Best Airport and Airline Jobs

Ticketing agent taking materials from a customer at the airport

Image by Tempura / Getty Images 2019

If you are fascinated by air travel, enjoy customer service within a fast-paced environment, and live in a major city, then you might want to consider jobs that would enable you to work at airport locations. Not only can working for an airline provide a stable income, but many of these jobs even provide free or discounted airfares for employees.

Review some of the best jobs available working at an airport, job responsibilities, salary, job outlook, and the best ways to find a job and get hired.

Ticketing / Gate Agent

Ticketing and gate agents serve as the “face” of the airlines they work for, assisting customers with their flight reservations and helping to resolve rising issues with flight details and luggage. They verify the identification of passengers, issue boarding passes, check luggage, and direct customers to security checkpoints and gates for departing flights.

Ticketing agents must be able to stand for long stretches and lift heavy bags and other checked items.

  • Salary: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), agents earned a median wage of $18.96/hour in May 2020. The top 10% earned more than $36.04/hour, while the bottom 10% earned less than $12.66/hour.

Customer Service Representative

Customer service representatives for airports or airlines respond to requests for special assistance by passengers, help passengers to track lost baggage, and provide information about services at the airport and participating airlines. They may be assigned either to customer service desks or to airline call centers. Problem-solving skills and finesse in dealing with disgruntled passengers are required in this role.

  • Salary: Customer service representatives earned a median wage of $17.23/hour in May 2020, according to the BLS. The lowest 10% earn less than $11.59/hour, and the highest 10% earned more than $27.80/hour.
  • Job Outlook: According to the BLS, employment of customer service representatives is projected to decline 1% from 2020 to 2030.

Flight Attendant

Flight attendants greet passengers as they board flights, direct them to their seats, and oversee the placement of carry-on items. After communicating with the ground crew to make sure that all passengers have been boarded, they review safety protocols and make sure that passengers are complying with airline regulations. They also calm nervous or distressed passengers, resolve conflicts during flights, and serve food and beverages. Flexibility is required in this role since flight attendants are often required to work variable schedules and may be assigned to overnight flights.

Becoming a flight attendant can be a great career option for energetic, customer service-oriented individuals who don’t want to pursue a college degree. Typically, only a high school diploma is required; the airlines provide specialized training leading to certification by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

  • Salary: The median annual wage for flight attendants was $59,050 in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $30,930, and the highest 10% earned more than $84,790.
  • Job Outlook: According to the BLS, employment of flight attendants is projected to grow 30% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanic and Technician

Aircraft mechanics repair and perform scheduled maintenance on aircraft. They diagnose mechanical or electrical problems, identify and replace defective parts, review safety checklists, document problems, and update maintenance records.

Avionics technicians test electronic instruments using circuit testers, oscilloscopes, and voltmeters, interpreting the flight test data they acquire to diagnose malfunctions and performance problems. They also assemble components, such as electrical controls and junction boxes, and install software.

  • Salary: The median annual wage for aircraft mechanics and service technicians was $66,440 in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $38,970, and the highest 10% earned more than $103,880. The median annual wage for avionics technicians was slightly higher: $67,840 in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $41,660, and the highest 10% earned more than $100,680.
  • Job Outlook: BLS states that the overall employment of aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and technicians is anticipated to grow 11% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

Air Traffic Controller

Air traffic controllers hold highly specialized positions and must complete extensive technical training in order to accurately track air activity and dictate routes to ensure safe airline transportation. They control ground traffic at airports as well as oversee the takeoff and landing of aircraft.

Air traffic controllers communicate with pilots about weather and air stability conditions for their routes. They use radar, computers, or visual references to monitor and direct the movement of the aircraft in the skies and ground traffic at airports. Air traffic controllers must work well under pressure and think quickly as problems arise.

  • Salary: The median annual wage for air traffic controllers was $130,420 in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $72,760, and the highest 10% earned more than $184,780.
  • Job Outlook: According to the BLS, employment of air traffic controllers is projected to grow 4% from 2020 to 2030, slower than the average for all occupations.

Airfield Operations Specialist

Airfield operations specialists ensure the safe takeoff and landing of commercial and military aircraft. Their daily responsibilities include liaising between air-traffic control and maintenance personnel, using airfield landing and navigational aids to dispatch aircraft. They also implement airfield safety procedures and monitor and maintain flight records.

  • Salary: The median hourly wage for airfield operations specialists was $24.68 in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $13.78/hour, and the highest 10% averaged around $47.49/hour.

Transportation Security Officer

Transportation security officers conduct security screening of passengers, baggage, and cargo at airports to prevent any deadly or dangerous objects from being transported onto an aircraft. These workers are adept at operating security equipment like X-ray machines and advanced imaging technology at screening checkpoints. They must possess strong communication skills as well as the ability to work with passengers from diverse backgrounds.

  • Salary: According to the BLS, transportation security screeners earned a median wage of $21.30/hour in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $17.83/hour, and the highest 10% earned more than $25.74/hour.

Airline Cargo Handling Supervisor

Airline cargo handling supervisors oversee the airport's ground crew in the loading, unloading, securing, and staging of aircraft cargo and baggage. They must have a good command of logic and mathematical calculation since they are required to determine the aircraft's center of gravity and coordinate the safe stowage of cargo. They may also be called upon to serve on flight crews, handle cargo in flight, and brief passengers on emergency and safety procedures.

  • Salary: Airline cargo handling supervisors earned a median hourly wage of $25.77/hour in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $17.27/hour. The highest 10% earned more than $41.60.

Pilot

Airline and commercial pilots take off, fly, and land planes or helicopters following strict guidelines set by the Federal Aviation Administration. Their responsibilities include evaluating the condition of the aircraft before and after every flight, determining its balance and weight limits, and verifying that its fuel levels are adequate. Pilots also continuously check and respond to changing weather conditions and communicate flight plans and developments to air traffic control.

  • Salary: The median annual wage for airline pilots, copilots, and flight engineers was $160,970 in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $80,920, and the highest 10% earned more than $208,000. The median annual wage for commercial pilots was $93,300 in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $47,570, and the highest 10% earned more than $200,920.
  • Job Outlook: Overall employment of airline and commercial pilots is projected to grow 13% from 2020 to 2030, faster than the average for all occupations.

Food Service Workers

Food service workers operate the restaurants and food concessions at the airport. They cook and prepare menu items, stock shelves, wait on customers or receive orders, bus tables, clean the restaurant and kitchen premises, operate registers, and accept payments.

  • Salary: The median hourly wage for food and beverage serving and related workers was $11.60/hour in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $8.66/hour, and the highest 10% earned more than $15.55/hour.
  • Job Outlook: Overall employment of food and beverage serving and related workers is projected to grow 17% from 2020 to 2030, much faster than the average for all occupations.

Retail Sales Workers

A wide variety of retail, clothing, and gift stores have sprung up at many airports as big-name retailers seek to attract the attention and business of passengers with time on their hands. Retail sales workers stock shelves and kiosks, arrange displays, make product recommendations to customers, and process sales.

  • Salary: The median wage for retail salespersons was $13.02/hour in May 2020. The lowest 10% earned less than $9.49/hour, and the highest 10% earned more than $21.43/hour.
  • Job Outlook: Overall employment of retail sales workers is projected to decline 1% between 2020 and 2030.

Wheelchair Transporters and People Movers

Airports hire staff to help disabled passengers move about the airport and access planes. Wheelchair operators meet patrons and transport them to and from airport gates. People movers operate conveyances to transport individuals or small groups of passengers.

  • Salary: Sometimes referred to as airport passenger assistants, transporters earn an average of $10.88/hour according to Indeed, but can make considerably more in tips, particularly if they engage customers.

Where to Find Job Listings

Airlines advertise their jobs in various places. To find career opportunities, visit the employment section of airline and airport websites to find current listings. You can also search for keywords like “airlines” or “airport” on top job sites such as Indeed.com. For some jobs, like those with the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), you can apply directly on the hiring website.

How to Get the Job

  • Check a variety of resources. Visit online job boards, airport websites, and the career section of airline websites to look for job listings. Also, search Google for “airline jobs” and “airport jobs” to get a selection of job listings for your location.
  • Highlight your skills in your resume. Take the time to match your skills to the employer’s qualifications when you apply, so you can show the employer you’re a strong match for the job.
  • Be flexible. If you’re available to work a flexible schedule, it will be easier to get hired. Airports are busy, around-the-clock businesses, so employees with flexibility are in demand.