The role of airline customer service agent is vital in the commercial air travel industry, as these individuals are dealing directly with customers just as they are embarking on their journey.
Also known as passenger service agents or check-in assistants, airline customer service personnel have a varied working day. They are primarily checking passengers in, weighing and checking in baggage, issuing boarding passes and luggage labels, allocating seat numbers, asking security questions, and answering passenger queries prior to their flight.
Sometimes the role of customer service agent
includes walking with passengers to and from the aircraft, arranging facilities for people with disabilities and generally ensuring all passengers are boarding their planes on time. Unlike cabin crew who are travelling great distances in their working lives, airline customer service employees are ground-based and typically work at one airport at a time. Often shift work is required, due to the long operational hours of airports, and part-time work is widespread. Uniforms are likely to be provided for most airline customer service agents.
There may be opportunities to use language skills in this role and it’s essential that anyone entering the profession of airline customer service agent has a pleasant attitude, is willing to spend a great deal of time carrying out customer-facing tasks, and can communicate clearly. The role can be stressful if passengers want to complain or are difficult to deal with, and much of the training for airline customer service jobs is about customer service, and dealing with difficult situations, sometime under intense time pressure.
Qualifications needed for airline customer service jobs
To qualify for an airline customer service job, you will need to have GCSEs or a college education, some experience of working in a customer service environment, and possibly the ability to speak another language. Sometimes people who have previously worked as cabin crew transfer to ground-based airline customer service jobs when they want a break from flying or a change of role.
If successfully selected, candidates for airline customer service jobs
have to undergo a training programme that may last around four to eight weeks. This is likely to include learning how to use computerised and manual reservation systems, telephone skills, gaining proper knowledge of emergency and evacuation procedures, and extensive security training.
As well as on-the-job training it’s also possible to qualify with NVQs or SVQs in Handling Air Passengers, at levels 2 and 3, awarded by City & Guilds and EMTA Awards Ltd.
Characteristics required to succeed as an airline customer service agent include good personal presentation, to be a team player, to enjoy team work and to always be polite and tactful. Sometimes long hours are worked, and it helps to be physically fit, as much of the day may be spent on your feet or walking to different parts of the airport.
Opportunities for airline customer service jobs
Most of the job opportunities for airline customer service professionals are through airports, airlines and handling agents. Some jobs are seasonal initially, with the possibility of becoming permanent at the end of the season. In the UK, most jobs of this kind exist at London’s two major airports - Heathrow and Gatwick - with some vacancies in the regional airports, including Stansted, Manchester, East Midlands, Birmingham and Glasgow.
Airlines that are often looking for airline customer service personnel include easyJet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and flybe.
Naturally for those airline customer service agents who excel in the role, there will be the chance of promotion with time, and perhaps further management training, or the option to specialise in another area of airport work. Junior customer service jobs at airports pay around £15,000 per annum but the salary will rise with experience, particularly if more senior or team management positions arise. There is often also the benefit of subsidised air travel in some airline customer service roles.
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Photo: Giorgio Montersino