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Meet Ray Kohler and Junko Okamura of Airport Assistance Worldwide in El Segundo

Today we’d like to introduce you to Ray Kohler and Junko Okamura.

Ray and Junko, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
We ran the meet and greet division for Hoffman Travel, known as the “travel agency to the stars” back in the 80’s and 90’s, out of a small office we called the “dungeon” (for its remote location and lack of windows) tucked away inside Terminal 7 at LAX. During those years, our most popular cities were the LAX and JFK areas, Chicago, San Francisco, Boston, Houston, Paris, London, and Frankfurt.

In 2004, Hoffman Travel decided to focus more on their core business and gave us their blessing to take over as private owners. Shortly after, Airport Assistance Worldwide was born and we have since grown to offer more than 500 airports around the globe.

Airport Assistance Worldwide remains a privately-owned company with a dedicated and faithful team of employees, some of which have been with us since our inception. In the growing industry of meet and greet companies, we pride ourselves on running our business with a strong ethical background. We strive to ensure every meet and greet is customized to meet our VIP’s high standards, and we never waver from our “can-do” attitude. As long as it’s something that can be done within legal parameters, we’ll bend over backwards to make it happen.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
The airport meet and greet sector has always been a niche concept and we’ve been fortunate to have a strong hold on the market with a solid client base from the onset. One of the challenges we faced in our growth was expanding from a dozen cities to the 500+ we offer now and ensuring we maintained consistency and reliability in service levels.

However, our biggest struggle was post 9/11 when security measures began to change all over the world. This meant restrictions at some of the key US airports, preventing some greeters from accessing through TSA checkpoints. We still face a few challenges today with TSA and certain airline carriers, but these days, they have a better understanding of what we do. They realize our services actually benefit the airport by helping to keep high profile travelers low-key as we move them through the terminals. Most importantly, we all do our best to work together in harmony.

Please tell us about Airport Assistance Worldwide.
We are a specialized VIP airport concierge service offering customized “meet and greets” at airports all over the world. We are based in the Los Angeles area, home to the Hollywood entertainment industry. Our core clients are high profile Hollywood talent, entertainment executives, Fortune 500 CEOs, business travelers, and luxury leisure travelers.

In the early 80’s, there were only a few players in the meet and greet market. At that time, under Hoffman Travel, we were part of the small group of airport experts who pioneered the meet and greet industry. Ray and I both have decades of airline experience, having both worked for major airline carriers prior to Hoffman Travel and Airport Assistance Worldwide. We consider ourselves leaders in the field of handling high profile talent.

Airport Assistance Worldwide’s main goal is ensuring our client’s “don’t have to think” when they get to the airport. We are best known for whisking passengers quickly through the airport so they can focus more on a comfortable journey and less on the stress and hassle of modern day airport travel.

Our greatest achievement has to be our growth from a dozen airports to over 500+ globally. Back in 2005, we brought in a new team member to help us with some miscellaneous tasks. She noticed a gap in cities and started interviewing local suppliers in cities like Cape Town, Venice, Moscow, Budapest, Tel Aviv, and hundreds of other cities both in the US and abroad. We are proud to be able to offer “one-stop-shopping” through our main office here in Los Angeles, where we have a full staff to handle all reservations and answer your phone calls and emails 7 days a week.

We believe what sets us apart from the others is our high standards and strong ethical business model. Anyone can hang a sign and say they’re a meet and greet company by trying to schmooze their way through the airport, but there are very few who have the longevity, experience, and integrity that Airport Assistance Worldwide has. We will not compromise on our client’s privacy and comfort, and we strive to ensure all the proper airport guidelines are being followed.

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