The airline industry has taken a direct hit with COVID, leaving many airline personnel furloughed, pushed into taking a retirement package, or happily taking a voluntary leave for an x-amount of months. With aircrafts departing with half the amount for passengers, it’s hard to know where the industry is headed. Most importantly what does this mean for the employees?
In the summer of 2014, I decided to leave working with children and apply for Delta Air Lines. I had zero experience or knowledge of travel, the airline industry, and national security. After rounds of interviews and a drug test, I was given my badge and uniform. What seems to be a simple customer service role entails so much more. These agents are the first line of airport/national security. This may seem extreme but all agents from the ramp to above wing; each individual is required to keep an ear and eye out for security breaches and tests.
After six years in the industry and juggling a full-time job in marketing, I began to see a parallel in skills.
Working in an environment where every second literally counts can be exhilarating and stressful all at the same time. Each item on the checklist is given a timestamp to be completed by. A second late and it goes against you and the station’s metrics. From logging in/opening your flight to scanning the last passenger on to shutting doors, every timestamp is tracked.
These requirements sharpen many skills such as organization, prioritization, planning, goal-setting, stress management, delegation, and communication.
Diligent with Deadlines:
After working under stressful situations to dispatch a flight, any other deadline can feel like a breeze. Ask any agent and they’ll tell you quick turns are the worst. A quick turn is exactly that, you have a smaller window to board, complete the list of duties and dispatch on time. The turn window is between 20 -10 minutes instead of 35-40 minutes.
My first time working a flight on my own was a quick turn, so much was happening all at once, I ended up taking a 10 min delay. I remember my supervisor coming over to the gate and asked me what happened. I explained what happened and she said something that stuck with me forever.. “sounds like you lost control of the flight.”.
I learned then and there that I needed to have better control and prevent distractions to get in the way. On top of learning to remove any distractions, gate agents also learn skills in; knowing their deadlines, prioritize tasks & customers’ needs, plan, and never be afraid to ask for help.
Yes, that’s right! The ticketing agents you see typing away as if they are writing you a novel, are really imputing codes. Learning the coding system was C H A L L E N G I N G ! It took me a few months to get a strong grip and even then. there are many items I still need help with.
The ability to pick up a form of coding is exceptional and with the right training, ticketing and gates agency are capable of picking up other forms of coding quickly.
There’s something about an airport where once people walk in all common sense is left at the door. Remaining professional under stressful situations is a skill many will never acquire. Dealing with adults throwing tantrums is an art form. I can’t tell you the amount of adults whom yell, scream, kick and more to try to get their way. Passengers will test all limits, and takes a great amount strength and emotional intelligence to filter through the bs and gather the facts.
The strangest situations are those in suits throw fits and lose their cool. My favorite saying is “I fly more than you!”, as I’m sitting there working my 5th flight for the day… I can’t help but but think in my head “How are you where you are in life, acting like this?”.
Airport personnel are tested daily, which allow them to sharpen and gain skills that promote emotional intelligence such as; self-awareness, self-management, and motivation.
Resilient in Problem Solving
Problem-solving skills are put to a test when there is a delay. Finding alternate routes and destinations can be tricky. There are many moments when airline personnel have to get creative, think on the spot, and find multiple solutions for 100s of people. Making things happen and getting things done and going above&beyond exhilarates us.
Many agents take an intense training to become a GSC (ground security coordinator). These individuals go through a vigorous training to learn how to execute a plan and system when there is an emergency. These agents are trained to have keen listening ears and sharp eyes for any verbiage or action that may lead to a serious situation.
During an emergency, it’s these individual play an important role in delegating responsibilities, communicating clearly with the OCC and many other high intensity responsibilities.
Don’t Judge a Book By It’s Cover
My favorite! It could be the uniforms, that make many of us look silly but many assume the worst of airline personnel. What many don’t know is that each individual has an incredible story.
I was surprised to learn that many personnel had a background in tech, law, education, and more! Many are entrepreneurs, business owners, hold prestigious jobs elsewhere and so on. I’ve met individuals that left the airline field to go work for a fancy tech company. Less than a year later they were back. Many keep working for an airline to keep their travel benefits, to continue to experience what life has to offer and I can’t blame them!
For those job hunting, for those asking “now what”, and for those doubting your capabilities.. This is all for you! Don’t play down your skills and who you are. From below wing to above wing to inflight, there is nothing you can’t do! Your skill sets are golden, your experiences are golden and you are GOLDEN!
No matter what the next adventure may be, know that any company is lucky to have you!