What It’s Like to Work as an Airline Customer Service Agent

I love watching the reality show Airline. It’s not on TV anymore (it went off the air in 2004), but you can watch entire episodes of it on Video Google.

The A&E show documents the behind-the-scenes drama of working for an airline, specifically Southwest Airlines.

I’ve posted a few full-length episodes below, which I hope you’re able to view (you might have a tough time if you’re trying to watch them from outside the US). They feature the typical problems a customer service agent encounters on a daily basis (situations like canceled or overbooked flights, drunk or irate passengers, etc).

Keep in mind when watching though that the director taped a week’s worth of film and at four different airports and then edited that down to 25 minutes of the most dramatic footage. So naturally working at an airport isn’t always as chaotic as the show makes it out to be. But I’d say that I probably get about one problem passenger per eight hour shift and sometimes more if the flight’s been delayed or canceled.

They had a British version of the show too, Airline UK, which followed the employees of the airline Easy Jet and Britannia (which is now off the air too). I like this one even better than the Southwest version, but unfortunately I haven’t been able to find full-length episodes of it on the web. I posted a nine minute clip of it below.

If you’re interested in working for an airline and want to know what it’s like, this is a good way to get a taste of what you’ll be up against.

If you enjoyed this post, make sure you subscribe to my RSS feed!

Comments ( 5 )

  1. Vin D. Alsace

    I can't even watch past the first 1 minute of the first video. It's infuriating. There are few industries as greedy as airlines. Movie theaters don't overbook seats and neither should airlines. You paid for your ticket and you should have a seat. Then they leave the gate clerks there to take the blame from the irate passengers.

    The stupid airline CEOs should be there to personally get yelled at and give refunds (out of their own salary). BTW those CEOs fly in private jets and I highly doubt their seats are overbooked.

  2. Chase

    haha, loved it.
    I hope you have an exciting week!

    ...but not like that.
    Glad you've got a sense of humor about your job, though :) Life's too short not to

  3. koala

    It's hard to feel sorry for the employees when most of these situations are totally the airlines fault. Overbooking 1 is outrageous for me, but 50! Come on. What were they (not) thinking?

    As for the clip from Luton - it's a cheap airlines only airport and so the service is worst then on regular terminals. They actually have a print out sign "Passengers with attitude wont be served". So much for customer service.

    Never forget You used to be on the other side.

  4. Reannon

    I find that the most common issue that the passengers take issue with are all of the added fees. We have a booking fee, an overweight bag fee and a second or third bag fee. A lot of people show up to the airport and try to check multiple bags and are shocked that they have to pay an additional 30 to 75 dollars.

    They also get upset that those fees aren't included in the price of the ticket. What they don't realize is that the airlines do this intentionally so that they can their ticket prices low and remain competitive.

  5. Reannon

    It's funny because before I started working for an airline, I used to watch this show and feel sympathetic towards the passengers. Now I watch it and I find myself feeling sorry for the customer service agents.

    It's a tough job...and half the time I agree with whatever the passenger is upset with but can't say so. It sucks being at the front lines, and being the 'face' of corporation. People often use us to vent all of their frustrations with not only the particular airline we work for but all airlines in general.

    While I don't blame them for doing so, because who else do they have to vent to? I hate it when they make it personal and start name-calling. It's hard not to feel upset or hurt when someone calls you an 'f-ing idiot'...(which happened last week).