Airline ticket agents provide customer service to passengers. They quote
fares, make reservations, issue tickets and process passengers at the departure
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."
Generally, 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
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.
Airline 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.
Shift 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
Though competition is intense, airline ticket agents may advance to supervisory
positions. Moving into a training position is also a possibility, according
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."