The first member of staff a passenger will come into contact with at the airport is often a check-in officer. These roles are therefore very important to airlines looking to promote a positive image of their business.
Check-in officers, or ‘airline customer service agents’, need to have excellent communication skills, patience, and most importantly, an instinctive ability to cope with difficult situations in a calm and professional manner.
The role typically deals directly with customers just as they are embarking on their journey. The main responsibilities include 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.
Further duties might involve walking passengers to and from aircraft, arranging facilities for people with disabilities and generally ensuring all passengers are boarding in time for their flights. Check-in officers may have additional duties at the boarding gate which might involve a final check of boarding passes and passports before passengers may get onto the aircraft.
Due to the long hours that airports are open, this role is often on a shift pattern. This may involve working late evening shifts or early morning shifts. You may also have to be available for work at the weekends and on bank holidays as these tend to be popular times for flights.
If you enjoy working directly with customers, have good communication skills and a professional approach, a role as a passenger check-in officer could be a good option for you.
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The day-to-day duties of a passenger check-in officer might include:
- Greeting passengers on arrival at the airport
- Answering any queries passengers might have about their journey
- Checking bookings and issuing boarding passes
- Keeping passengers updated on any changes to flight information
- Directing passengers to the correct gate for their flight
- Weighing and checking in luggage
- Responding in a calm and professional manner to customer complaints
- General administration duties
- Make sure that late passengers get to their flights before the departure time or are booked on an alternative flight
- Following security procedures
- Checking boarding passes and passports at the boarding gate
You will need to have achieved some GCSEs such as English at grades A*-C (9-4) to apply. Experience of working in a customer service environment will help make your application more attractive. The ability to speak another language may also be useful as you could be dealing with customers from around the world.
If successful with your application, you will usually 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.
It is common for check-in officers to start their careers in temporary work during busy periods at an airport. If you manage to impress your superiors with an excellent level of customer service, you will have a good chance of securing a permanent role.
As well as on-the-job training, it’s also possible to qualify with National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) or Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) in Handling Air Passengers,at levels 2 and 3, awarded by City & Guides and EMTA Awards Ltd.
Customer service skills: As the majority of the role will be in direct contact with customers, you will need excellent customer service skills. As you will be acting as a representative of an airline and usually the first member of staff a customer will come into contact with at an airport, employers will be particularly keen for you to demonstrate these skills at interview.
Communication skills: These are essential in order to relay flight details to passengers. You will be responsible for letting them know where their flight will be departing from and if there have been any last minute changes to the flight.
The ability to stay calm under pressure: You may be faced with complaints or customers who have been delayed. As a representative of the airline, you will be expected to deal with this in a calm and professional manner.
Problem solving skills: These skills will help you deal with customer queries or complaints in a helpful and efficient way. You may need to help customers find alternative routes to their destination.
IT skills: Many of your duties will be computerised. Having good IT skills will help you with administration duties and with checking passengers in.
Organisation skills: You will need to have good organisation skills to deal with customers quickly and efficiently, especially in busy periods.
Salaries can vary depending on which airline employs you. Some airlines may offer a higher salary if you can speak multiple languages and may offer benefits such as subsidised travel.
Starting salary: £13,000 to £16,000
Experienced: £16,000 to £22,000
Senior salary: £40,000
These figures are intended as a guide and are from the National Careers Service.
Most of the job opportunities for airline customer service agents 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 other vacancies in regional airports, including Stansted, Manchester, East Midlands, Birmingham and Glasgow. It is important to consider how close to an airport you live as you may have to relocate for this role.
Airlines that are often looking for staff include easyJet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and Flybe.
Naturally for those 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 airline work such as Cabin Crew.
Search for the latest passenger check-in jobs on Aviation Job Search. Need some more inspiration? Take a look at some of the other roles in the aviation industry and find the career that’s right for you.