A ticket agent is a travel professional who sells tickets, provides passenger information, makes seat assignments, and checks in luggage. Ticket agents work in airports, bus stations, train stations, and major transit centers, and they are sometimes said to be working on the “front lines” for their employers, because they are the first people passengers interact with. Working as a ticket agent does not require any special educational qualifications, but it does require a very level temperament and the ability to work with diverse people, including people with language barriers or cognitive impairments which hamper communication.
Also known as travel clerks or gate agents, ticket agents sell tickets to passengers who do not yet have them, discussing travel plans with the passengers and selecting tickets with the most suitable itinerary. They may also make cancellations and changes by request, issuing refunds or collecting additional fees as needed. Ticket processing can also include tasks like selling standby seating and collecting funds for luggage which goes over the baggage allowance.
In addition to selling tickets, ticket agents also check in incoming passengers. Check-in may be as simple as examining a ticket to confirm that it is valid, and pointing a passenger in the right direction for boarding. It can also include verification of identity, checks of travel visas, and luggage handling, with the ticket agent taking luggage which will be checked, tagging it, and passing it on to luggage handlers.
Ticket agents can also handle seat assignments in some areas of the travel industry, and they deal with passenger inquiries which vary from making arrangements for special meals to wondering if a flight is on time. Agents must also make announcements to keep passengers apprised of important information, such as delays, cancellations, and special security measures. Their work also includes networking with the crew on trains, buses, and aircraft to keep information up to date.
People can usually work as ticket agents with a high school diploma and basic training provided by their employers. The hardest part of working as a ticket agent is usually the customer service aspect of the job, because people can be very impatient while traveling, especially when there are delays. Customers with a sense of entitlement, a bad attitude, or complex needs can be challenging and sometimes infuriating to work with, and a ticket agent must able to keep cool under pressure, even from passengers who are entitled to nothing more than a lesson in etiquette, despite strident claims to the contrary.