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Behind The Wings: “A seventh grade field trip to the airport that never ended”

“My parents always told me to pick a career I would want for the rest of my life, I never thought a seventh-grade field trip would make that decision for me,” shared Renee Lunn, Florence (FLO) General Manager.

Renee was born and raised in Darlington, South Carolina. She grew up with four sisters and one brother, whom all still live in Darlington. “My parents Roosevelt and Virginia instilled a work ethic in all six of us that I have carried over into this company. It’s all about hard work and knowing how to treat people. The respect that you get if you show respect to others is how I built my 37-year career,” shared Renee. Renee is happily married with two children. Being all about family has kept Renee in Darlington all these years. “My siblings and I celebrate everything together because family is everything.”

“When I was in the seventh grade, I took a field trip to the Florence airport. Back then it was called the white house,” shared Renee. “Walking into the airport for the first time was an unforgettable experience.  I was like oh my goodness wow! Seeing all the employees had to do really took my breath away,” shared Renee. “The lady working the counter let me hand tag a bag and showed me how to write out two flight coupon tickets. I was amazed with all of their job duties,” shared Renee. “I went home that day and told my mother I wanted to work for the airline.” Renee’s high school advisor encouraged her to go to college, but Renee knew she didn’t have a desire to do so. “I wanted to work for the airline, so I attended Southeastern Academy of Travel and Tourism in Kissimmee, Florida. Once I started, I continued to fall in love with aviation,” shared Renee.

In 1984, Renee finished training and saw an ad for Henson Aviation coming to Florence. This was the moment Renee was looking for, so she applied without hesitation. Renee reminisced on her interview process and the importance of first-time impressions. “I showed up to my interview dressed to impress in a lime green suit with a fishtail skirt,” shared Renee. Jeff Smith was the hiring manager at the time, and he was stunned to see Renee’s personality shine through when she walked into his office. “Mr. Smith told me I was a breath of fresh air from the black and blue suits he was used to seeing all the time for interviews. Back then, interviews were personal. The company cared to know about my personal life while being evaluated,” shared Renee. This was Renee’s first time being interviewed and the in-depth questions were appreciated to learn who she was as a person not just a worker. “This job was life changing for me, especially when you enjoy what you do,” said Renee.

“I started part time as a ramp agent with Jeff Garver in Salisbury, Maryland to train for two weeks with our trainer, Tonya Templeton. We stayed in a room over the hangar where they worked on aircrafts and the living conditions were a new experience for me,” shared Renee.  Jumping right into her new role, Renee quickly began to climb the ladder of success elevating to full time after seven months. “I was the only female out on the ramp when I started. I valued the opportunity to touch and learn everything which prepared me to understand the importance of procedures and protocols,” shared Renee. A couple of years later, Renee was promoted to a supervisor position. Renee now serves as the General Manager in Florence. “I knew this was where I wanted to be, so I took my evaluations seriously to better myself. Take the word ‘can’t’ out of your vocabulary because there is nothing we can’t do as women,” shared Renee. “I get to share my story with high school students to inspire them like I was when I was younger,” shared Renee.

“I want to be remembered as the manager that never took my hand off the operation. I was never too big to retrieve bags. The same person that was hired is the same person that will stand by your side. Learn something from my story that can carry on in your career in Piedmont,” shared Renee. Touching people and being told that many have stayed with the company because of the role she played in their journey has been an unexpected blessing. “I wouldn’t know what to do if they clipped my wings. It’s a lot that you can do in the aviation business and elevate in your role. There is a reason I’ve stayed for 37 years. What will your reason be?”

Behind the Wings is a Piedmont feature that highlights the accomplishments of the aviation professionals who make us Piedmont Proud inside and outside the airport. In honor of Women’s History Month, Piedmont is proud to recognize our female team members who contribute to the success of the airline and make a difference in their communities.