For Aundre Clinton, supporting Team USA is as much about the journey as it is the destination
Author A. AVERYL RE
Travel consultant Aundre Clinton’s voice sounds patient, wise and full of good humor — which works well in her position at the United Airlines Olympic desk, since her voice serves as her main point of contact with her customers.
Clinton works on a team of eight that’s solely dedicated to the needs of the U.S. Olympic Committee, handling travel arrangements for committee members, athletes and anyone traveling on official team business.
“When I worked in Reservations, I might hear someone’s story about why they need to fly,” Clinton explains. “But working with the Olympic Committee, we talk to the same people all the time. We build a rapport with them.”
United has had a dedicated Olympic desk, where Olympic Games business is a full-time job, for 32 years. Clinton says it’s never slow. “They always have something going on, going to meetings or preparing for events,” she says. “Right now, they’re already preparing for Russia, where the Winter Games will be held. They plot out housing, negotiate with the government.”
She first signed on in 2006, when the desk moved from Denver to Detroit. “I thought it would be fun to do. I’ve grown to love it,” she says. “It can overwhelm me at times, but I go home, take a break and come back the next day. We get pulled in a lot of different directions.”
Lately, the pull has been the Games of 2012, which involve transporting to London more than 1,100 people — about 150 USOC employees and 900 athletes, coaches and staff — and all their baggage and gear (estimated at more than 2,500 pieces) from across the U.S.
Clinton’s diligence is not lost on USOC staff. “I can count on Aundre to find a solution to any issue that may arise,” says Stephanie Barr, USOC Travel Department manager. “Her engaging personality helps to alleviate any concerns that may occur with our travel needs. She is a joy to work with and always makes me laugh!”
Clinton herself will also head to London, where she will have little time to spend watching the Games. “They have it down to a military science. I can’t believe how they get it done,” she says. “We start with meetings at 7 a.m. At 7 at night, we have a transportation meeting to discuss who is going to be moving in and out the next day.”
In between those two daily meetings lies a full day of work, she says. “I check daily to make sure our flights leave on time and that the people who are supposed to be on them check in. Then I coordinate with the transportation department to make sure someone gets there to pick up the group that will be landing that day. There’s usually about 12 people coming at a time, if not more. We have big-movement days and small-movement days.”
This, Clinton explains, will be her routine for a little more than three weeks. “I get there a couple of days before the opening ceremony and I stay until one day after the closing ceremony.”
When the Games end, Clinton’s job for the 2012 team won’t be quite over. Unlike Super Bowl athletes, Team USA athletes do not go to Disneyland: Instead, they head to the White House, where they traditionally visit the president. And Clinton and her co-workers get them to that appointment on time as well.
“Our desk is extremely dedicated to making sure that when we say we’re going to do something, it gets done,” Clinton says. “For me personally, it’s about being involved with something major. It has a major effect on a lot of people’s lives — from my little position.
“You wouldn’t think what I do on a daily basis would have an impact on such a large organization. But it does, and it’s cool.”