Local News

Former Airline Worker Travels Globe To Do Extraordinary Things

Posted July 18, 2006

— Many people who work for airlines get the benefit of traveling for free or at a reduced cost. Many of those employees use that benefit to be ambassadors of goodwill around the world. A Raleigh man is an ordinary airline retiree traveling the globe to do extraordinary things.

Blog: Ordinary Doing The Extraordinary

Whether it's wheelchairs, medicine, or clothes needed in South America, Africa or Asia,

Airline Ambassadors International

, a nonprofit group of current and retired airline employees, makes sure it gets there.

"Airline employees have outstanding travel benefits, so the idea is to use your travel benefits for humanitarian programs," said Eddie Smith, an ambassador from Raleigh.

Smith and other ambassadors gather and hand-deliver humanitarian aid to children in need worldwide. They fly stand-by, which means they travel for free or at a discount but have to wait for an available seat.

"(We) took wheelchairs to some kids who were poor. They never had a wheelchair and so we assembled them, taught parents how to operate them," Smith said.

Airline Ambassadors also bring children to the United States for free.

"Another program is escorting children from the foreign countries, poor countries who need to come here because of medical care or even adoptions," Smith said.

Airline Ambassadors has more than 4,000 members worldwide, but Smith is putting up promotional material to boost that number in the Triangle. He thinks putting a face with the mission makes it an easy sell.

"There's nothing more satisfying than to do personal contact with people in need and using airline benefits makes it better," he said.

An American Airlines flight attendant founded Airline Ambassadors International in 1997, but its members come from a variety of airlines. The program survives on membership fees and some private donations.

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