22 May 2014
Worker Profile: Xavier Celestin
The physically demanding tasks while working on the baggage ramps at Delta airlines, is enough to discourage many, but not one of Delta’s veteran employees. 62 year old, Xavier Celestin has been working the ramps and baggage claim at the airline for over 25 years. “It’s beautiful at Delta. I can’t complain. I’m still around!” Says Celestin as he smiles about his experience with the company. Xavier has an overwhelmingly positive attitude, and his presence is a breathe of fresh air in such a chaotic and busy airport terminal. As Celestin clocks into work he is stopped and happily greeted by many of his coworkers, whom he refers to as his brothers and sisters. On the terminal grounds, it is very evident that Celestin’s kindhearted and warm nature is admired amongst his peers.
Xavier started working for baggage when he came from Haiti in 1982. Celestin began working for Pan American airlines for 2 years and then made his way over to Delta. Xavier, the oldest in a family of four siblings, has two younger brothers and a younger sister back in Haiti. “Delta came as a blessing for me. We get some good flying perks here, so I use them mostly to go see my siblings back at home.” After Xavier’s eight-hour day at Delta, he goes home to a wife and four children. “Me and my wife try and match our schedules. We both work at night, so we balance it. We make it work!” Celestin is a very family oriented man, so it is important to him that he is able to fit some family time in despite his long hours at Delta.
A typical day at work for Xavier consists of collecting luggage and transporting it on and off the plane while also driving luggage throughout the Delta terminal at JFK airport in Queens, New York. “It’s fun, I like it”, claims Celestin in regards to his daily tasks at the airport. Xavier says that his experience in professional soccer helps him in order to get through the workday with such an optimistic attitude. “I know it’s a very physical job, but soccer has forced me to be fit both mentally and physically, which helps me here.” Xavier explains that in his eight-hour day, there is usually a two- hour period, which is considered “rush hour” for the employees. “Our rush hour is tough. In this time we have the most planes and luggage coming in so you have to be on target.” Xavier continues to explain that the key in succeeding at Delta is “Concentration. You have to be focused, because if you are goofing off for one second you put yourself at risk of an accident.” Celestin also spoke about a co-worker who recently became unemployed after he broke his ankle while transporting luggage. “This job is no joke, but if you do it the right way, cautiously, you’ll have healthy ankles”, says Celestin, laughing.
“I maintain a family here at Delta. I am so grateful. The best part of my day is working side by side with these people. We have a lot of fun, we joke around with each other and we laugh at each other but it’s all in good spirits to get through the day.” Xavier explains that he doesn’t complain much about his job and the people he works with but the only thing that bothers him is arguing with coworkers. “You deal with a lot of personalities here while working at an airport, so arguments are going to happen.” Xavier explains that he deals with many different supervisors and managers on a daily basis, so he tries to be as nice as possible. “Some people don’t like nice and starting off my shift with arguments ruins the rest of my day!”
The question of course, is retirement for Xavier, but he explains that he has an eighteen-year-old daughter, who will be soon be heading off to college. “College costs money, so Delta is going to have to put up with me for a little longer and also nobody knows what lies ahead except God, so I’ll follow God’s plan. If something happens that makes me retire, what are you going to do? No one knows.” Celestin explains that he feels lucky he is still able to succeed in such a physically draining profession. “You know, I see some young fellas in here who can’t pick up some of the big bags, and I laugh at them because I’m probably twice their age and can do it. The job keeps me young, what more can I ask for?” says Xavier as he heads off to work with a smile.