Amid changes and challenges, Patricia Ring has proven to be someone customers can count on
Author A. Averyl Re
Patricia Ring would do anything for United—and, in her 36 years working for the airline in Mexico City, she just about has. That’s pretty remarkable for a woman who thought her job as an airport ticket agent would be temporary.
“I studied psychology,” she says of her time at Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City. “I was only going to work for the airline to travel to see my boyfriend. He lived in Washington. I told them, ‘I’m not going to stay here.’ But I didn’t marry my boyfriend.”
She stayed at the airport ticket counter for a year and a half, until she got promoted to a new position that she discovered had unexpected responsibilities. “I was a ticket-counter supervisor, but I also got my dispatcher’s license,” she says, explaining how she learned the art of marshaling planes. “Hardly any woman was doing that at that time. While I was training, we moved to the largest version of the DC-9. I dispatched that first one. I trained people to do weight and balance to the 727. I thought, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re in the big leagues now.’”
But marshaling planes was not the extent of her above-and-beyond duties. While managing a flight that had just landed, her crew also took on a DC-10 charter that had been diverted from Acapulco. “We couldn’t get all the cleaning people, and the plane had to go back, so we ended up cleaning. While we picked up the trash and everything, I said to myself, ‘You wanted to be a manager.’”
But her willingness to take on whatever work needed to get done—wherever it was—got her out of the airport and into a new role in employee training. She facilitated classes in Houston at unusual times in order to teach a new computer system that was not yet available in Mexico. Because the company had so much training going on, she taught her five-hour class at 2 a.m.
From there, she moved on to her current position as international contact center senior manager, a job in which she oversees agents who handle Spanish-language reservations calls. “Customers can contact us via phone and email. An agent may handle 150 calls a day. That’s a lot. Ninety to 100 is average.”
The Mexico City Contact Center operates from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m., 365 days a year, and handles calls mainly from Mexico—but not always. “Sometimes, when we have really bad weather in the United States, we get a lot of calls,” Ring says. “It’s a challenge, but the most rewarding part of my job is the people. It takes a lot to be a reservations agent.”
Ring says this month will be especially busy but satisfying. “We have 60 agents in each of two offices. We’re going to consolidate them into one office. That will be a nice change, to be able to be with everyone—reservations, accounting and sales.”
In her long career, Ring says she has seen important changes in the industry. “When I started, we had just Mexico-Houston and Mexico-McAllen. Now, we fly to 26 cities in Mexico, more than any other U.S. airline. At one point, flying was not available for everyone; it was very expensive. Technology has also made some huge changes.”
Even with all the changes, one thing that has never changed is where her heart lies. “I was born in Mexico City,” Ring says. “I travel a lot, but I don’t move that much.” And it turns out that her traveling still includes time with that boyfriend in Washington, now a very good friend who didn’t marry either. “Now, we travel together,” she says.