoming, and I think we have a very bright future here for American Airlines and here at the airport.”
The distinction won by American Airlines at Valley International Airport (VIA) is not just a triumph on paper but an embodiment of the consistent efforts to elevate customer service and operational efficiency. It’s a testament to the focus on continuous improvement and a strong desire to deliver excellence—one flight, one passenger at a time.
Marv Esterly, Director of Aviation, expressed his appreciation and excitement, stating, “I truly want to extend my congratulations once more to the team. Robbert, what you and your team have accomplished here is remarkable – well done, everyone! Like Robbert emphasized, we view the entire airport, including our partners from Southwest, United, and American Airlines, as well as our TSA collaborators, as one unified team. It’s this collective effort that makes everything possible, much as Robert concisely described. We’re indeed a ‘village’ here, and I’m thrilled that everyone could be present. I value the enthusiasm shown, and we’re celebrating all day with our airport employees. There’s a barbecue upstairs, so please feel free to enjoy a plate and join in the festivities alongside our American Airlines partners.”
Nicolas Mirman, the Director of Commercial Business at Valley International Airport (VIA), was asked about the remarkable celebration that took place at the airport. His response was filled with enthusiasm and pride:
“It’s immense, truly immense! What we are celebrating today is the extraordinary achievement of the local team – American Airlines, Harlingen, and the Valley International team – who have been working together since the reopening of this station three years ago. Their dedication to elevating the standards of operational and customer service has reached such heights that they have been chosen as the best station in the entire American Airlines network. Considering that American Airlines is the largest airline in the world, this means that they’ve surpassed more than 300 other stations to claim this prize. It’s an enormous accomplishment, not only for Valley International but also for the entire Rio Valley.
This achievement indeed reflects on our airport, but more importantly, it shines a light on our people. It demonstrates that we, in the Rio Grande Valley (RGV), can assemble a team capable of achieving international standards of customer service. Being number one in American Airlines, the largest airline worldwide, is no small feat. It’s a thrilling victory that happened right here. I want to add that we are working extremely hard here at Valley International with not just American Airlines but all airlines operating here. The upcoming winter season, our strongest, looks very promising, and we hope to share more exciting news soon. We’re committed to maintaining this momentum and continuing to strive for excellence.”
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