The truth about working an airport check in desk

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Ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes at an airport check in?
Curious about how a day might play out in such an environment?
Have you thought about what would happen if there was a bomb scare or possible hijacking of a plane?
As a regular traveller I am constantly asking myself these questions and more, right down to whether the Virgin girl behind the desk actually works for Virgin or not. So I spoke to my good friend Felise who works the check in at Cairns International airport so she could share with all of us the experiences she faces on a daily basis!

Felise has been working as a ‘guest service agent’ (yes, that is the correct job title for a check-in-chick) for 12 months and is hired by a contracting company and not by the airline directly. Which, answers my question above… No, the Virgin girl does not actually work for Virgin!
As a ‘guest service agent’ your job doesn’t stop at check-in. In fact, that is only one part of a series of duties involved in being part of the ground crew at an airport. Felise assists in meeting the inbound aircraft, disembarking passengers, processing paperwork, dealing with guest issues and assisting guests with special needs. She tells me, pretty much every procedure you see going on at the airport, is what you do as ground crew. And much to my excitement, she even does the all-famous announcements that you hear every 30 seconds while in transit… “This is Virgin Blue urgently paging the following passengers….”
The first time Felise put on her “airport announcement voice” and pretended to page a customer, I think I almost peed my pants with excitement!

Ever wondered what happens in a bomb scare situation? Felise tells me that she has experienced one bomb scare in her time working at the airport. Some twit wrote on a safety card “there is a bomb on this flight.” She said naturally you go into panic mode, but eventually as the investigation drags on, it becomes more annoying than anything. They were required to get the federal police, a bomb squad and sniffer dogs on board and the plane was grounded for over 2 hours! Not only could the departing passengers not leave, but the arriving passengers weren’t allowed to take their bags until the dogs had done their work. And worst of all, this happened in the early hours of the morning!

One thing I discovered while probing Felise about airport security was that they actually have a “fed button” under every desk, like you see in bank robbing films! This is in place when a recognised wanted criminal tries to check in for a flight.

Now, lets get down to the fun stuff… When I asked Felise about intoxicated customers she told me a few little stories about a few drunk passengers she’d dealt with in the past… Basically, one woman somehow managed to, not only get through check-in, but soberly walk through the boarding gate, only to pass out in the aerobridge! Yes, she passed out drunk in the tunnel that connects the plane to the terminal! Another time, she almost had to carry a woman from a plane through to the baggage carousel, call the woman’s friend to find out the address (as she had forgotten) and put her in a taxi. Well, this woman says she only had 2 wines!

Now, I don’t know about you, but I’ve seen a lot of TV shows on border controls and airport security. I was once watching an American airport security program when a passenger was refused to board a plane due to body smell. The staff gave him a bar of soap, deodorant and a towel and sent him to a shower to “freshen up” before he could board. I asked Felise if this was an actual policy and…. drum roll…. IT IS! Luckily, she has never had to refuse anybody, but is dreading the day she may have to!

As a bit of a globe trotter I’ve seen the odd famous person in airport terminals, so I was curious to see how often you see them when you actually work there. Felise has seen stars such as Flo Rider, Danni Minogue, Bone Thugz n Harmony, Leighton Hewitt, Isabel Lucas and “that crazy guy who gets naked in Death at a Funeral.” Haha

So, all in all, my amazing friend Felise LOVES her job, and its no wonder why! As it seems there is never a dull moment for a ‘guest service agent’ working at an international airport!

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