It’s a busy day at Travis, or Ramstein, or BWI, or other major space a terminal. People have been waiting for hours or days hoping for a flight. Patience is short, and tempers are flaring. And, the people on the front lines of this terminal battle, bearing the brunt and taking the blame for all sorts of rumored incompetence, unfairness, unprofessional behavior and other imagined slights are the Passenger Services Representatives (PAX Reps).
A lot of heartache, frustration, anger, and other unpleasantries that occur in the terminal could be avoided if more travelers had a better understanding of, and appreciation for, the role of our friendly (or harried) PAX Reps. What do/can the PAX Reps do, and what lies outside their sphere of influence? Lady Cat 6 is about to tell you!
First, let’s talk about what PAX Reps do not do: They do not schedule flights. They do not cancel flights. They do not delay flights. They do not determine the number of seats available. They cannot adjust the number of seats available. They do not zero out seat counts.
Difficult as it may be to understand, they do not have anything to do with anything beyond the bounds of the terminal, except to drive the passengers and baggage out to the flight line (or from the flight line to the terminal), and deliver the manifest to the crew.
So, what do PAX Reps do? They answer the phones. They answer questions. They update Facebook pages. They update sign up lists (most of the time). They man the counters. They post marked present lists. They process luggage. They drive buses.
The primary job of the PAX reps, however, is to fill the seats they are notified are available by Air Operations (OPS), according to established AMC protocols regarding Category and date/time of sign up. They process passengers from the time they mark them present through boarding the aircraft. As part of their processing duties, it is their job to enforce AMC regulations. So, it is their unfortunate lot to deny boarding in certain circumstances (passengers not travel-ready for any reason – like wearing flip-flops!), and to enforce baggage limits. At times, they take a lot of heat from passengers in the performance of these duties. That’s an understatement. When there are more passengers than available seats, things can get downright nasty!
Travelers who do not make the cut for a flight sometimes implore their PAX reps to contact the AC (Aircraft Commander, not Air Conditioner) and see if they can just please please please get (however many they need) more seats released, and PAX reps will sometimes tell those travelers they are calling out to the plane to see what they can do. In 99.99999% of these cases, no one calls the aircraft. It’s just not done. PAX reps do not contact ACs. The reason they don’t is because by the time Roll Call takes place, duty passengers and/or cargo loads are generally set, and the seats are what they are. The reason they tell travelers they do call, is to help disappointed passengers feel better – to help defuse the situation.
Of course, sometimes additional seats are released at the last minute, but this has nothing to do with the PAX Reps. Duty passengers didn’t show up, there turns out to be a little extra space left after the cargo is loaded, or a Wing Commander’s wife who didn’t make the cut calls her husband and has him tell the crew to add another bank of seats. PAX reps have no influence with ACs, but OPS, and Wing Commanders (and their wives) do! And, if the flight crew releases more seats, the PAX reps are happy to fill them!
PAX Reps are not perfect. A lot of them are trainees and are not thoroughly familiar with all the various rules and regulations of AMC sign ups. Sometimes, when a passenger comes in to mark themselves present, there will be a question about paperwork or date and time of sign up. If you believe the Rep is incorrectly interpreting a rule or REG, the best thing to do is have the pertinent information with you (a digital copy of the AMC policies is a handy thing to have on your mobile device!), and if the Rep needs further assistance, ask (pleasantly!) to speak to a supervisor.
Oftentimes, it’s not easy being a PAX Rep. Their jobs, and their customers, can be quite trying at times. Let’s all try to be kind, give them the benefit of the doubt when things happen we are not happy about, and, remember to thank them for a job well-done!