Passenger Services Supervisor

The Job and What's Involved

Passenger services supervisors, also known as passenger handling supervisors, are responsible for the smooth running of passenger services at an airport. They manage passenger services staff, including check in staff, ticket desk agents and information desk staff. Individual jobs vary but passenger services supervisors may:

  • Allocate staff to jobs on a rota basis.
  • Provide cover for staff absent due to holiday and sickness.
  • Supervise the check in process to make sure that correct procedures are being followed.
  • Make sure that passenger and baggage flows are maintained.
  • Deal with passenger complaints.
  • Supervise the handling of lost, damaged or misdirected property on behalf of airlines.
  • Provide assistance to passengers with special needs, such as disabled and elderly passengers, and children who are about to travel unaccompanied by an adult.
  • Help passengers who are facing delays, including arranging refreshments, meals and accommodation.
  • Recruit and train staff.
  • Encourage staff to meet targets.
  • Liaise with others, such as staff from airlines and handling agents.
  • Attend meetings with other departments and outside agencies, such as customs and the police.
  • Keep records and write reports.

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

Passenger services supervisors work variable shifts to cover all the times that an airport is open. 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 may be possible.

Much of the work takes place indoors in an airport terminal with constant contact with airport staff and passengers. They have an office but are mostly in the public areas of the airport. They spend some of their time on the apron (the area where aircraft park), which involves being outdoors in all weather conditions. Their work involves sitting, standing and walking, and may involve some lifting of baggage and pushing wheelchairs.

Supervisors wear a smart uniform. They may wear a high visibility vest and ear defenders when working on the airport apron.

Starting salaries are at least £15,450 a year. Staff are usually given free car parking. Some airlines offer their staff subsidised travel.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

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

Some large airlines, such as British Airways, employ their own passenger services supervisors. Most supervisors, 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 passenger services supervisors is growing but entry can still be competitive.

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

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

Education and Training

There are no set entry qualifications, but it is usual for employers to require or prefer three to five GCSE's/S grades (A-C/1-3) including English and maths. It is an advantage to be able to speak one or more foreign languages. Most supervisors have previously had experience of passenger services work. 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 air transport 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

When first appointed, passenger services supervisors are trained on the job under the supervision of experienced staff. Training may include:

  • Familiarisation with the airport.
  • Staff management.
  • Allocating staff duties.
  • Company standards and procedures
  • General administration, documentation and record keeping.

Supervisors who have not previously been in passenger services work may also need training in:

  • Basic procedures and paperwork.
  • Check in and ticketing computer systems and procedures.
  • Health and safety proceedures.
  • Airport security.
  • Emergency and evacuation procedures.
  • Manual handling - how to lift heavy items and push wheelchairs.

Supervisors may work towards NVQ in Handling Aircraft Passengers at Level 3.

Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A passenger services supervisor should:

  • Have a pleasant, helpful and confident manner.
  • Get on well with people from widely different backgrounds.
  • Be able to keep calm under pressure and cope with stress.
  • Have excellent customer service skills.
  • Have good communications skills, both spoken and written.
  • Be patient.
  • Be able to cope with difficult passengers assertively but also tactfully and politely.
  • Be able to lead and work well in a team.
  • Be flexible to respond to changing priorities.
  • Have a smart appearance.
  • Be accurate.
  • Have keyboard skills.
  • Be willing to work unsociable hours.
  • Be security conscious.

Your Long Term Prospects

A passenger services supervisor can progress to assistant passenger services manager, passenger services manager, then to duty airport manager.

Experienced supervisors have the skills to transfer to other customer service, supervisory and management 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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