Airline customer service agents make sure passengers and their luggage board the right aircraft safely and on time. They can also be known as passenger service agents or check-in assistants.
As an airline customer service agent, you would usually work for a handling agent on behalf of an airline. Your duties would include:
You may sometimes help passengers through immigration and customs or escort passengers who have night flight connections. You could also specialise in different areas of airport work, such as computer control.
Airports operate long hours, so you would normally work on a shift system.
You would be based behind a check-in desk for most of your time. Your employer would provide you with a uniform.
Starting salaries are between £12,000 and £14,000 a year.
Experienced agents can earn from £15,000 to £20,000 a year.
You may receive extra allowances for working overtime and unsocial hours, and for special skills such as foreign languages.
Some airlines provide subsidised travel after a qualifying period.
See the International Air Transport Association website for a list of airlines and the Airport Operators Association website for airport contact information.
Jobs are also advertised in the local and national press, Jobcentre Plus and with recruitment agencies.
There are no fixed entry requirements for becoming an airline customer service agent, although many employers may ask for GCSE's (A-C) in subjects like English and maths, or equivalent qualifications. You may also be asked to take a medical test.
Employers might also look for:
Previous experience of working in a customer service role.
The ability to speak a foreign language.
Candidates who live near the airport or have their own transport.
The last point can often be an important factor because you would be expected to start work on shifts that may be outside normal public transport hours.
You may be able to get into this job through an Aviation Operations Apprenticeship. The range of Apprenticeships available in your area will depend on the local jobs market and the types of skills employers need from their workers.
Apprenticeships and Advanced Apprenticeships provide structured training with an employer. As an apprentice you must be paid at least £95 per week; you may well be paid more. A recent survey found that the average wage for apprentices was £170 a week. Your pay will depend on the sector in which you work, your age, the area where you live and the stage at which you have arrived in the Apprenticeship.
Entry to Employment (e2e) can help to prepare those who are not yet ready for an Apprenticeship. In addition, Young Apprenticeships may be available for 14- to 16-year-olds. More information is available from a Connexions personal adviser or at www.apprenticeships.org.uk.
There are different arrangements for Apprenticeships in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
For more details about airline careers, see the GoSkills website.
Once you start work, your initial training programme would usually last from four to eight weeks, and cover:
Familiarisation with the airport
Emergency and evacuation procedures
Using the public address system
This may be followed by further training which could include shadowing existing staff. Your employer may also ask you to complete a first aid certificate.
You could work towards one of several qualifications, such as:
NVQ Level 2 and 3 in Customer Service.
NVQ Level 2 in Providing Aviation Operations on the Ground.
NVQ Level 3 in Co-ordinating Aviation Operations on the Ground.
NCFE Level 2 Certificate for Airport Passenger Service Agents.
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An airline customer service agent needs:
With experience, you could progress to a management position, for example flight dispatcher, overseeing all aspects of aircraft turnarounds.
You could move into other areas of airport operations, or train to become cabin crew.
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