Passenger Check In Officer

The Job and What's Involved

Airport check in desksPassenger check in officers, also known as customer service agents, passenger service agents or passenger handling agents, are responsible for booking in airline passengers and their luggage. At the check in desk, officers:

  • Greet passengers.
  • Deal with passenger enquiries, such as queries on departure times and changes to flights.
  • Check passengers' tickets and passports.
  • Allocate seats to passengers.
  • Weigh passengers' luggage, check it in and make any excess charges if necessary.
  • Print out luggage labels and attach them to the luggage.
  • Issue boarding cards.
  • Ask passengers a set of questions about security.
  • Make sure that passengers have no sharp or dangerous objects.
  • Prepare any necessary customs paperwork.
  • Direct passengers to the boarding gate.
  • Deal with late passengers.

Check in officers may also work at the boarding gate, announcing when a plane is ready to board and checking passengers' boarding passes. They may also escort passengers to the waiting plane.

They may have extra responsibilities for disabled people and people in wheelchairs, helping them from the check in desk to the aircraft. They may have similar responsibilities for children who are about to travel unaccompanied by an adult.

Check in officers are responsible to a passenger services supervisor. They also work closely with other check in officers, dispatchers, ground escorts, security staff, flight dispatchers and airline operating staff.

They use computers in their work, and telephones and radios to communicate with colleagues.

Check in officers work variable shifts to cover all the times that an airport is open and to meet the operational demands of airlines. This can include early mornings, evenings, weekends and bank holidays. In the case of airports open 24 hours a day this can also include working nights. Part-time work is possible.

Much of the work takes place indoors within the airport terminal with regular contact with passengers. They may spend some of their time on the apron (the area where aircraft park), which may involve being outdoors in all weather conditions. Their work involves sitting, standing and walking, with some lifting of baggage and pushing wheelchairs.

Check in officers wear smart uniforms, provided by the employer. They may wear high visibility vests and ear defenders when working on the airport apron.

Starting salaries are between £11,300 and £13,600 a year. Staff are usually given free car parking. Some airlines offer their staff concessionary travel.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

Passenger check in officers are employed throughout the UK at airports that offer ground handling services. Around two thirds of air passenger transport is concentrated at four airports - Heathrow (Middlesex), Gatwick (West Sussex), Stansted (Essex) and Manchester.

Check in officers often begin on a seasonal or temporary basis and aim to become permanent. Some large airlines, such as British Airways, employ their own check in officers. Most officers, though, are employed by ground handling companies that work on behalf of airlines. These may be large international organisations as well as small regional companies. The number of check in officers is growing, but entry can still be competitive.

It is important that anyone seeking this work lives near an airport. They also need reliable transport, or to have access to public transport that can enable them to travel to and from work at times that fit in with their shifts.

Job vacancies are advertised in Jobcentre Plus offices, Connexions centres and in local newspapers. They are also advertised on airline and ground handling company websites.

Education and Training

Entry requirements vary between employers. They usually prefer three to five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3), including English and maths, and some previous experience of customer service work. It is an advantage to be able to speak one or more foreign languages. Some young people may enter this work as apprentices.

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 further information visit My World of Work www.myworldofwork.co.uk/modernapprenticeships, Careers Wales www.careerswales.com; and for Northern Ireland contact www.careersserviceni.com.

A relevant qualification can also be helpful. There are a number of full-time and part-time qualifications that young people can work towards that may help to prepare them for entry to this work. These include:

  • GCSE in Leisure and Tourism.
  • BTEC/SQA awards in travel and tourism and customer service.
  • NVQ's/SVQ's in travel services and customer service.
  • BTEC/SQA Higher National Certificate/Diploma in Travel and Tourism.
  • Degrees in travel and tourism.

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You may use life saving skills as part of your day-to-day work.

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A Few More Exams You Might Need

Training for new check in staff is usually on the job under the supervision of experienced staff and includes:

  • Familiarisation with the airport.
  • Basic procedures and paperwork.
  • Check in computer systems.
  • How to use the public address system.
  • Health and safety.
  • Security.
  • Emergency and evacuation procedures.
  • Manual handling - how to lift heavy items and push wheelchairs.
  • Work shadowing an experienced check in officer.

Check in officers may work towards NVQ's in Handling Aircraft Passengers at Levels 2 and 3.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A passenger check in officer should:

  • Have a pleasant, helpful and confident manner.
  • Have excellent customer service skills.
  • Have good communications skills, both spoken and written.
  • Be patient.
  • Be able to keep calm under pressure and cope with change.
  • Be able to cope with difficult passengers assertively but also tactfully and politely.
  • Work well in a team.
  • Be flexible to respond to unexpected problems.
  • Have keyboard skills.
  • Be willing to work unsociable hours.
  • Be security conscious.
  • Have a smart appearance.

Your Long Term Prospects

Check in officers may progress to team leader, passenger services supervisor or other ground-based airline operational work, such as flight dispatcher. Some use check in work as a step towards work as cabin crew.

Experienced check in officers have the skills to transfer to other customer service work outside air transport.

There may be opportunities to work abroad.

Get Further Information

GoSkills, Concorde House,
Trinity Park, Solihull,
West Midlands B37 7UQ
Tel: 0121 635 5520
Website: www.goskills.org

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