Rich Thomaselli | August 09, 2016 12:00 PM ET
Chocolate Chip Hospitality Works For Fort Wayne Airport
Sometimes, all it takes is a little act of kindness – a random act, for some – to get off on the right foot. To send you off in the right mood. To make your day.
Flying is stressful. For 16 years now, Fort Wayne International Airport has been sending travelers off in the right mood and making their day, and welcoming them back in the same way, with some simple ingredients.
Maybe some chocolate chips.
Sometime later this month, Fort Wayne International will be giving out its 2,000,000th cookie to one of the travelers passing through the airport. Two million cookies. A tradition that started at the turn of the 21st century, something that has endured through these last 16 years, largely with the help of a wonderful bakery across the street – and 85,000 volunteer hours manned by folks who have carried woven baskets to hand out the treats to fliers.
Big numbers, to be sure.
PHOTO: Hospitality Hosts at Fort Wayne’s airport hand out cookies to travelers. (Courtesy Fort Wayne International Airport)
But it’s the small gesture, in and of itself, that is endearing to people who are normally in a big rush but, well, you know, have learned to stop and smell the cookies. In fact, this cookie diplomacy is so very Midwestern it has earned the facility a reputation as one of the friendliest airports in the country.
And, really, how many times have you heard that about an airport?
Travelers have come to know and love Fort Wayne International for its hospitality and the reassuring, genuine feeling of being welcomed to Indiana. Airports can be exhausting and stressful. The all-volunteer Hospitality Hosts are there to welcome passengers with a smile and a freshly baked cookie from Fort Wayne’s Ellison Bakery. When they arrive or exit the airport, that isn’t the smell of jet fuel in the air – that’s the smell of those cookies baking literally across the street from the airport.
Fort Wayne International Airport is in an interesting triangle among larger airports – Indianapolis to its south, Detroit to its northeast, Chicago to its northwest. Yet its airport traffic has been on the rise since 2011, with a 26 percent increase in the number of passengers deplaning at Fort Wayne International. According to airport officials, last year the expenditures of Fort Wayne’s 5.8 million visitors directly sustained more than 9,100 jobs in the region and had an economic impact of $71.9 million.
As a result of the increase of travelers, Fort Wayne International will add a daily, non-stop United Airlines flight to Newark-Liberty International Airport next month. Not only will this offer customers non-stop service to the New York City area, but also access to hundreds of connections to locations worldwide via United’s hub at Newark.
Is that all cookies and cream? Of course not.
But it sure doesn’t hurt.
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