From agent to airline solutions exec: 30 years is just the beginning

I joined Amadeus on October 1, 1988, almost one year to the day after our company was founded on October 21, 1987. Six years before that, I had started my career in the airline industry as a check-in agent for the French airline, Air Inter. My part-time position was meant to be temporary – to pay the rent for my one-bedroom Paris apartment until I finished my education and found a “real job.” Little did I know that joining an airline would be like falling in love: I quickly turned passionate about travel. To this day, I still can’t help feeling something magical that happens with every take-off and landing.

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High-growth, low-tech industry

Back in the day, working for an airline was not for the faint of heart. Tickets and bag tags were handwritten. Fares were calculated manually using industry rule books. Airlines commonly imposed 48-hour delays to reissue tickets with complex itineraries.

If you were a new agent, a common rite of passage was to be sent to the mechanical building “to fetch the keys for the aircraft.” To this day, I still laugh when I remember how those veteran ramp agents pulled off such a clever prank on unsuspecting new hires!

Airport agents were multi-taskers who not only checked in flights, but also worked the ticket counters and lost baggage offices. I still remember having permanent red stains on my fingertips from lifting coupons from their red carbon copies. We calculated weights and balances using cheat sheets, sent transfer messages via teletype, created wait lists by hand, and personally escorted passengers to the aircraft door.

Rain or shine, you name it, we did it.

Automation paves the way

Back then, if you showed a desire to learn, you could quickly rise up through the ranks. My manager noticed my eager spirit, and after a few years I was promoted to airline instructor. I taught reservation and airport agents the wonders of our (semi) automated reservation system, including how to calculate airfares and issue tickets using industry books like the Airline Passenger Tariff (APT).

During one phase, Air France “borrowed” me to teach fare calculation and ticketing rules to call center agents around the globe, since I was the only bilingual instructor on staff. Visiting all those call centers and airports led me to one unmistakable conclusion: the industry was ready for more automation.

Then a fortuitous thing happened. At an airline town hall meeting, I learned that four airlines (Iberia, Air France, Lufthansa and SAS) had formed a joint venture. Volunteers were needed to spend six months in Miami to evaluate a US-based reservation system as the possible foundation for a European system called Amadeus. Without hesitation, I signed up – and got the job!

Moving up

The rest is history. My six-month stay in Florida turned into two years, which morphed into a lifelong career in travel technology that spans nearly three decades. I have had the privilege of working with some of the industry’s most fascinating and knowledgeable professionals who represent a “United Nations” of backgrounds, cultures and life experiences.

I am proud to be one of the original “pioneers” who helped build Amadeus’ travel technology from the ground up. Today, that initial collaboration between four airlines has expanded to encompass the entire travel ecosystem, from airlines and airports to railways and cruise lines, to hospitality and insurance providers.

Hard work, international travel, meetings, passion, tension, collaboration (and silly pranks) are just a few of the many memories I cherish from my Amadeus experience. For someone who started in this industry as a part-time airline agent, I can proudly look back and say, “I have enjoyed the career of a lifetime!”

Just like in the beginning, my passion for travel, the airlines and Amadeus still sparks something magical within me – and I look forward to a continued, bright future ahead.

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