Mandarin speakers needed at the airport

HELPING HAND: Auckland Airport Bluecoat volunteer Peter Lum is one of several new recruits who is fluent in Mandarin.
HELPING HAND: Auckland Airport Bluecoat volunteer Peter Lum is one of several new recruits who is fluent in Mandarin.

More Mandarin-speaking volunteers are joining Auckland Airport's Bluecoat ranks.

Because of the growing number of visitors from China the airport is recruiting more Mandarin speakers - and more are needed.

Bluecoat volunteers help passengers with a variety of queries that arise when visiting the airport.

Tourism New Zealand figures show in the year to May, 220,736 Chinese visitors came to New Zealand - an increase of 27.9 per cent on the previous year.

Airport customer care manager Julie Berry says many of the 14 Mandarin speakers who have become Bluecoats are students.

"For the younger ones like students, it gives them the confidence, self-esteem and customer service experience.

"If they're looking at a customer service career, it's a good place to start."

She says many of the tour groups visiting New Zealand are looked after by an English-speaking guide.

But often the growing number of independent travellers from China need help.

"There's quite a few elderly Asian travellers that have children that are here and they are now visiting more," she says.

About 120 Bluecoats work a minimum of two four-hour shifts a week. They work between 5.30am and 11pm.

"They're a very close-knit group of people - it's almost like a club. They support each other," Ms Berry says.

New Bluecoat Peter Lum has been on the job a month and already faced a number of different queries.

"Every time you go on a shift someone comes up with a question - it's not the same every day.

"Sometimes people are waiting for passengers and they're not even sure if they're on the plane or of the flight number."

One visitor approached Mr Lum just to warn him about travelling to Egypt because of security concerns.

Pointing out where shops are, helping retailers with promotions and explaining New Zealand's departure card are just some of the other queries they deal with.

"We are the eyes and ears - we can calm them down a bit if needed."

The Auckland resident, who speaks Mandarin, Cantonese and Malaysian and has a background in hospitality, says he enjoys the experience of being a bluecoat.

"If we're not able to help at least we can be a friendly face."

If you are a Mandarin speaker and interested in becoming a Bluecoat volunteer email julie.berry@ or bella. onekawa@aucklandairport. to register your interest.

Eastern Courier