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What Does a Gate Agent Do?

By Maggie Worth
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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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.

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Discussion Comments

By JaneAir — On Aug 26, 2011

@Azuza - Yes, the job of a travel professional sounds much more difficult these days. There also a lot of new security regulations to keep track of too!

That being said, most gate agents I've seen tend to keep their cool. Awhile ago, I was on a flight that was seriously delayed. People were in an uproar! The gate agent somehow stayed calm, even with 10 different people yelling at her from different directions!

By Azuza — On Aug 25, 2011

I think the job of gate agent is probably much more stressful in this post 9/11 era. I feel like there is much more pressure on them to pay attention to potential security risks!

I think it must be hard to decide when to call something to the attention of security or not. After all, you don't want to delay people that aren't doing anything wrong. But then again, you don't want to not say something and then have something bad happen!

I don't think I would want this job!

By Kat919 — On Aug 24, 2011

@SailorJerry - That's a funny story! Your dad must be pretty secure in his masculinity.

Your dad wouldn't have any trouble now (except that now you are only allowed one carry-on). Now they allow a carry-on back and a gender-neutral "personal item."

The gate agent at a flight I took recently was a bit of a comedian and when he was announcing the rules, he decided to elaborate on the "personal item": "Purse, small backpack, satchel, man-purse... Well, at least he was enjoying his job.

By SailorJerry — On Aug 24, 2011

@dfoster85 - Yeah, it must be a tough job, like anything else where you deal with people who are mostly in a bad mood! I once temped answering the phones in a body shop and it was the same kind of thing; everyone had been in an accident, needed their car back, etc.

Years ago I was flying with my family - I was just a kid - back when you were allowed "two carry-ons and a purse." My father had two carry-ons and, well, a man-purse (and this was the mid-90s; he was ahead of his time!). The gate agent tried to tell him he had three bags, but my dad looked that guy right in the eye and said, "I have two carry-ons and a purse."

And do you know, the agent *still* wasn't going to let him have all those bags! Talk about sexual discrimination. But my brother only had one bag, so he claimed one.

By dfoster85 — On Aug 23, 2011

I've mostly heard this term used for people who work at airports. I suspect it's a tough job, but they can make your life either much harder or much better! Gate agents are the one who can get you on a plane (or not).

When I was four months pregnant, I was flying alone and my flight was seriously delayed. (When it was supposed to be boarding, it hadn't even left its point of origin yet!) If I got in too late, I would miss my shuttle and have to scramble to make more expensive travel arrangements (not to mention get to my hotel much later and much more tired!).

But I saw that another flight to the same place was boarding right across the aisle in the terminal. I scooted on over there, and a helpful gate agent changed my ticket as the earlier flight had room.

And that's part of why I never check a bag!

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