When we talk of airline careers, what comes to mind are the glamorous jobs of pilots and flight attendants. But the airline industry functions as a large conglomerate and there are specialized and non-specialized employees that offer their services in various areas. Jobs with airlines could range from security staff, reservations agents and clerical support to marketing personnel and maintenance and cargo handling staff. In the United States, the airline industry is seen as one of the nation's leading growth industries. It is an industry of big numbers and huge services. We take a look at various careers within the airline industry, in particular the jobs of pilots and flight attendants. Take a peek into what kind of training and schedules these jobs entail. Find out the remuneration and perks that you might enjoy should you take up an airline career.
Airline industry career
The airline industry employs men and women with highly diversified skills. The meshing of these varied skills is essential to the operation of every single flight. The mechanics, inspectors, and ground service people must make certain aircrafts are completely airworthy and fully prepared for passengers and cargo. Airline pilots need to comply with the strictest employment requirements. This career involves continuous retraining and testing. The flight attendant category represents the largest job sector in the airline industry. Airlines in the U. S. alone employ nearly 80,000 flight attendants. Compensation for desk and runway jobs with an airline would start around $1200 per month. Salaries for airport managers' average around $30,0000 a year. In-flight crew gets better wages and perks that increase with seniority.
A brief overview of some of the airline jobs:
- Captain - commands the aircraft and is responsible for the safety of its passengers and cargo.
- Copilot - Assists or relieves the captain in the operation of the aircraft.
- Second Officer/Flight Engineer - Assists in flight operations and checks that the mechanical and electronic devices of an aircraft are in perfect working order.
- Flight Attendant (referred to as stewardess or steward) - Assures the safety and comfort of passengers during a flight.
- Flight Dispatcher - Authorizes all takeoffs of aircraft and monitors the flight's progress to destination by radio.
- Meteorologist - Prepares reports on weather for flight personnel and for airline operations and traffic departments
Airline support jobs can range from baggage agents to crew schedulers to food service and gate agents and cargo handlers, fuel handlers and maintenance crew.
A college degree with major in Aeronautical Science is required of most pilots. A number of colleges and universities offer flight training with credit towards a degree. The graduate may leave school with a Private or Commercial License and/or Flight Instructor's Rating, in addition to a degree. Intensive training is critical to the development of a professional pilot. It is vital to keep abreast of developing trends and newer aircraft models so as to maintain the competitive edge.
- Professional pilots must have extraordinary physical coordination to maneuver the aircraft from takeoff to landing, sometimes under confusing and difficult conditions.
- Pilots must be conversant in translating and executing instructions from the ground, which may mean giving further orders to crewmembers.
- Pilots must develop retentive memory to assimilate radio procedures at locations hundreds of miles ahead and be able to apply them to conditions that arise in flight.
- Flight training includes theory and practice. The theoretical phase involves studying the manuals supplied by the flying school. Knowledge of the manuals is tested by written examinations. This testing is required before the FAA issues a pilot's license after certification by the school.
A new pilot may start with a remuneration of around $25,000 a year and will increase with seniority and experience. A captain is given a remuneration of around $130,000 a year. Pilots flying more sophisticated aircrafts are paid more.
Typically airlines select flight attenddants who are poised and calm, even under duress. Flight attendant candidates are usually around 18 - 25 years of age. Good health, ability to communicate clearly and experience in dealing with people are added skills. Ability to speak a foreign language is an added qualification, especially for international flights. The duties of flight attendants:
- Greeting passengers and helping them to their seats
- Serving beverages and refreshments to the passengers
- Helping the aged or small children who need assistance
- Instructing passengers on use of safety and emergency equipment
- Reporting condition of cabin equipment and any medical problems of any passengers
- Ensuring that first aid kits and emergency equipment is aboard
Flight attendants have to undergo rigorous training ranging from a month to seven weeks. Flight attendants are trained for all emergencies such as CPR, first aid and hijacking. This could also include evacuating an airline, operating emergency systems and equipment and water survival tactics. Flight attendants are trained to understand passenger psychology so as to be better equipped to deal with all types of passengers, including handicapped passengers, unaccompanied minors and unpleasant ones too!
Initially, flight attendants are placed on 'reserve' - they are called to fill in for crewmembers that are sick or on holiday. They are required to report for flights on short notice. The reserve period is usually for a year though it can vary. The work involves working the year round. The monthly working hours are determined by the employees' unions. This airline job involves standing for long hours and working in a pressurized environment, breathing recycled air. This coupled with irregular sleeping and eating patterns leads to medical problems sometimes.