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Stop Yelling at Gate and Ticket Agents

Stop Yelling at Gate and Ticket Agents
Taylor Rains

Flying can be a testing time for travelers, especially during delays and cancellations. You are at the mercy of many factors, such as weather, mechanical issues, and Air Traffic Control, that can make anyone feel helpless. I have personally dealt with this plenty of times throughout the years, so I understand the frustration, but there is one thing that needs to stop when these things happen—passengers yelling at airport agents over things beyond their control.

What Are Airport Agents?

Airport agents are employees at the ticket desk, help desk and the gate who are responsible for checking passengers into their flight, handling baggage, answering questions, updating passengers on their flight status, and eventually boarding everyone onto the aircraft. They typically work for the airline, but can sometimes work for contractors, such as Swissport, that work on behalf of the carrier.

The thing to remember about airport agents is that they are not robots. They put up with a lot of angry customers, rude attitudes and harsh words due to irregular operations or airline policy that is not their fault, all the while still trying to maintain a smile and excellent customer service.

Why You Should Stop Making a Scene

First and foremost, be an adult. Nobody likes delays or cancellations, but screaming about it gets you no closer to your final destination and does nothing but add more stress to the situation. Irregular operations are not the agent’s fault, so giving them an attitude is not going to solve anything. Furthermore, those agents are much less likely to want to help you out with a cheap hotel or free food voucher for delays/cancellations in which the airline owes you nothing, such as weather.

Another thing I want to mention is baggage policies. Low-cost carriers typically have fees for pretty much everything except the seat from point A to point B, including carry-on and checked bags. Unfortunately, a lot of passengers fail to read the rules and end up with an unpaid roller bag at the gate. Gate agents are bound to airline policy, so when they tell you that the bag fee is $60 at the gate and you must pay, don’t start huffing and puffing about it. Sure, it can be an expensive surprise, but picking a fight with the agent will give them no reason to help you out. Take it up with the airline directly if you have a problem, or simply read the baggage policy before you buy your plane ticket.

What Agents Have to Say About It

Business Insider surveyed a number of airport agents to get inside information about the job that passengers should know. Below are some of the most important points:

  • They can’t give you that upgrade. “Different airlines have different rules, but a change or upgrade can get you fired these days. And it’s not worth our jobs. The airline computer system tracks everything, and big brother can be watching us.”
  • The job is more stressful than you think. “I’ve been assaulted twice during my decades of working with the airlines. The stress of this job can be compared to working in any emergency room. We are under a tremendous amount of pressure. Many agents have been physically attacked by customers, including myself.”
  • They are doing a lot. “We are responsible for ticketing, handling baggage, boarding, deplaning, dispatching flights efficiently and safely. We handle complaints, cancellations, lost luggage, weather delays, and travelers’ problems—all while trying to make our passengers’ process easy, efficient, and less stressful for all.”

The Basic Realities of Flying

Be on time. Don’t show up late to the gate and then demand the gate agent open the door. There are reasons they close the door 10 minutes prior to departure, so getting mad at them for abiding by the policy because you failed to manage your time is unnecessary.

The world doesn’t revolve around you. You are not the only passenger getting inconvenienced, so be patient, wait in line, and try to keep the peace. Remember, you get more with honey than with vinegar.

Airport agents can say “no” to you. If the reason for irregular operations is due to weather, air traffic control, or other issues that are outside the airline’s control, the agents can tell you “no” to a hotel voucher, meal voucher, or other requests. An agent explained, “Travelers think we are being rude when we tell them, “no, you can’t do what you want to.” We tell them no because we are enforcing the rules that have been made by our company, not by us personally. The rules are there for a reason.”

Nonrevver attitude can get people fired. Nonrevving is a perk in the airline industry that can be extended to friends and family. It is great when things go right, but it can also ruin vacations when things go wrong. It is important to remember that nonrev means standby travel, so there will not always be a seat available. If a gate agent announces that the flight is full and you are not getting on, do not give them an ounce of attitude. Airlines make it very clear to their employees that if anyone traveling on benefits makes any sort of scene to agents, then that employee can be reprimanded, including losing flight benefits or even termination. I have seen it happen – so I cannot emphasize this enough; keep realistic expectations when flying standby.

Follow the rules. Don’t get mad when agents hold you accountable to airline policy. As stated above, they can lose their jobs for upgrading or waiving fees. Your comfort and convenience are not worth their livelihood.

Flying can bring out the worst in people, but at the end of the day, it is important to help each other out. I’m not saying every airport agent will be a bundle of sunshine because every company has their 2%, but hollering about your inconvenience only adds a barrier between the problem and the solution. If you want help, be patient and remain calm – the agents will thank you for that.

[Photo: Tyler Olson/Shutterstock]

View Comments (25)


  1. formeraa

    January 6, 2020 at 1:17 pm

    I never yell or speak rudely to an agent, because I understand that their jobs are extremely difficult. However, without provocation, I have occasionally had agents who were rude to me (and there’s no excuse for that).

  2. Gynob001

    January 6, 2020 at 3:57 pm

    Absolutely agree with the previous reply. Once a gate agent cancelled my ticket because she couldn’t pronounce my name. I was standing less than five feet away.

  3. zgscl

    January 6, 2020 at 5:06 pm

    This can be said for just about anyone in customer service positions. The person getting yelled at is almost always completely powerless about the situation.

  4. skidooman

    January 7, 2020 at 4:56 am

    I also agree with previous replies. I feel this article is one sided as well.

    I never yell or give an attitude to desk/gate agents. But from time to time I receive poor service. When that happens, I may get a bit acerbic myself. Because they aren’t the only ones under stress, so are the travelers.

    This is a customer facing position. That position requires you at times to deliver bad news. When you do, you want to be seen as empathizing with the affected persons, since after all they are your clients, and hence are the reason you are there. If you cannot muster this, then you should not do this job.

    But again, noting excuses impoliteness – for anyone.

  5. KenTarmac

    January 7, 2020 at 5:29 am

    Very good advice here.

  6. flatlander

    January 7, 2020 at 6:02 am

    Never be rude to a person who can help you. You shouldn’t be rude to anyone, but it is in your own interest to be pleasant to a person who can choose how they help you.

    Situation: A tale of two passengers arriving at the gate just after the agent has closed the gate.
    Pax 1 arrives, and is asked to wait. He does so, then inquires calmly about rerouting.
    Pax 2 arrives, is asked to wait. He blusters about elite status at high volume, and is told to wait (more firmly).
    Pax 1 got standby on the next flight and a confirmed seat on a later flight on a different carrier.
    Pax 2 got standby on the next flight and could take his chances after that.

    Don’t be like Pax 2. Be like Pax 1, it goes better for you.

    Pax 2 might have learned something. He met Pax 1 (me) at the gate for the second flight and commented that I had remained very cool.

  7. JoeDTW

    January 7, 2020 at 10:38 am

    Over the holidays, I was travelling on a day when my local airport was experiencing severe weather. Many flights were delayed or cancelled, and passengers were taking their frustrations out on the gate agents.

    When it was my turn to interact with the gate agent, I smiled, empathised with her frustrations about the rude passengers, and told her two jokes. She gave me a boarding pass for premium economy, and said “this flight is oversold in the back, and empty in the front, so I have to upgrade passengers….and I’m upgrading the people I like”.

    Few passengers realize that if you are kind to airline employees, you’re likely to get much better service than if you are rude.

  8. mvoight

    January 7, 2020 at 2:34 pm

    “this flight is oversold in the back, and empty in the front, so I have to upgrade passengers….and I’m upgrading the people I like”.
    I don’t think that is following her employer’s policy.

  9. fish3d

    January 7, 2020 at 8:41 pm

    A long story but true. It was about 15 years ago and I was flying economy SFO-JFK. The 4pm flight was overbooked and they had an agent at the gate issuing seats for the 11 pm flight. When it was my turn to speak to the agent I pointed to a seat nearby and said I would be sitting there and no rush. When the other passengers were all booked she took care of me and said thanks. It turns out the 11 pm flight was also overbooked. The same agent was at the gate and I told her when all was taken care of she could deal with my situation. She gave me the cab fare, dinner and a hotel room and I flew out the next day. Fast forward 6 months later. I’m flying the same route SFO-JFK. I get to the gate and its closed. It closed early. I start to tell the agent what happened and she says ” I remenber you” I get upgraded to a first class seat, money for a meal and entrance to the Admirals Club while I wait. Just for being nice..or rather not being a jerk.

  10. Dublin_rfk

    January 8, 2020 at 8:26 am

    Yelling is how gate agents differentiate between savvy travelers and amateurs.

  11. bloomz

    January 8, 2020 at 7:09 pm

    Something that greatly surprised me – this was a few years ago.

    A female flight attendant was struggling to get a bag (obviously a heavy one) into an overhead bin, and I took it from her and put it up for her. Simple, No big deal, right?

    She told me in I think it was 20 years of her work, had a customer helped her do that.

    I was floored – entitlement is rampant on airlines.

  12. alphaod

    January 10, 2020 at 4:54 am

    Never threaten to sue or even hint at it. That will get you nowhere. If anything they definitely won’t help you then.

  13. PapaJack

    January 10, 2020 at 4:55 am

    The phrase “don’t shoot the messenger” comes to mind. The more seasoned travelers tend not to shout at the gate agents, but I find the most obnoxious can be the noveau FF members. These are the folk who feel that they are now elite for everything but in reality they have just achieved their first rung on the FF ladder for (insert your airline here)…..and it’s late November!

    In times of a flight being rescheduled after we are all piled off a staled plane. If I am not in the first 15 or so spots, I wander off to the nearest club and do my business there. Usually it’s less stress and the club agents can look after you pretty quickly.

  14. alexmyboy

    January 10, 2020 at 5:26 am

    Can I still yell at my sister in law who works for delta

  15. rbAA

    January 10, 2020 at 6:04 am

    The be on time thing is always important, but what about the airline. I got Eagled out of PNS and there were 20 of us running (OK, so we were all on the Skytrain,) from Terminal B at DFW to A for a flight to SFO (last flight to SFO that day.) I had asked the GA at the B gate to please call the A gate and let them know we were in and on the way. Got to the A gate 5 minutes before the departure time, but the door was closed. So, some of the pax were a little pissed. I just rolled my eyes and asked to be put on the LAX flight, which got in about midnight, with a morning LAX-SFO. Of course, it took the GA forever to change the record, and print out a hotel voucher-for a hotel whose shuttle stopped at midnight. You just have to laugh, but it’s sad that airline employees can’t do their job correctly. The delay at PNS was a missing page of a release for a mechanical (cargo door latch) that was fixed earlier than day. As I said, the easiest problem to solve is the one you don’t create.

  16. ConnieDee

    January 10, 2020 at 7:11 am

    Wait, which airlines charge $60 for a roller bag at the gate? That’s how I bypass baggage check charges: I lug the bag through security, roll up to the gate agent and ask for a free gate-check.

  17. polinka

    January 10, 2020 at 9:35 am

    Sounds like the author’s new girlfriend is a gate agent. I don’t think most FTers would exhibit that kind of behavior because they know it’s not effective (and more than a few are truly compassionate).

  18. azmojo

    January 10, 2020 at 10:02 am

    I don’t advocate for yelling and being disrespectful to customer service people, BUT, they are the face of the company. “Take it up with the airline directly if you have a problem…” Well, a CS agent is taking it up directly with the company.
    The theory is that the CS agent should report back to management the issues that they are facing and management should change/improve the situation. If customers did not get upset and voice their issues, management would take that as acceptance of the status quo.
    I agree, there’s a good way and a bad way to do things, and each situation is different. There’s always the underlying cause and then there’s how the company is handling it. Lots of factors…

  19. dliesse

    January 10, 2020 at 10:35 am

    Of course, this advice goes well beyond customer service people — very rarely is there cause to yell at anyone (yelling is fine at a sporting event). Society as a whole could stand to relearn some manners!

  20. Wildwanderer

    January 13, 2020 at 3:59 am

    This was before 9/11. My friend got me to the airport late and I got to the ticket counter 20 minutes before the flight. At the time (I had it in writing per the airline’s policy) that I had to be there 15 minutes before takeoff. They gave my seat away. I was told there was nothing they could do. I showed them the exact writing on my ticket and still nothing. I kept politely asking them to look at their policy…nothing. Once I started yelling that they were ignoring their own policy and that I was there on time, fix this! I had a first class ticket on the next flight out. Sometimes it’s called for.

  21. GadgetGal

    January 13, 2020 at 2:06 pm

    In the EU at least, the airlines have to provide meals and accommodation for long delays even in circumstances outside their control .

    IS this not the case in the Americas or other parts of the world?

    That’s doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be polite, of course

  22. IanFromHKG

    January 14, 2020 at 8:35 pm

    The Memsahib has developed the perfect approach for these frustrating situations: “How can you help me?”.

    It is polite and respectful, but puts the onus on the other person to think of a solution. Of course sometimes it doesn’t work, but more often than not it does – and sometimes the responses are quite imaginative. After all, however much we fly, we don’t know ALL the options that are available and so we don’t know what to ask for.

  23. WebTraveler

    January 17, 2020 at 10:48 am

    Yelling is not the way to get results. But I tell you what makes me mad at gate staff is delays and when they announce a new departure time that is not even remotely realistic. That’s in the domain of gate staff.

  24. makfan

    January 17, 2020 at 4:11 pm

    My question is usually “what are my options?”

    As far as the delay goes, we all know when the inbound finally hits the gate at 3:20 we aren’t departing at 3:30, but the agents shouldn’t take liberty to say 4:15 even though we know that is a lot more realistic.

    I lost it once with a counter agent at a small airport over a delayed inbound and at risk connection. It was just the fact that they wanted me to overnight and take a 5:00 am with two connections and I wanted to fly partway, then I we overnight and take one flight in the morning. Apparently they can’t help with hotel if I force a mid journey overnight. I I insisted, and end up getting in the same day at midnight because my plane was actually going on to where I needed to be, but it wasn’t bookable because of min connection time.

  25. am1108

    January 19, 2020 at 1:27 pm

    I’ve always acted nice and courteous to agents,fas, etc. but a lot of times they seem to be curt or somehow they take it the wrong way. Other times when I approach an agent they look away or start trying to fake like they are doing something so this goes both ways.. You want to keep the respect that I’m giving you gotta give respect as well.

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