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Helen Coburn

Airport Ambassador

22 June 2023

Helen is one of our amazing volunteer Airport Ambassadors and enjoys engaging with visitors to the terminal. Learn more about Helen, her strong family connection to the airport, and her volunteer role here.

What do you love most about your volunteer role? Being an Airport Ambassador is a great way to be involved with passengers, visitors, and the airport. No two days are the same and I never know what questions I’ll be asked.

What’s your favourite visitor initiative at Christchurch Airport? The free Mini Explorer Passport Activity Books and colouring in pencils for kids. Children are delighted to walk away with their own entertainment. I’ve also known adults to ask for one as well!

What led you to become an Airport Ambassador? I grew up hearing stories from my mother about her years stationed at Harewood Airport (as it was known during World War ll). She was a member of the Women's Auxiliary Air Force (WAAF) and she made and folded parachutes. She once told me a story about a Tiger Moth flight with an overzealous young pilot — his loop-de-loops left her a nervous passenger for the rest of her life!

Another family connection is that my late mother-in-law attended the “turning the first sod” ceremony for the airport to start building. My understanding is the airport company purchased the land from her family.  

I’ve worked for four different airlines, all based at Christchurch Airport and my daughter currently works for an international airline, also based here. So, my current role is a little like coming back home and carrying on our family connection with Christchurch Airport.

Most exciting moment on the job? Returning to the airport after the Covid-19 lockdown and watching as more facilities opened each week and more international flights arrived.

Tell us one thing most people wouldn’t know about you. I love classical music and have classical singing training. My 14 year old grandson is an accomplished trumpet player and singing soloist, so being musical runs in the family!

What are you happiest doing when you’re not volunteering? When I’m not here volunteering as an Airport Ambassador or a Visitor Guide at the Transitional Cathedral (Cardboard Cathedral), I enjoy my garden. I call it my friendship garden, as most of my plants have been given to me by friends. I enjoy nurturing the cuttings into full sized plants, and when I walk around my garden each plant reminds me of a dear friend.

Biggest life accomplishment? Without doubt my two lovely children, who in turn have given me two lovely grandchildren. My daughter, husband and grandson live in Christchurch, and my son, wife and granddaughter live in Queensland. 

Where’s your hometown, and what’s its best-kept secret? My hometown is Christchurch. I admire the strength and resilience of Cantabrians over the past few years. Christchurch is an evolving city and I believe it will become the city of choice in coming years – a modern, vibrant place to live.

Where’s your favourite winter escape? I’m a warm weather person, so I try to escape to sunny Queensland for a couple of weeks in winter. Obviously having family living there is a bonus, as it’s a chance to catch up with them and escape some frosty mornings.

What advice would you give to someone wanting to start their career at the airport? Working at Christchurch Airport is like having a great big extended family. Over time you get to know everyone, even though we all work on different shifts and different days. Airport, security, and airline roles are very regulatory as each procedure must be adhered to, but new ideas are welcomed. If you can follow instructions, enjoy people and love the buzz that goes with travel, it’s a great place to be.