16:20 PM

Frontline Faces: Darius Hughbanks

Darius Hughbanks’ coworkers call him a bit of a character. They’re not far off. It was an internship with Disney playing the costumed characters Tigger and Eeyore that first brought him to Florida.

“You have to love the spotlight and have a personality that shines through when you’re dressed as a character,” said Darius. “It’s also where I learned about customer service and the hospitality industry."

Originally from Gary, Indiana, a city known in the 90’s as the murder capital of the world, Darius recalls what it was like growing up in a dangerous neighborhood.

“My mom was always worried about me, she was nervous every time I left the house,” said Darius. “And as a young, gay, black man, growing up in that environment, she worried even more for me. I couldn’t be who I was.”

His father decided to take Darius on a trip to show him life outside of Gary, and outside of the United States. They went to Greece and it’s that trip that Darius says taught him about respecting different cultures. It also gave him the travel bug.

After his time with Disney, Darius began working for a few different airlines. He enjoyed the work, helping people and traveling all across the country. Looking for a more stable schedule, he joined the Guest Services team at the Aviation Authority and never looked back.

His current role as the front desk receptionist suits him now. He says the questions have changed, but the goal is the same, to treat everyone and every question like they’re important.

“It could be the hundredth time that day that someone asks you the same question, but it’s the first time for them, and you just answer politely,” he explains. “The only difference now are the questions. They used to ask about booking flights, now they want to know about COVID testing.”

When asked about the best part of his job, Darius is candid about what he loves most about working at TPA.

“I’m in a place where I meet so many people from different walks, all the people I work and all the people I help. And all the while I can be my authentic self. We’re like a family where everybody is appreciated for who they are.”