A gate agent is a travel professional. Most often, the term is used to describe a person responsible for managing customer service and process execution at an airline gate. The title may, however, be applied to those who work with customers in any of a number of travel industry areas, including hotels, train stations, bus lines and more.
Regardless of the specific type of company for which a gate agent works, his or her main functions will likely include making reservations and explaining processes and rules to passengers or guests. In some cases, such as the option to purchase an upgraded ticket, he or she may actually take and record payments. Depending on the security requirements of the industry and company, the gate agent may be responsible for checking identification and verifying customer information. He or she also may be responsible for arranging to meet special customer needs, such as providing assistance for the elderly, disabled or very young. The person also will most likely be responsible for assigning seats or rooms as guests check in.
Another main duty of a gate agent is communication. This includes communicating any changes in schedules or other travel plans and informing travelers about the policies and rules of the travel company for which the agent works and about any governmental or other applicable regulations. This also can include communicating traveler concerns to the appropriate company representatives.
In the case of airlines, the industry that most commonly uses the title "gate agent," the agent is responsible for coordinating the deplaning and boarding processes at a gate. This includes interacting with incoming flights, providing information about connecting flights and ensuring that no one boards the plane until it has been cleaned and is ready for a new load of passengers. It also means updating waiting passengers about the status of the flight, managing the boarding process according to company rules and verifying that everyone who boards has a valid ticket and is getting on the correct flight.
The gate agent also may be responsible for updating information systems about the status of incoming and outgoing flights. This might mean entering data into a computer that updates electronic flight boards throughout the airport. Such systems also might update the airline website and automated flight information telephone lines. Gate agents often make announcements regarding arrival and departure times and gate changes via a public address system. Gate agents are traditionally responsible for their own areas and are not managers or supervisors.