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When you travel, do you ever wonder how you can be that person who is always ahead of the pack, even when things go awry? Hosts Vinod Viswalingam (@VViswalingam) and Geoff Dahl (@geoffdahl) are proud to present The Seat 1A Podcast.

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We have over 5 million miles of flying and over 10 years working for numerous airlines, enjoying all classes and cabins, and exploring airports on every continent. We're enthusiastic #avgeeks, with a keen interest in modern aviation trends and aim to share our knowledge in The Seat 1A Podcast. To learn more about who we are, check out Experience 010!

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Experience 033. Shownotes. Who's who at the zoo - part 1. Staff hierarchy at the airport. The Seat 1A Podcast.

Jun 4, 2020

Recorded 23 May 2020

Written by: Geoff Dahl & Vinod Viswalingam

Listen to this experience wherever you download your podcasts - including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn, Google Play, Google Podcasts, and Overcast.

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In this experience we look at the different roles of people that normally work at an airport – who's who at the zoo?

In most cases the airline is either at a home base or it is at an outstation. When at the outstation the airline is either with its own staff or outsourced.

We move our way from the curbside outside the airport into the terminal – what staff do we encounter until we reach the check-in counter?

At the counter we have the check-in agent, the bag drop agent and the ticketing agent. The ticketing agent is someone who can make magic happen in times of crisis.

To whom should you bark if you need to bark?
Quite often a supervisor if you want to get things done. Running parallel to the supervisor is the ops coordinator or dispatcher. Are supervisors dressed differently? (answer – generally yes).

And remember if you're in an outstation, the people working for the airline might not be on the airline's payroll. And they may not have a specific airline uniform.

Remember things can – and do – happen at the counter. There's a right way and a wrong way to go about things.

What happens if it gets above a supervisor? May we introduce the station or duty manager.

Vinod made sure when he was in New Delhi (DEL) that he searched for the right supervisor to help him with his baggage issue. On the other side of the globe, he found the supervisor at Heathrow (LHR) to help with Olympic quantities of baggage

Remember everyone, the representative generally wants to get to an amicable solution as much as you do.

When you're at security, the provider depends on what airport you are at – sometimes it's even the army. Many of those shops are also governed by one company.

We take a quick look at the ramp operations and some cases where the airport's duty manager may need to get involved.

What happens at the gate? And is this the best spot to look for an upgrade? Vinod shares a crazy story getting from New York (JFK) to Edmonton (YEG) – with a strategic ballpoint pen.

We'll save the crew hierarchy for a later experience.

News Items:

  • We share our condolences for the victims of the PK8303 crash.
  • Skift article "TUI to Restart European Flights at the End of June".
  • airwaysmag article "Delta To Launch New Atlanta-Cape Town Route"

If you have a story about airport staff hierarchy, a question, or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at




NEWS ITEMS | PIA Airbus A320 Crashes in Karachi (22 May 2020)
"...A Pakistan International Airlines A320 carrying more than 100 passengers and crew members crashed into a Karachi neighborhood on Friday [22 May 2020] at about 2:30 pm local time. Authorities have not confirmed whether anyone on board survived...." | TUI to Restart European Flights at the End of June (23 May 2020)
"...Travel group TUI is planning to resume flights to main holiday destinations in Europe by the end of June, its chief executive told a German newspaper..." | Delta To Launch New Atlanta-Cape Town Route (22 May 2020)
"...Delta Air Lines (DL) seeks federal approval to offer a new service starting on October 24 from Atlanta to Cape Town, South Africa via Johannesburg..."



The opening of Toronto Pearson International Airport's (YYZ) new terminal one was a multi-year process

  • Toronto Pearson International Airport, Then and Now: Part Two ( | 29 January 2014)
    • First phase of T1 New opened in April 2004 with fourteen gates on Piers D and E, along with nine commuter positions.
    • Ten additional gates were opened at T1 New in October 2005.
    • In 2007, the second phase of the new terminal became operational with the opening of Pier F, with 25 gates for international and US-bound flights.


Responsibility for the protection of the UK's borders passed from HM Revenue and Customs to the UK Border Agency within the Home Office on 1 April 2008 and then to Border Force on 1 March 2012.


Securifor does not appear to be a major security company.

  • Securicor plc was one of the United Kingdom's largest security businesses but merged with Group 4 Falck in 2004. (Wikipedia)


Air Belgium (KF) was the wet lease provider for British Airways (BA) when BA had to ground their flights due to Rolls Royce Trent 1000 engine issues in 2019.


Rheinsiche Post is not the main daily newspaper of Cologne, Germany. The main daily newspaper is the Kölner Stadt-Anzeiger.





  • What's in this experience. [00:00:59]
  • You encounter a lot of people at the airport - who's who at the zoo? [00:01:17]
  • Clarification of people who work for an airport, third party suppliers and the airline. [00:02:03]
  • The airline is either at a home base, or outstation with their own staff or outsourced. [00:02:25]
  • Porters and redcap service at the curb. [00:02:47]
  • Cart collectors. [00:03:05]
  • Greeters. [00:05:11]
  • When you get to the counter. [00:06:31]
  • Starting with the homebased model. [00:06:42]
  • Check-in agent - but that term is a bit loose dependent on the airline. [00:08:13]
  • Some check-in agents are also ticketing agents. [00:09:12]
  • In times of crisis you have to be nice to these people - they can bend the rules. [00:10:46]
  • Ticketing agents are very valuable to the airline. [00:11:22]
  • Check-in agent versus bag drop agent. [00:13:11]
  • The queue minder. [00:14:26]
  • To whom should you bark if you need to bark. [00:15:42]
  • Moving on to internal workings. [00:16:09]
  • Duties are divvied up between the staff working. [00:16:38]
  • In parallel to supervisor you have ops coordinator/dispatcher. [00:17:08]
  • Everyone is baseline trained on check-in. [00:17:36]
  • Does a supervisor dress differently? [00:18:53]
  • If crew is checking in. [00:19:31]
  • Outstation staffing - not always on the payroll of the airline. [00:20:34]
  • Ground handlers will have default uniform. [00:21:57]
  • Ticketing agent is not usually third party. [00:23:11]
  • So at the counter...things can happen - there's the wrong way and right way to go about it. [00:24:03]
  • Fists flying at the desk. [00:26:29]
  • Sometimes the agent is having a bad day. [00:27:16]
  • One level above the supervisor - station or duty manager. [00:29:58]
  • How serious of a complaint goes to the station manager? [00:33:13]
  • When you need to get stuff done you have to look for the right people. [00:35:17]
  • Vinod searched for the right supervisor in New Delhi. [00:35:28]
  • Vinod with large amount of baggage after London Olympics. [00:37:23]
  • Customer service negotiation - the representative just wants to arrive at a solution with you as quickly as possible. [00:39:20]
  • If you get an exception - figure out if you want it noted or not noted on your file. [00:43:44]
  • Moving onward to security. [00:44:46]
  • Different security providers depending on the airport. [00:45:06]
  • Shops and retail are often governed by one company. [00:46:59]
  • You get to the gate - gate agents may be the same that you saw at check-in. [00:48:43]
  • Let's look at the ramp/apron operations. [00:51:37]
  • If things go wrong at the airport - the airport's duty manager gets involved. [00:53:19]
  • On board, most times the crew works for the airline. [00:54:10]
  • If you're going to try to jockey for an upgrade at the gate, ask for a supervisor or station manager. [00:55:37]
  • American airport upgrade boards - who manages these - agent or supervisor? [00:56:12]
  • Vinod's upgrade experience from JFK-YEG. [00:56:55]
  • Vinny and his strategic ballpoint pen. [01:02:55]
  • We'll save the cabin crew hierarchy for a later experience. [01:05:03]
  • Once the door is closed it's the crew's game. [01:05:32]
  • Takeaways from this experience. [01:05:44]
  • Research the names of the positions specific to the airline. [01:06:05]
  • News Items. [01:07:03]
  • Condolences for PK 8303. [01:07:17]
  • TUI to Restart European Flights at the End of June. [01:07:53]
  • Delta To Launch New Atlanta-Cape Town Route. [01:08:49]
  • Show Wrap-up. [01:11:04]