In an increasingly globalised world where the cost of air travel has become more affordable, millions of passengers take to the skies each and every day. Yet, regardless of where they have come from or where they are flying to, they all have one thing in common: at one point in their journey, they have all travelled through an airport.
With such a high turnover of daily visitors, it’s no surprise, therefore, that airports can sometimes experience a spot of friction. What keeps things moving, though, is the people that work there.
In every airport across the globe, workers from a wide variety of backgrounds and capabilities fulfil an eclectic mix of roles and responsibilities that are all vitally important to the bigger picture – and you could be one of them.
Indeed, if you want to embark on a career in this highly dynamic and fast-paced industry, then you’re in luck. We’ve compiled a handy breakdown of the most lucrative roles available, and the best part is that many of them don’t require any prior education.
So, whether you’re looking for a new job or you’re fresh out of school, read on – these are the highest paying aviation jobs in the world…
Average salary: $23,000 (£17,300)
Concessionaires are responsible for managing and operating the numerous restaurants, gift shops, coffee houses and brand stores that you encounter and peruse during those long waits for your flight. Their services are especially handy when you need a caffeine hit at 6am, just before you embark on that important business trip to Frankfurt.
Generally, these jobs pay by the hour and, like many similar positions in the service industry, offer little above minimum wage, but don’t let that put you off. You get to meet lots of interesting people passing through, and the extended opening hours mean there are plenty of opportunities for overtime.
13. Baggage Handler
Average salary: $23,500 (£17,680)
As the name suggests, baggage handlers are responsible for ensuring that your hold luggage leaves from the little carousel at the check-in gate and ends up at the big carousel in your destination airport, a transition that doesn’t necessarily always go to plan.
There are no educational requirements to be a baggage handler, but due to the labour-intensive nature of the job (have you seen what some people pack?!), you should be in good physical condition.
Average salary: $25,100 (£18,890)
Although the exact requirements of the role can vary depending on the size of the airport, custodians manage the general upkeep of the airport each day. This includes upholding passenger zones (such as waiting areas and toilets) to a high standard of cleanliness, as well as performing other minor maintenance and janitorial tasks.
Again, there are no educational requirements to be a custodian, although you should ideally have experience in a similar role elsewhere.
11. Aircraft / Cabin Cleaner
Average salary: $26,000 (£19,560)
Cabin cleaners are responsible for cleaning the interiors of an aircraft in between flights, as well as restocking the food and drink trollies and getting rid of toilet waste. You’ll have to be a quick worker, too; airlines are constantly trying to make ground turnaround times shorter, and during busy periods you might only have 20 minutes to clean the entire aircraft to a high standard.
10. Airport Security Handler
Average salary: $27,500 (£20,690)
Known in the US as transportation security officers (TSOs), security handlers have been a part of the airport furniture for some time now. Every year, they screen millions of passengers and their carry bags before they are permitted to board flights.
There are no educational requirements to be a security handler, but you will have to pass training courses that are devised and implemented by your respective country’s aviation authority. These often include in-depth security checks. You will also need to demonstrate strong communication and customer service skills.
9. Ramp Agent / Linesperson
Average salary: $28,100 (£21,140)
Ramp agent is a generic term for the ground crew who perform external maintenance and turnaround on an aircraft in between flights; this can encompass refuelling the plane, enabling passengers to embark/disembark and performing various safety checks. Like cabin cleaners, the timeframe in which to complete these tasks is often limited.
Ramp agents are also responsible for ensuring the safety of the runway, checking for and removing any birds, rubbish or debris that could get sucked into an aircraft’s engines.
8. Ticket / Customer Service Agent
Average salary: $28,460 (£21,420)
Ticket agents are employed directly by airlines and are often the first people you meet at the airport. They check passengers in and assist with any administrative issues. They also liaise with flight dispatchers and cabin crew prior to take-off to finalise passenger lists.
Customer service skills are essential for this role, especially when there are delays or cancellations and passengers can become angry. They are also the representative face of their airline, so it’s important to consistently project a positive image.
7. Flight Attendant
Average salary: $38,890 (£29,260)
Ever since the heyday of Pan Am in the 1960s, cabin crew has been seen as a glamorous and highly sought-after career; it’s also a great way to travel the world for free – all while wearing a fancy uniform, too.
Of course, on the flipside, there are also long hours, unruly passengers and unpredictable weather conditions to contend with, not to mention the highly competitive recruitment process. If you’ve got what it takes, though, being a flight attendant can be one of the most interesting and exciting careers in the industry.
6. Avionics Technician
Average salary: $45,350 (£34,130)
Avionics technicians are responsible for inspecting, maintaining and repairing the electronics systems of aircraft, either through scheduled routine inspections or when particular issues arise. With nearly every aspect of an aircraft’s management system now electronic, this is a vitally important position.
As a result, you will be required to possess a relevant engineering qualification that is accredited by a regulatory body, such as the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) in Europe or the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in the US. With experience and further training, you can then explore more opportunities in the aeronautical and wider aerospace field.
5. Flight Dispatcher
Average salary: $49,300 (£37,100)
Flight dispatchers primarily liaise with pilots in order to create flight plans prior to take-off. These must take into account weather conditions, emergency planning and all aspects of fuel management. They also take into account flight cargo, passengers and any other variables that may affect the flight’s ability to depart or land on time – as a result, this can be a very stressful job.
Being able to multitask is hugely important, as well as the ability to work under pressure. You’ll also have to pass a written exam and accrue a minimum number of supervised training hours.
4. Airframe and/or Powerplant (A&P) Mechanic
Average salary: $52,000 (£39,130)
If avionics technicians are in charge of the electronics systems on an aircraft, then aircraft mechanics – also known as A&P mechanics – are responsible for everything else. They perform a similar role, inspecting, maintaining and repairing any issues with the plane, including the engine, landing gear and brakes.
You will need to attain a similar level of education to an avionics technician. This is directly the case in Europe, for example, where the B1 and B2 categories of the EASA Part 66 represent the A&P and avionics licences, respectively.
3. Air Marshal
Average salary: $68,780 (£51,760)
Air marshals are covert plain-clothes security operatives that provide on-flight security and counter-terrorism measures in the event of a hijacking or security incident. Although they are not present on every flight, they routinely carry firearms and other weaponry onboard.
The process of becoming a marshal depends on your nationality; this is because each country has a different means of recruiting and providing them. In the UK, for instance, this tasking falls under the jurisdiction of the Metropolitan Police, while in the US there is an entire government department (the Federal Air Marshal Service) set up to provide personnel. In Israel, meanwhile, flag carrier airline El Al routinely provide their own internally trained marshals on every single one of their flights. Either way, expect to undergo several highly intensive training courses.
2. Air Traffic Controller
Average salary: $82,390 (£62,000)
Air traffic controllers are based in airport towers and regional/national centres, where they are tasked with constantly monitoring air traffic and liaising with pilots to avoid collisions or pileups in the air and on the runway. it can be a difficult and stressful job that requires close attention to detail and enormous levels of concentration.
On the plus side, there are absolutely no formal requirements to be an air traffic controller, making it one of the highest paid nongraduate jobs in the world. Instead, you are required to pass a notoriously difficult aptitude-based selection process, before embarking on a lengthy training programme that can last over three years.
1. Airline Pilot
Average salary: $100,380 (£75,540)
Unsurprisingly, being a pilot is a dream job for millions of people, due in part to the prestige and responsibility of the role, but also because of the hugely enticing financial rewards on offer. An Airbus A380 captain piloting long-haul flights for a major commercial airline can comfortably attract a salary of $200,000 (£150,500), for instance, although this generally tends to be the exception rather than the rule.
The large majority of pilots gain their licenses privately through flying schools before applying to airlines, proceeding to train on the relevant aircraft and gaining the necessary certification. Alternatively, some transition after serving in the military or flying privately for commercial enterprises. It’s not all glamour and aviator shades, though; becoming a pilot requires the ability to remain calm and professional under intense pressure, as well as remain physically and medically fit.
As you can see, there is more to life in the aviation industry than just flying. Working in an airport can be an exciting experience where you encounter interesting people and see a surprising slice of life each day.
So, if any of the jobs on this list take your fancy, why not make sure your job hunting skills are up to scratch and submit an application? After all, you never know where in the world your newfound career could take you…
Do you work in an airport? Tell us your experiences in the comments below.
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