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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:
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