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Airline Reservation Agents

California Occupational Guide Number 99
Interest Area 7
1996

THE JOB

AIRLINE RESERVATIONS AGENTS book passengers on scheduled airline flights.  
Their only contact with customers is over the phone.  AIRLINE PASSENGER 
SERVICE AGENTS deal with passengers in person.  In addition to making and 
confirming reservations, their responsibilities include issuing tickets, 
handling payments, and performing a variety of other tasks.

Reservations Agents work at large central offices.  Wearing headsets and 
seated at computer terminals, they take incoming calls on a rotating basis 
from a wide geographic area.  After determining where and when the customer 
wants to fly, agents type the required information and codes on the computer
terminal keyboard.  The viewing screen above the keyboard quickly indicates 
the space available, the flight numbers, and fares.  If all flights are 
full, agents may verify that space is available on other airlines flying to 
the same destination and offer to make the reservation.  For long trips 
involving two or more carriers, agents at the first airline usually handle 
reservations for the entire trip.  To make the reservation, agents enter the
customer's name and flight data into the computer.  They may also book hotel
reservations and arrange for car rentals.  If and when the computer system 
is down, agents use company manuals, official airline guides, and tariff 
books to determine routing and fares and then record the reservations on 
paper.

Most Passenger Service Agents work at airport terminals.  As a rule, 
assignments are rotated, with agents either serving behind the ticket 
counter or at the boarding gate.  At the ticket counter, agents make and 
confirm reservations using the same equipment and procedures as those used 
by Reservations Agents.  In addition, they issue tickets, by computer or by
hand, collect payments, and make change.  They must record all tickets sold
and money exchanged and, at the end of the shift, prepare a daily cash 
report.  Passenger Service Agents also route and tag passengers' luggage for
shipment on the plane.  When working at the boarding gate, agents check and 
collect tickets, issue boarding passes, and sometimes assign seats.  They 
make sure that flight attendants know about (and have the equipment to 
handle) special passengers' needs and requests; then they help these 
passengers on or off the plane.  They may announce arrivals and 
departures, reschedule passengers when flights are canceled over the public
address system, or process routine claims.  Agents at small airports may be
required to load and unload baggage and to conduct air freight business.

A small number of Passenger Service Agents work at downtown city ticket 
offices (CTOs).  Generally known as ticket agents or CTO agents, they sell 
and issue tickets and promote airline-sponsored packaged tours.


WORKING CONDITIONS

Most Passenger Service Agents work in major metropolitan areas where large 
airports are located.  The environment is generally pleasant. However, 
working at computer terminals for long periods of time may cause cumulative
trauma disorders (CTD) from repetitive motion activities.  During holidays 
and other busy periods the work may be hectic.  Agents serve as buffers 
between the airlines and their customers when flights are delayed or 
re-routed, which may be stressful.  

Some Agents are represented by the International Association of Machinists 
and Aerospace workers or the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.


EMPLOYMENT OUTLOOK

The following information is from the California Projections and Planning 
Information report published by the Labor Market Information Division of 
the Employment Development Department for the broad group of Reservation,
Transportation Ticket Agents.

Estimated number of workers in 1993             12,790
Estimated number of workers in 2005             12,600
Projected Growth 1993-2005                       -1.5%
Estimated openings due to separations by 2005    3,520

(These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.)

New jobs are expected to decline slightly through the year 2005.  Almost all
job openings will result from separations.  Projections do not include self-
employment or openings due to turnover.

Automated reservation centers may employ many reservations agents, but 
overall employment may drop because a greater number of calls can be handled
by one agent.  Additionally, travel agents using on-line computers make 
reservations and issue tickets.  Automated self-ticketing and ticketless 
travel may further reduce demand for Airline Reservations Agents and 
downtown CTO agents.  There will be little or no effect on airport Passenger
Service Agents since these workers perform a wider variety of tasks.

Jobs in this field are competitive, with airlines generally having an 
adequate supply of qualified applicants.  Most turnover occurs at entry-
level positions.  Employment of agents is sensitive to cyclical swings in 
the economy and customer discretionary income.  Although a growing 
population with rising incomes should continue to stimulate the demand for 
air travel, various other factors will influence employment levels of agents
during the next decade.  Periodic declines in air travel during recessionary
periods and crises overseas tend to force airlines to reduce the number of 
flights; this can also result in the need for fewer agents.  The 
stabilization of industry mergers and consolidations, along with debt 
structure acquired in any acquisitions, amount  of expansion by surviving 
carriers, fuel cost escalation, and general economic conditions are all 
contributing factors to the availability of job opportunities.


WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS

Wages vary widely from airline to airline with size as an important factor.
Salaries for Reservations Agents range from $1,200 to $3,100 per month.  
Passenger Service Agents earn about $1,175 to $3,200 per month.  Those who 
work for the smaller carriers usually have a lower wage range.

Agents work a 40-hour week with at least two consecutive days off.  They may
be assigned to any of three shifts.  CTO Agents work regular business hours.

Fringe benefits generally include paid vacations, sick leave, medical 
coverage, retirement plan, profit-sharing, and free or reduced airline 
travel for employees and immediate families.


ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING

Personal traits:  Reservations and Passenger Service Agents should be 
friendly, courteous and efficient.  They need good communication skills, the
ability to work with details and perform basic computer functions.  
Additionally, their work requires standing for long periods and lifting 
luggage, some up to 100 pounds.

Experience:  Employers require from one to three years of sales, telephone, 
or similar public contact experience.  College courses or additional related
training may be substituted for part or all of the work experience.  
Passenger Service Agents must have previous reservations experience.

Training:  Graduation from high school is usually the basic requirement. 
Some college education may be required.  Large airlines conduct formal 
training programs for new Reservations Agents.  Trainees learn both 
computerized and manual reservations procedures and good telephone 
techniques.  Small airlines require Reservations Agent to have airline or
travel agency experience or to have completed a computerized reservations
program given by travel schools and some community colleges.  


ADVANCEMENT

Experienced agents may become shift supervisors (lead agents) at a higher 
rate of pay.  Those with broader aptitudes and interests sometimes advance 
to managerial positions in such areas as customer service, training, or 
sales.  Otherwise, advancement is relatively limited.


FINDING THE JOB

Job seekers should apply with airline employment offices and reservations 
centers, register with their school career centers and the nearest 
Employment Development Department Workforce Services Office.  They should indicate
their willingness to take part-time and temporary jobs usually available 
during peak travel seasons.  Part-time and temporary workers are considered 
for permanent full-time positions ahead of outside applicants.


ADDITIONAL SOURCES OF INFORMATION

For information about job opportunities as reservation and transportation 
ticket agents, write to individual airline companies.  Addresses are 
available from:

Air Transport Association of America
1301 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Suite 1100
Washington, DC 20004-1707
(202) 626-4000
http://www.air-transport.org/


RELATED OCCUPATIONAL GUIDES

Hotel Desk Clerks                   No.  70
Travel Agents                       No. 213


OCCUPATIONAL CODE REFERENCES

DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1)
  Gate Agent                      238.367-010
  Reservations Agent              238.367-018
  Ticket Agent                    238.367-026

OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System
  Reservations & Transportation Ticket Agents     538050


Source:  State of California, Employment Development Department,
         Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group,
         (916) 262-2162.
Note:  This is NOT a job opening.  The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.   If you are searching for a job, go to:

California Occupational Guides


California Employment Development Department   >>   Labor Market Information   >>   More Occupational Guides