Being a gate agent looks like it would be a stressful job. You are on your feet much of the day and are usually very busy while also having to help dozens or even hundreds of passengers. On the other hand, there are some great benefits to working for an airline. Like most jobs, being a gate agent has both pros and cons to it. This leads to a very common question when it comes to this specific job:
Let’s take a close look at what gate agents like and dislike about their jobs.
Pro: Flexible Schedule
Unlike traditional 8-5 jobs, airports are open and operating 24/7. This means that you can potentially work shifts at times and on days that most jobs won’t allow. For some people, this can be a real blessing. There are many people out there that have reasons why they would prefer to work hours that are typically considered non-traditional. This can include family/childcare responsibilities, school, or just personal preference.
Working as a gate agent can be a great job for someone looking to work at night or on the weekends.
*Related: How to Become a Gate Agent
Con: Working Nights and Weekends
The flip side of that coin is that for many people working at night, on the weekends, or on holidays is very inconvenient. If you have a young family, for example, and want to be at home at night when your kids are done with school, this can make things very difficulty. The same goes for finding time to see friends and family. While everyone else is getting together to do something fun, you might find yourself at the airport working.
This is especially true when you are first starting out. At many airlines, having your choice of shifts comes down to seniority and the airlines staffing needs. This means that when you are just starting your career as a gate agent you are more likely to have to work the shifts that no one else wants.
Pro: Free Flights and Travel Discounts
Gate agents can sometimes have access to some pretty great benefits when it comes to getting free and discounted flights. Although each airline has it’s own policies that determine what you can get and how often, it’s not uncommon to be able to take advantage of these benefits.
These benefits can include free flights, discounted flights, the ability to transfer these perks to friends and family, and much more. Take a look at our breakdown of gate agent perks here.
Con: Dealing with Angry and Frustrated Passengers
If you’ve ever been to an airport, this one should need no explanation. There are a ton of situations that lead to passengers being angry, tired, and frustrated. Many times, passengers take out these feelings on the gate agent since that who is in front of them and assisting them.
Missed flights, delayed and cancelled flight, overbooked flights, and long waits are just some of the things that can really set a passenger off. As a gate agent, you are the face of the organization to the travelers so you not only get to deal with their frustrations, you have to do it all with a friendly and positive attitude.
Pro: Meeting New People
If you’re a people person, one of the best parts of being a gate agent is getting to meet a ton of interesting people.
While working, you’ll likely get to know the other gate agents and customer service reps at the airport. You’ll also have a chance to meet the flight attendants, pilots, and other professionals that work in the aviation industry. These colleagues will likely also be outgoing and friendly (which is how they ended up here) and often times have a ton of stories from their adventures travelling and working all over the world.
Con: Awkward Sleep Schedule
Working non-traditional hours can also mean that you have to have a non-traditional sleep schedule. This is very common for many people who work in the aviation industry.
Airports operate 24/7 so there have to be employees at all times of the day and night. Some people really value being able to go to sleep at a “normal” time and wake up early to start their day. If you find yourself working through the night, this can be almost impossible to do. Many gate agents and flight attendants that have years of experience have trained themselves to be able to sleep whenever they can instead of expecting to get 8 consecutive hours of sleep between 10pm and 6am.
Pro: Career Growth Opportunities
If you love the aviation industry, you’ll be pleased to know that there are many opportunities for advancement if you work hard and do a good job.
This includes promotions to jobs where you are managing other gate agents and customer service reps in addition to the opportunity to switch gears and become a flight attendant or have another role that is completely different.
Con: Physically Demanding
Being a gate agent can be a very physically demanding job. Gate agents are often times are on their feet for a majority of their shift. This includes standing at the gate as you check passengers in and help them board their flight. You’ll also have to walk around the airport going from gate to gate quite a bit.
Gate agents also often help passengers to check their luggage. This can include having to lift and move heavy bags over and over again for a chunk of their shift.
Pro: Earn a Good Income
Gate agents can earn a very competitive salary compared to other similar jobs. Often times companies pay employees that work in customer service very low wages. In the case of gate agents, airlines recognize how important their contributions are and pay competitively to retain them. It’s not uncommon for an experienced gate agent to earn over $50,000/year.
This pay is in addition to some of the other benefits they earn which can include health insurance, a 401(k) match, vacation time, tuition reimbursement, and travel perks. Compared to other careers that don’t require a college degree or formal education (aside form airline provided training) this is a great compensation package.
Con: Low Starting Pay
Although gate agents earn competitive pay once they have some training and experience, you can expect to have to start with an hourly rate slightly less than you would expect. Many airlines start brand new gate agents in the $10-14/hour range.
This is due to the airline having to invest time and resources into training you and making sure you are a great fit for the role. Most careers unfortunately do the same. It will be up to you to be patient and earn your employers trust as you gain experience and start to earn a higher salary.
Pro: Airline Employee Benefits
These days, many airline offer competitive benefits packages. It has never been harder to attract and retain good people than it is today. The job market is very much in favor of employees and companies are struggling to find qualified and hard working employees.
Although the benefits offered will vary by airline, you can expect things like vacation time, health insurance, a 401(k) plan or pension, and travel perks. In addition, some airlines even offer extended maternity leave, tuition reimbursement, and other benefits that just a few years ago employees might not expect.
Con: Lots to Learn
When you first get hired as a gate agent, you will have to learn a lot. This will include the policies of the airline you work for, general aviation procedures, using the software systems needed to do your job, learning your way around the airport, and more.
This can be stressful for new gate agents as they work through the process and get comfortable with everything and develop all the skills needed to do the job. The good news is that the airlines offer extensive training to help you get up and running. You won’t be expected to just figure it out on your own.
Pro: Fast Paced and Exciting Atmosphere
If there’s one thing I can guarantee you about being a gate agent, it’s that you’ll never be bored. There is always something to do at the airport. There are flights coming in and flights getting ready to depart. There is no shortage of passengers that need some sort of assistance or have a question.
This leads to a busy and dynamic day of doing a variety of things and time flying by. Unlike having a job in a cubicle where you might find yourself staring at a clock waiting for time to go by, gate agents always have something going on that makes the time fly by.
Con: No Control Over Bad Situation
Earlier in the article we mentioned that one of the hardest parts of being a gate agent is that passengers are often upset due to situations like flights being delayed or cancelled.
What makes this even harder for a gate agent is that they have no control over the situation. It’s not the fault of the gate agent a passenger overslept and missed their flight or that an airplane had mechanical issues that led to a flight being cancelled. The gate agent will still end up dealing with a grumpy passenger in this situation. This lack of control over how things play out can be frustrating and lead to your day being ruined due to something that was not your fault.
As you can see, there are many pros and cons to being a gate agent. There are many things that gate agents love about their jobs, but there are also things they don’t like at all. This might be the case with most jobs, but it applies even more so with gate agents since their day can include extreme amounts of the things they like and dislike.
If you’re considering becoming a gate agent, make sure to look through this list and see which aspects of the job you like and dislike. Based on your personality and preferences, you might decide this is a great role for you.