Reservation and Ticket Agent/Travel Clerk  What They Do

Just the Facts

Reservation and Transportation Ticket Agents and Travel Clerks Career Video

Insider Info

dotAirline ticket agents provide customer service to passengers. They quote fares, make reservations, issue tickets and process passengers at the departure gates.

Agents working reservation counters tag luggage, issue boarding passes and dispatch flights from the gate.

If they're working at the baggage counter, they may also assist in retrieving misplaced luggage and assist passengers with a variety of other problems. These may include seating or scheduling conflicts.

"I would like to see everybody work for an airline at least once in their life," says Brooks Hester. He is the station agent for an airline in Tennessee.

"The benefits are outstanding. Getting to fly for free makes vacationing to exotic or expensive locales, such as Hawaii, virtually affordable to everybody."

dotGenerally, airline ticket agents are divided into two groups: airline reservation agents and airline passenger service agents.

Airline reservation agents deal with passengers only over the phone. They may work at an airline company or at ticket outlets such as travel agencies. They wear headsets, take incoming calls and book flights through computers.

As flights fill up, they may need to check for space and suggest alternative travel arrangements to accommodate the passenger's needs.

Airline passenger service agents work at airport terminals. They may work at the reservation, baggage or customer service counters. Or they may work at the boarding gate.

At ticket counters, they answer questions about flight schedules, confirm reservations, issue tickets, collect payments and make change. This includes recording all tickets sold. They balance this with money collected at the end of the day.

They may also make boarding announcements, check and collect tickets at the boarding gate, adjust seat assignments and assist handicapped passengers as they board or depart the aircraft.

Plus, they make sure flight attendants know about any special needs for specific passengers, such as a child flying alone or a disabled passenger.

"Nowadays, an average passenger checking luggage and just needing a boarding pass can be checked in under a minute, oftentimes in under 45 seconds," says Hester.

Computers have made this even faster -- in fact, it's possible for a passenger to handle all their arrangements by computer, including checking in, without talking to an agent. However, the Occupational Outlook Handbook (OOH) notes that "not all travel-related passenger services can be fully automated, primarily for safety and security reasons, and not all passengers use these automated services." Therefore, the OOH expects little to no change in employment prospects.

dotAirline ticket agents stationed at check-in counters and boarding gates are responsible for boarding passengers. They must also screen passengers and provide initial security. That's according to Laura Nadin-Young. She is a reservation and customer service trainer for an airline.

What's the most unforgettable experience Nadin-Young had while screening passengers? "Once, I was performing airport pre-board passenger screening. I was very shocked to find a live iguana inside a passenger's bag!"

"This is a very exciting career," says Cindy Savory. She is a former airline ticket agent now serving as trainer for an airline.

"You must be able to deal well with change. Our industry goes through a lot of changes. You must approach it with an open mind. Don't fight the changes. Accept them."

dotShift work is necessary, as is occasional overtime. Since people also travel on holidays, airline ticket agents are required to work some holidays. Each airline has its own policy for such work schedules.

Uniforms are required for airline ticket agents, especially for the major airlines. Good grooming, a pleasant manner, care for detail and legible handwriting are also important.

Good communication skills, basic typing and computer skills and general math skills are essential. An ability to work without close supervision and a general knowledge of geography are also helpful.

Courteous behavior is also necessary, especially when dealing with difficult customers or passengers angry about weather delays.

One of the most frustrating things about this career, according to Savory, is "the inability to control the weather or maintenance problems." When passengers become angry, she says, "you must use diffusing skills. You cannot take it personally."

dotThough competition is intense, airline ticket agents may advance to supervisory positions. Moving into a training position is also a possibility, according to Savory.

Savory says she always thought she'd either be a teacher or work for an airline. "I happened to apply at an airline during a time when they needed help. I was hired and eventually started working in the training department. Now I'm working and instructing for the airline."

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Organize air travel for passengers

  • Uniforms are required for airline ticket agents
  • Courteous behavior is very important
  • Most employers provide on-the-job training