Passenger service agents may assist airline passengers with tickets, payments, and reservations. They may either work as reservation agents, who book passengers on scheduled airline flights over the phone or as service agents, who assist passengers in person. Reservation agents usually work at large offices where they take incoming calls on headsets and process those calls at computer terminals. They help customers determine the exact time and location of their flight and then reserve that information by entering it into the airline’s computer system. They sometimes book the customer in hotels and arrange for car rentals. If the computer system is not operating, they may use company manuals, guides, and tariff books to complete their usual tasks.
Those who work as service agents may work at airport terminals, usually behind ticket counters or at boarding gates. They may essentially do the same reservation-related tasks as reservation agents, but they also issue tickets, collect payments, and make change by hand. They record transactions and prepare daily cash reports. At the boarding gate, agents check and collect tickets, issue boarding passes, and assign seats. They help passengers who have special needs, announce arrivals and departures, reschedule passengers, and process claims. A few load and unload baggage.
There are a few personal traits that are important for passenger service agents to possess. They need to be friendly, courteous, and efficient. They should be excellent oral communicators. They need to be able to pay attention to minute details. They should be familiar with basic computer functions. They also need to be able to stand for long periods and lift up to 100 pounds.
Training and Education
Employers may usually require applicants to have a high school diploma, and some may require college education. Once hired, agents may usually receive formal on-the-job training where they may learn computerized and manual reservation procedures, as well as proper telephone skills. Some of the smaller airline companies require their agents to have experience in an airline or travel agency. Some companies may require their applicants to have completed a computerized reservations program offered by travel schools and some community colleges. Most employers may prefer to hire applicants who have between 1 and 3 years of experience in sales, telephone, or other public contact positions. College coursework may sometimes be substituted for this experience.
A growing population may demand more travel services than ever before, but this demand will be tempered by gains in productivity within the industry, mostly as the result of computer technology. Automated reservation systems and “ticketless” travel may decrease the need for passenger service agents. Employment is also very sensitive to economic cycles, particularly downturns in the economy.
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