By Krista Didzbalis, Media Relations Staff
Picture this: You’ve packed your luggage and prepared the travel documents, ready to make the trek to Newark Airport and begin the pre-flight process. Upon arrival, you print your boarding pass and check your luggage. Next, you pass through security to the gate in time to board the plane and enjoy your flight.
If you’ve traveled by air, the process may sound familiar. But a successful flight depends on adeptly managing many moving parts, often out of the view of the traveler. At Newark Liberty’s Terminal B, Port Authority staff are working behind the scenes 24/7 to make the process run like clockwork.
One of those key people is Karen Zweifel, the airport’s International Duty Facilities manager.
“Passengers don’t realize that there are always people watching—monitoring flight times and gates or handling baggage issues. We are always problem-solving to make sure that things in the airport are running smoothly,” said Zweifel.
With a longtime passion for air transportation, Zweifel originally pursued a degree in Commercial Aviation. She obtained her private pilot’s license and completed commercial and instrument flight training, then changed her degree to Communications, with a specialization in Public Relations. Terminal B is where these two worlds connect, a place where she has taken on a more project-oriented role that requires continual communication with airport staff.
“Aviation has always been my focus, and the work I’m able to do in the airport operations field allows me to combine my skills and knowledge with my passion for airports and travel,” she said.
On paper, Zweifel’s shift runs from about 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., but airport operators work around-the-clock, often facing unpredictable challenges, and a set schedule is more a concept than a reality.
With summer the peak flight season, operations staff must respond accordingly. “We’re so busy with a high volume of passengers, which means a high volume of baggage. Things get stuck, things break, and we need to handle these situations appropriately,” Zweifel explained.
Not to mention the domino effect that occurs when a flight is early or delayed. If there is a conflict with an aircraft, it may be necessary to adjust the gates and make sure they fit while keeping a close eye on the flight schedule. Above all, Zweifel understands what it takes to give travelers the best possible experience at Newark Liberty. Her mantra? Traveling to your next destination, don’t forget there is a team of hardworking people always thinking three steps ahead.
“The most rewarding part of my day is being able to see issues and gather resources to improve the situation. When everything is flowing smoothly it makes this a better place to work and to travel through,” she said.