“All human life can be found in an airport.” – David Williams
How have you all been? It has taken me a good few weeks to finish this, once you read this you’ll understand where most of my time has been. Leave a comment, post suggestions, questions or just some general love and kindness is always nice to see.
It seems like the easiest thing to do, one walking into an airport of any size and checking in for a flight. Most passengers never take into consideration all the little detours along the way, how confusing this process can be and, most importantly, how to treat the people behind the counters.
Each day I have anxiety thinking of what could possibly go wrong and, in this industry, something is bound to go WRONG. It could be a delayed flight, an unruly passenger, the name calling over the lack of cable ties or sometimes being yelled at for just complying with the policies I, as the handling agent, am required to ensure passengers adhere to…
It is a difficult thing, being in a customer service field but one quickly discovers how to read people well enough, how to manipulate words enough to avoid being hit in the face with a suitcase or having your eyeballs gouged out with a cable tie you spent 20 minutes searching for (both scenarios have not happened but if it were to one day occur, I can honestly say I would not be surprised.)
As handling agents, we understand the frustrations of having time wasted, we are travelers too and we don’t want to wait around for a plane that may or may not show up before midnight. We also know how horrifying it is to hear that you have been delayed because we must be informed too, an indication that we do not get to leave on time either. This industry is an excellent example of the RIPPLE EFFECT.
Each day I see something unique, how people tend to do the most bizarre things when they are under pressure, how people try to bargain against rules that are actually set to ensure their own safety and how quickly people forget to be kind, to be considerate and most importantly, to appreciate the people who are here so you can get to your destination.
In the last few months, I’ve made notes of things that passengers do that I really wish they wouldn’t. Things I must remember when I am on the traveling end of the equation and must interact with the likes of me too…
Here is a list of things I wish more travelers knew…
- SHOW UP AT THE RIGHT PLACE.
It is an unfortunate thing to inform someone who woke up extremely early and pitched up somewhere they weren’t actually meant to be. This happens so often that it baffles me, how does one not confirm their own itinerary prior to travel. Make sure to take note of the fine print, every little detail is of importance. Never forget that domestic travel is as complicated as international travel. BE PREPARED…
- BE PREPARED… NOT OVERBEARING.
I love passengers that are prepared, you get to my counter and you immediately dance to my song. Do not print out every single page and throw it in the agents face. Pay attention to what your handling agent is asking you to produce before you ramble on about things we have no need for… Your ID, passport or driver’s license will suffice, and if we cannot find you, we will ask you for your reservation code. The only thing you should print is your e-ticket, nothing else honestly matters.
- BE CONFIDENT… NOT COCKY.
No matter how often one might travel, the aviation industry is complex, constantly changing the rules and regulations as new problems arise, just as each airline has policies which change over time. Just because you travel often does not mean you’re always in the know. Do not answer the handling agents security questions before they’ve asked them, don’t say “I do this all the time” when we say we need to confirm with a superior. LET US DO OUR JOBS, THOROUGHLY.
- READ UP ON THE AIRLINE YOU’RE TRAVELING WITH.
Each airline has its own set of policies, baggage allowances and forms of identification accepted, the list goes on. One airline might accept something, that does not mean the next airline will be doing the same. We are all governed by different policies and must adhere to them. Every airline will have links to anything from baggage and additional fees, forms of ID, assisted passenger requirements… Give it a look, the more information you can obtain the better, it avoids having to be frustrated prior to travel and it saves us, the agents, from getting yelled at for feeding you information that is already available to you.
- DON’T EXPECT FAVORS AS A FORM OF GOOD CUSTOMER SERVICE.
There will always be that case where we will bend the rules as far as possible to help a passenger. We come across daily instances where we will go against policy to please a passenger and yes, customer service is delivering WOW service but one should never expect to be the exception when we pull out policy. We will take the time to hear your story, we will search for someone with the authority to give this a go ahead and run back in time to make sure you get on that flight but… certain things determine whether we will be going that extra mile or not, it is our job to immediately let you know that as an airline we do not accept certain things you expect us to allow, your reaction to this information is what is most important, as well as the reaction once we’ve reached a conclusion to your problem. There are many factors we must think of, in a short amount of time, and then quickly respond with solutions and alternatives. We must first think of the policy, of the reasons why we cannot do what it is you’re asking, why we cannot question authority after they have said no, and how we must still keep the flow of passenger acceptance going.
- DELAYS HAPPEN… THAT SHOULDN’T BE YOUR EXCUSE FOR BEING LATE.
Unfortunately, delays happen often in this industry. To passengers, you just see it as bad customer service but for the people who work on the inside, we understand, although we hate it as much as the passengers, that there are so many factors that contribute to delays. Technical, rotational, operational issues happen daily and we can’t explain to passengers without them yelling at us that we’re making excuses but that should never be the root of your tantrums when we deny you access to a flight… Our delays do not in any way mean that you are allowed to be late and we are to forgive it. Late passengers also play a role in delays, we as handling agents must quickly process the timing when a passenger arrives late, acceptance of a passenger means there should be new manifests printed out, acceptance of bags means we gotta wait for it to pass through all the security checkpoints and loaded into the hold because just like the military believes in “no man left behind”, in the aviation industry for security purposes, there is no bag left behind.
- IF WE COME ACROSS AS HEARTLESS… IT IS A LITTLE TRUE.
When I first started this job, every little criticism bothered me. Every angry passenger’s face haunted my thoughts long after the interaction. I became filled with anxiety when I noticed any overbookings or delays, any inconvenience at all made me shudder. I got over it. The yelling never stopped, nor did any of the delays or overbookings. I just learned to not take it all personally, the name calling and the yelling is now the highlight of my day because I have stories to share with my colleagues in the restroom, stories that somehow bring us together. I still think of passengers that have called me horrible names, how some try to make me feel inferior, and yeah, I don’t get emotional by a lot anymore. I almost expect the negative responses and I always find myself utterly stunned by passengers who respond in the opposite manner. I stick to my job, what I was trained to do and provide the service I am here to offer, what comes before and after those expectations is not my concern… In the words of my friend, Kat… YOU DO YOU, BOO!!!
- DON’T TRY TO UNDERMINE ME ON MY TURF…
No, seriously… it is so infuriating when a passenger asks if you’re tagging that to their destination and if you’re sure they can’t do a certain thing after you’ve explained why they cannot. We are human and we make mistakes, but we also go through extensive training to ensure we know what to do when we take a seat behind that counter, stop doubting our professionalism and our intellect, most passengers would probably not be able to do this job, so stop making the people who do it feel like they can’t. WE CAN, AND EXCELLENTLY TOO!
- DON’T MAKE SECURITY JOKES… IT IS NOT FUNNY.
I will make a number of jokes and giggle with every single passenger, but that does not give you consent to make a joke about security, that is where we draw the line. Even if you feel the change in the atmosphere and claim to have been joking, it is my duty to report that joke to the police and my superiors because the safety of a few hundred people is now in my hands. It is simple to let it slide, but if there is no consistency in that part of security and a terrorist happens to be claiming to make a joke, that agent will be responsible for the damage. Vaugh Alex, the ticket agent who allowed the two terrorists into a flight felt responsible for the entire 9/11 incident, I, or my colleagues, do not want that on our conscious. So respect the security limits at an airport and don’t think you can get a free pass for playing with someone else’s life. I recently had a passenger wishing that the flight he had missed crashes, yeah don’t be that person.
- BE RESPECTFUL OF OUR WORKSTATION.
Honey, please don’t stand on our scales. Don’t try to look at our computer screens. Don’t leave trash at the front of our counters. This isn’t the NBA playoffs, so walk up to my trash can, don’t try to throw it in from where you’re standing… What I am trying to say is, that little cubicle you’re standing in front of, that is our home for majority of our day, we try to make it comfortable and keep it as neat as possible, and some of us (ME) may have a slight OCD issue… just respect the desk, ok?
- DO TRY TO MAKE SMALL TALK… JUST PICK YOUR MOMENTS BETTER.
I do enjoy talking to passengers, they tell me where they are going, what their plans are, they tell me about their traveling adventures… I get traveling tips from expats, it is a wonderful experience being a handling agent but not when it’s 4am and I have to answer questions like “how did you do that braid in your hair?” or statements like “I would never be able to wake up the time you did.” and all I’m thinking is, If I throw a roll of bag tags at this persons face, would I get fired? Also, there is nothing worse than someone who goes into a conversation when there are dozens of people behind them waiting to be checked in and my job is to keep that line flowing at a well enough speed to avoid angry passengers. So please, speak to me, ask me how my day is going and give me a glorious picture of Thailand, share your traveling hacks and tell me how many grandkids you have, just don’t push all these things on me when you can tell I’m stressed and there’s a mob of impatient people behind you, or when it’s super early and I’ve already had to ask you a dozen security questions.
- DO NOT DEMAND WHAT WE ARE NOT ABLE TO OFFER… AND CLAIM BAD SERVICE.
CABLE TIES. WINDOW SEATS. AISLE SEATS. UPGRADES. EXTRA LEG ROOM… Do not demand that we give you a window seat when we only have middle seats available, do not get angry when we can’t offer you a cable tie, or when we can’t place you at the emergency exit because of your age or disability, we aren’t being biased but those exit rows serve a higher purpose than extra leg room. There are many options to pre-reserve your seats, check in online, buy a lock and have your bag wrapped… if you could think of these things on your own, it would sure help. If I tell you, all hell breaks loose – so if you get to these conclusions beforehand, it’ll be so great.
- SOUVENIRS AREN’T JUST FOR YOUR FAMILY…
My favorite thing about seasoned travelers and foreigners, they seem to understand us, ground staff, better than any other traveler. They’ve been through this process often enough to remain calm at all times and not to expect too much except for a seat. I have little souvenirs from France, Germany, Australia, and China… little things that not only remind me of those nice passengers but also a gift of curiosity, each gift is an invitation to the place it comes from… I welcome foreigners to my country and they are subtly telling me to come see theirs. If you’re traveling far, keep little inexpensive gifts with you, a keychain, a little puppet, a miniature packet of candy from your country… something to offer someone who sits at a desk all day watching each person travel to places they would love to visit too.
Believe me, there a lot more I wish passengers knew, and I find new ones each day. I mean you guys are truly great, you give me so many stories and those bad apples somehow make my day a lot more entertaining.
Let’s try to be a little more considerate the next time you jet off somewhere… a smile and good behavior make our day a lot better than being yelled at for things out of our control.
Stay Kind Hive,