Celebrating Women’s History Month at Unifi

At Unifi’s customer service operations in Orlando International Airport, women outnumber men three to four, a statistic this team is more than fine with…

 It’s the quiet noise of a group of people comfortable with each other—there are hugs for team members arriving or leaving work, laughter coming from the tables, and conversations happening in English, Spanish, and maybe another language. The affection and close-knit atmosphere are apparent almost immediately when you walk into the Unifi employee breakroom at Orlando International Airport.

“We have 270 employees and more than 90 flights a day,” says Station Manager Dakota Bonnell, who has been with the company for several years (and was part of the DGS transition),

Nearly 200 of those employees are women.

Spirit Airlines’ Orlando customer service operations boast Unifi’s highest percentage of women employees across all its 200+ operations in the United States—73% of the employees here are women. It’s one of those accidental yet impressive statistics.

“I don’t know, maybe we just interview better,” laughs Customer Service Agent Bernice Cottrell.

“When you say aviation most people think of men, but women aren’t scared of coming out of their element if there is opportunity,” she says.

The agents in Orlando are the customer-facing representatives for Spirit Airlines. It’s a high visibility role that requires them to interact with travelers on a host of issues – reservations, baggage check in, seating requests, layovers and much more.

“I notice our team’s higher level of empathy for passengers,” says Bonnell. The women on our team put themselves in the shoes of customers, and it shows in the care they have for them. That sensitivity isn’t always there in male-dominated teams.”

Customer Service Agent Brianna Hill agrees, saying women are natural problem solvers and nurturers.

“I love coming to work. I feel empowered being in a room full of women, and there is always someone who knows what you are going through and has your back.”

Hill also says that the female representation on the team has a positive impact on customer relations.

“I was at the gate today ahead of a flight, and a passenger came up to me asking if I knew where she could buy feminine hygiene products. I knew there wasn’t a spot close to the gate, so I just gave her some extra that I had,” recounts Hill. “At that moment, I thought, thank God I’m a woman, and I could help because she likely wouldn’t have even gone up to a male agent with that concern.”

Unifi Customer Service Agents working behind the Spirit Airlines counter to help passengers.

It’s an exceptional level of care, but Bonnell says it’s not uncommon at their station.

“Look at where we are – everyone who comes to Orlando expects Disney-level customer service. The standards are high here, and our agents always go above and beyond.”

Many team members also say that being part of an organization with so many women gives them confidence, especially during tough customer interactions.

“We help hundreds of passengers every day, and sometimes I’ll deal with someone who can get angry or upset and demand to speak to my manager,” says Customer Service Agent Amanda Ash. ” It makes me feel really proud when my supervisor comes out, and they see it’s a woman with a title and power.”

And that feeling of pride and support is felt by everyone, say the men on the team.

“Women are leaders here – we have a lot of women as supervisors. Both of our station admins are women. I think it’s amazing to have the chance to learn from them,” says Customer Service Agent Henry Sandoval.

It’s a shared sentiment among most of the men on the team.

“The women here are fantastic,” says Customer Service Supervisor Marcus Davis. “They know how to handle the difficult aspects of customer service really well, and they teach and help others who are new or having a tough time.”

Many of Unifi’s employees in Orlando say that one of the best things about their job is walking into work, feeling accepted and having supportive colleagues and leaders.

As Station Manager, Bonnell wants to ensure that sentiment continues. “I carve out a few hours of my day every day to be out on the floor in the operations with my team.”

But it’s those quieter moments in between flights, during meals or breaks that employees say also make a difference.

“We are all pretty open and talk with each other. I think we’ve built a safe space for men and women to share their emotions and be themselves,” says Ash, crediting the positive work environment with bolstering her own love of the industry.

“Customer service is intimidating – you need to have a lot of confidence and strength to do this job, and it feels awesome to see women take that on.”





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