Salt Lake City International Airport makes customer service more accessible

December 2016

Salt Lake City welcomed veterans from across the United States in June this year for the 36th National Veterans Wheelchair Games (NVWG).

The NVWG is a rehabilitation and wheelchair sports program empowering Veterans to live more active and healthy lives through wheelchair sports and recreation.

Each summer, veterans from across the United States travel to a new community hosting the NVWG and compete in 18 wheelchair sports events, while providing encouragement and mentoring for new Veterans. Veterans participating in the Games educate newly-disabled veterans on what is possible and those witnessing the events realize that limitations are only state-of-mind.

The Customer Service Challenge

The customer service challenge for Salt Lake City International Airport was to make the arrival and departure of more than 600 wheelchair athletes and their support crews as seamless as possible.

The Solution

Gary Bilbrey, C.M, Airport Operations Manager responsible for Terminal and Landside Operations, turned to Airports Council International’s Online Learning Center to provide timely refresher training to his already highly-trained staff.

“The SLC Airport spent 10 months bringing together all of our tenants to plan for the NVWG,” Bilbrey said. “The Disability Sensitivity Training module proved to be beneficial for all airport employees and provided  customers with the assurance that Salt Lake City has an accessible airport.”

Fifty-one staff members were enrolled in the online Disability Sensitivity Training module, which was developed in partnership with Open Doors Organization out of Chicago.

Staff members were enrolled in the online course in May, providing timely training prior to the arrival of the veterans in late June. The training reminded staff of critical customer service elements when working with passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility.


The online program allowed all 51 staff to be trained in a very short period of time and in a cost effective manner. The training could be rolled out quickly and easily just before the games to provide a mechanism to re-fresh and re-focus staff at the right time.

A key benefit from the course was the statistics provided by Open Doors Organization on the number of people in the United States with disabilities that travel.

The 2015 survey commissioned by Open Doors Organization on the general travel habits and patterns of American adults (18 years and older) with disabilities found the following:

  • About 70 percent of adults with disabilities (26 million people) travel at least once in a two-year period.
  • They spend $17.3 billion in travel, which is up from $13.6 billion in 2002.
  • Most adults with disabilities travel with one or more adult family members, friends or companions, meaning that the actual economic impact is estimated to be at least double or approx. $34.6 billion per annum.

 The Feedback

“The disability sensitivity training we underwent was eye-opening in many ways,” said James Udall, Terminal / Lanside Operations Supervisor. “It helped me gain a better understanding of how people with disabilities go about their daily lives and how I can ensure their needs at the airport are met. It also helped me to learn how to better interact with persons with disabilities in a respectful manner.” Udall continued. “Because of the training, I am better prepared to assist the public and identify any problems before they occur.”


The ACI Online Learning Centre would like to thank Gary Bilbrey, C.M., Airport Operations Manager Terminal/Landside at Salt Lake City International Airport, for taking the time and effort to develop and share this article.

More Information

The Salt Lake City International Airport is operated and managed by the Salt Lake City Department of Airports, a department of Salt Lake City Corporation and currently serves more than 22 million passengers per year.

For more information visit

Disability Sensitivity Training

Providing sensitivity training helps staff increase their knowledge, understanding and confidence on how to provide customer service to travelers with disabilities. The ACI Disability Sensitivity course covers various methods of communication with people with hearing loss, vision loss, speech disabilities and cognitive disabilities, as well as those with service animals.

This course is organized into the following sections: 

1. The disability market
2. Defining disability and types of disabilities
3. Appropriate language and customer service tips
4. Assessment
5. Resources

Price:USD $95.00

Duration: Approximately 2 hours

For more information, please contact

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