Life of an Airline Gate Agent
**For the purposes of privacy protection, the names in this article have been altered.
Working for an airline is a challenging but rewarding job that comes with many responsibilities. One of the frontline jobs in the airline industry is being a Gate Agent. It is a position that deals with customers directly and can be very demanding. WorldTravelReport recently conducted an exclusive interview with a very experienced gate agent named Jonathan Harrison, who works for a major airline in Charlotte, NC. Johnathan is a Charlotte native who has a passion for aviation and has spent over ten years working in the airline industry. He is also a professional photographer and spent many years working for a cruise line before moving to the airlines.
Working for an airline allows its employees to have unique and exclusive benefits such as flight privileges (or to travel for free.) When working as an airport customer support agent, you also get to go home every night after work, which is something Johnathan did not get to experience while working his previous job on cruise lines-- something he really values with his current position.
In comparison, when working for a cruise line, you do get time off at many ports of call, but you can be away for a whole year at a time, which can take a toll on people. A gate agent works a typical eight-hour shift, and according to Jonathan,
they usually works around five flights each shift.
The first thing I wanted to know— After 10 long years, what’s the most significant thing he has learned. His response, "you have to be diplomatic when talking with customers and you must choose your words wisely because if you say the wrong thing it can cause a passenger to become upset, especially in tough situations like when their flights are delayed or canceled when they can already be heated." He also noted that he can talk to over 500 people per day and can sometimes (immediately) tell their disposition. It's important to be concise and avoid further issues
Another question I asked Mr. Harrison was what is one key piece of information he would give to someone who is new to the airline industry and is thinking of becoming a gate agent. He said that you must be able to pass a drug test. Airlines are very serious about this and do a thorough drug test and background checks before hiring employees. Airlines aren’t always looking for the candidates with the highest degree but candidates that have a strong sense of customer service and show passion in the aviation industry. Another thing to note is that Jonathan said even though he works for one specific airline, everybody in the aviation industry is part of “one big family,” and people from different airlines, especially when working at the same airport, seem to bond very well with each other.
One of the most critical parts of the job, apart from keeping the passengers happy, is to make sure the plane is taken care of on schedule and in a timely manner. When the inbound plane lands, passengers need to be deplaned, the aircraft needs to be cleaned and catered, then the aircraft needs to be fueled, crew need to board, the new passengers need to board, and finally all paperwork must be passed along to the crew, this all has to be done usually in less than an hour, so it is essential to be efficient with every task needed to be done. The number one priority is to get the plane pushed back right on time, and if it is delayed due to any of the reasons above, it falls directly onto the gate agents' shoulders, which nobody wants to happen.
Working for an airline is quite a fantastic opportunity, and it can be seen why Johnathan is so pleased to be working in the airline industry as an airport customer service agent. Airlines are looking for new candidates all the time, so be sure to check out different airlines hiring sites regularly to see if a new job opens up near your location.
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