Important: The following is how Star Citizen's game designers have described their vision for the mechanic. The information currently does not reflect actual ingame mechanics, and will likely change in the future.
Star Citizen's Civilian Passenger Transport is one of the more unique occupational roles that a player can assume. As with mining, discovery, repair, rescue, and scientific research the focus is not on combat. Instead, passenger transport is about competing with other players and characters in much more subtle and diverse ways for the right to provide a critical and necessary support service for the proper operation of the entire galactic ecosystem. Whereas other endeavors demand a player's attention at key points throughout a mission, with passenger transport the journey is the mission.
Starting a career
Passenger Transport is a heavily regulated activity, and the first step in an aspiring transporter's career is to obtain a license at the government offices of the various landing zones from which you wish to pick up or deliver passengers. A recurring fee for the license is required, with the amount dependent upon how much passenger traffic travels through that landing zone.
Passenger Transport requires a specialized type of ship such as the Starliner. There are four classes of comfort – Coach, Business Class, First Class, and Luxury Class – but many ships support only one or two of these. Fuel capacity, consumable storage capacity, and engine efficiency are the primary determinants as to whether a given ship is classified as short or long range.
After landing on a public pad, players may select a destination for their flight, set the price for each ticket class that they offer, and specify a departure and estimated arrival time. The flight can then be published, at which point travelers can see the flight and begin to purchase tickets.
The ship's pilot receives real-time feedback as to how many tickets have been sold out of the available inventory, and may change the price of unsold tickets at any time. The pilot may terminate the ticket offering prematurely, but may not modify the departure or arrival times without cancelling the flight entirely, which would not be well received by those passengers that had already purchased a ticket.
Reputation directly impacts two things: whether your license to operate is temporarily revoked or not, and how much of a discount you must suffer or premium you may enjoy when competing against others and offering an otherwise identical level of service.
Reputation is measured via how well travelers are being safely delivered to their destination, and the overall level of satisfaction of those players with the flight experience. While the former is very straightforward, the latter involves the evaluation of many different components.
ICES – an acronym for Information, Communication, and Entertainment System – is the computer centerpiece of a passenger's flight. It allows them to do things like order food and drinks and engage in various forms of entertainment. These devices will on occasion fail, and in such cases it is of paramount importance to quickly resolve the problem given how prominently it factors into a passenger's enjoyment of a flight.
ICES blades may fail for a variety of reasons, and each requires a specific procedure to resolve. Burned out units are simply ejected and replaced with another, assuming that the player had the foresight to restock their ship prior to departure.
One of the more common service requests is for a mixed drink. Passengers key in their order through ICES, which immediately transmits that information to the MixMaster associated with that particular section.
While a passenger in Coach would be fairly forgiving with regard to slow delivery times and a poor mixture quality, travelers in Business Class and up would expect much more, and repeatedly disappointing them would have an adverse effect on their opinion of the flight, and ultimately the player's reputation.
MEDICAL DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT
One of the most challenging areas of passenger transport is in dealing with illness. There are a wide variety of potential maladies that may befall a passenger, and each has its own particular set of symptoms.
Every passenger transport ship is equipped with at least one medical supply cabinet that contains some basic diagnostic equipment that may be of use in determining the cause of some ailments. It also contains a number of different treatments, one of which will address or at least alleviate every illness that might be encountered. Care must be taken, however, as prescription of the wrong medicine to a passenger can make the situation worse or even cause death.
Illnesses may transmit their effects throughout a cabin via two basic mechanisms – Fear and Contagion. Fear represents the concern and worry that a healthy passenger near another that appears sick would experience, and its effects are directly proportional to the intensity of the visible symptoms. Fearful passengers will frequently turn and look towards the traveler that concerns them, and their experience will continue to impart a penalty to the ship owner's reputation for as long as the situation persists. Contagion, on the other hand, represents the actual spread of the disease, and is only applicable to some maladies. Slow or incorrect diagnosis of a serious issue can quickly spiral out of control, creating a cabin full of concerned passengers or, worse, a full blown epidemic that would result in a player's passenger transport license being suspended for a period of time.
Players may always invite their friends along on a flight to assist, deciding amongst themselves how best to split up the various in-flight responsibilities.
At some point, though, most players will seek to supplement their operation with one or more non-player characters, if only to allow the player to focus on those tasks that they find most interesting or where they truly excel. This can be done via traveling to one of the recruiting stations that populate larger cities.
Once hired, a flight attendant remains in the employ – and on the payroll – of a player until they are dismissed. They remain constrained to the city in which they were hired until transported elsewhere by the player, and can be summoned to a player's ship at any time prior to departure. They can be directed to focus on only a particular part of a ship, and if so desired to only focus on certain aspects of the job.
Upon arrival at the intended destination the pilot must give passengers an all-clear signal from the cockpit in order for them to begin exiting the ship. Immediately upon departing each passenger will determine how satisfied they were with the overall trip and therefore how the reputation of the ship's owner should be affected.
A pilot may force passengers off of their ship prematurely – at any public landing zone – but in such cases passengers will ignore any experience that they had while on board and instead contribute the lowest possible satisfaction rating. For larger transports one or two premature ejections can easily cause a license to be suspended.
Once all of the passengers have exited the ship, the pilot is free to submit a new flight plan to the Flight Schedule Computer. That system also allows for basic transport supplies – food, beverages, medicine, surplus ICES units, etc. – to be purchased and loaded into your hull while you wait on the tarmac.