Career As Reservation Sales Agent



Nature of the Work: Each year millions of Americans travel by air. Their trips are made easier by professionally trained reservation sales agents. They handle telephone inquiries about flight schedules, fares, and connecting flights; reserve seats and cargo space for customers; operate computerized reservations equipment; and keep records of reservations. Agents must be able to recommend services that fit each customer's requirements, and they must be familiar with routes and schedules of other airlines.  Reservation agents usually work in large central offices answering customers' telephone inquiries and booking flights. Most agents have access to computer terminals and, by typing instructions on the keyboard, can quickly obtain the necessary information and make the reservation. The transportation industry operates at all hours of the day and night, thus schedules are often irregular. Agents with the least seniority often work nights, weekends, and holidays.

Although the work is not physically strenuous, some employees may feel stress, especially during busy periods of holiday travel or at times when the computer systems fail. If operations are interrupted or delayed due to inclement weather or mechanical problems, agents may serve as buffers between the airlines and their customers. Trying to pacify angry travelers also can create stress. The job, however, is interesting, and many challenges occur as the reservations sales agent works out the passenger's travel requirements. Some 54,000 reservations sales agents work for the airlines, with starting salaries at $ 12,064 going up to $38,600 for supervisors. A reservations sales agent may advance to training or supervisory positions. Supervisors monitor how other agents handle customers' inquiries. The handling of "executive accounts" and the accounts of firms with special "vacation packages" offered by the airline are jobs reserved for the more experienced and higher paid agents. The employee may transfer to a job of ticket agent. Reservations work is a principal route to a management position for the persistent worker since turnover, due to shift work, is high. Promotion opportunities are frequent.

Applicants must have graduated from high school and be at least 18 to 20 years of age, depending on the airline. One or two years of training in airline operations at schools offering such courses, or experience in public telephone contact work, is preferred. Airlines offer on-the-job training. Accuracy and speed on the job are essential. A good telephone voice, proper English usage, and the ability to "project" oneself over the phone are necessary. Today experience with computers and computer programs specifically geared to reservations is often required. At least one year of prior experience in public relations work, preferably in sales, is needed. College may be considered as a substitute for prior work experience. Applicants must be willing to work shifts. Air cargo reservations agents may need some experience in shipping operations.
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