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Working as a customer service agent for an airline comes with some unique benefits, such as free air travel, but it can also be quite stressful when dealing with anxious passengers and hectic schedules on a daily basis. Whether you are working on getting those planes out on time at the gate or dealing with customers at the ticket counter, there are some essential duties that you likely will perform at some point in your career.
Customer service agents who work at airport ticket counters are usually the first airline representative that passengers make contact with when arriving at the airport. In this role, you greet customers as you check them in, which entails verifying their identification and printing boarding passes. Many passengers will have luggage with them, and it will be up to you to identify which pieces need to be checked in, which can be taken aboard the plane and which will require an additional payment because of weight or because the passenger has exceeded the number of bags allowed by the airline. You might need to lift heavy luggage.
Facilitate Boarding and Deplaning
Your airline might assign you to work the gates inside the airport. In the gate area, you have a direct impact on whether the plane pulls back at its scheduled time. Boarding passengers in an orderly, but expeditious, fashion is your main duty. Doing this, however, means you will need to deal with customer questions and requests pretty quickly. This might include reassigning seats, processing first-class upgrade standby lists for the airline's loyalty program members and even selling some last-minute upgrades to customers who decide they want to sit in a premium cabin. As customers board, you will scan or verify boarding passes and take one last look at passengers’ carry-on bags to insure they are not too big for the overhead bins. When flights land, you will help deplaning passengers with questions about connecting flights or rebook them on new ones when they miss their scheduled connection. For agents who work at smaller airports, their duties often include attaching and detaching movable jetways to plane doors.
As a customer service agent, it is almost a guarantee that you will hear customer complaints and problems – and it is up to you to resolve them. You might have a passenger who missed a connecting flight and needs new accommodations immediately, or you might need to issue meal vouchers to passengers of a flight that has been canceled at the last minute. Despite the stress you may be under, you must always maintain a professional and courteous attitude.
The major U.S. airlines tend to require their agents be at least 18 years old, possess a high school diploma or GED, and have a valid driver’s license. And since you will have access to secure areas of the airport, you will need to pass an extensive background check mandated by the federal government. The background check will include verification of past employment, residences and criminal history, among other things. Other common requirements include the ability to lift at least 70 pounds, a willingness to work holidays, weekends and nights. In some cases, prior customer service experience will be necessary. Speaking more than one language, while not required, often is a plus.
Michael Marz has worked in the financial sector since 2002, specializing in wealth and estate planning. After spending six years working for a large investment bank and an accounting firm, Marz is now self-employed as a consultant, focusing on complex estate and gift tax compliance and planning.