Airports play a crucial role in the travel industry and there are a large number of different airport jobs available, offering completely different career paths. Regardless of your skillset, education and experience level, there are options for almost everyone and in this article, you will find an overview of the many job roles up for grabs.

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What is an Airport?

An airport is a name given to a place where aircraft regularly land or take off from. It will typically consist of a combination of runways, helipads and buildings. These buildings are used both to provide passengers with somewhere to wait for their flights, but also for things like aircraft maintenance and air traffic control.

There are a number of different types of airports and they can also vary drastically in terms of size, as well as the range of services and airport jobs involved. Larger airports, used for commercial air travel, will usually also provide some additional services, such as restaurants, shops, lounges and other passenger facilities.

Types of Airports

There are several types of airports, each dealing with different flights and levels of demand, but all offer airport jobs. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has divided airports into 4 categories, which are defined as follows:

Commercial Service Airports

For an airport to be considered a commercial service airport, it must be publicly-owned and receive scheduled commercial airline traffic. Additionally, the airport must handle at least 2,500 annual passengers, with this being measured by revenue passenger boardings over the course of each calendar year.

Commercial service airports are sometimes further broken down into primary airports, which handle more than 10,000 passengers annually, and non-primary airports, which handle between 2,500 and 10,000 passengers.

Cargo Service Airports

A cargo service airport is defined as an airport that handles aircraft providing the cargo-only air transportation. In order to meet the FAA definition of a cargo service airport, however, the airport must also accumulate a total landed cargo weight of more than 100 million pounds annually.

It is also important to note that this definition applies regardless of any commercial flights catered for. As a result, an airport can be categorised as both a cargo service and commercial service airport at the same time.

Reliever Airports

Reliever airports, also known as relief airports, can be either publicly or privately-owned and, as the name indicates, they are either designed or designated to provide relief from commercial service airports. This is achieved by taking many of the smaller flights that would otherwise be destined for busier airports in the region.

In most cases, they resemble larger versions of general aviation airports. In addition to improving capacity at major airports, they can also help to spread air traffic out and provide more airport jobs too.

General Aviation Airports

To be classed as being within the general aviation category by the FAA, an airport must be open for public use and must not handle in excess of 2,500 scheduled passengers in any calendar year.

These airports are typically very small and are primarily used by smaller private aircraft, rather than large passenger jets. With that being said, a general aviation airport may still be used for some commercial airline traffic, but it will usually be very limited in terms of both frequency and the number of passengers involved.

Overview of All Types of Airport Jobs

The following positions account for the main airport jobs you are likely to find when searching for vacancies.

Pilot & Co-Pilot

Pilots and co-pilots have some of the most important airport jobs, because they are responsible for actually flying aircraft safely. The role also involves communicating with air traffic controllers and carrying out pre-flight checks. In addition to having the required level of flight experience, pilots and co-pilots need to be able to stay calm and make good decisions under pressure. There is also an extensive screening process to go through.

Air Traffic Control

The job of an air traffic controller involves keeping aircraft safe by monitoring their movements and directing pilots, both when they are in the air and when they are on the ground. This may involve providing information, listening to responses and issuing instructions. It is a role that requires a keen eye for detail, superb communication and concentration skills, and an ability to stay calm, even in the most stressful emergency situations.

Airport Security

Airport jobs focused on security are critical for maintaining passenger safety. The role may involve things like guiding travellers through screening procedures, asking security questions, checking baggage and/or cargo, and looking out for suspicious behaviour. It is a job that requires concentration, stamina and attention to detail. Although the education requirements are not too tough, there is usually an extensive screening process after you apply.

Airport Police

Airport police are tasked with keeping travellers safe in airports and responding to any threats that arise. It involves detecting and responding to suspicious or criminal behaviour and, in the most extreme cases, can involve serious personal risk, especially when it comes to counter-terrorism actions. The requirements for the role vary from one country to the next, but extensive training will be required and this may include firearms training.

Flight / Cabin Attendant

Flight attendants have a broad range of responsibilities, from providing passengers with safety instructions, to serving food and beverages, ensuring passengers are as comfortable as possible, and potentially communicating with the pilot or individuals on the ground. One of the major perks of the job is the ability to travel the world and see new places. However, patience, politeness and strong customer service skills are all a must if you work in this role.

Airport Engineer

Airport engineers are responsible for ensuring that the airport remains fully functional at all times, which means constantly checking equipment, carrying out construction work and repairs, and working collaboratively with airport planners and those working in other key airport jobs. It is an advanced role, which will usually require you to possess a relevant degree in engineering or an equivalent field, and to complete some job-specific training.

Airport Planner

The aviation industry relies heavily on the work of airport planners, as these are some of the key figures responsible for creating airport layouts. The role includes elements of research, project management and design, with airport planners helping to decide things like what facilities should be included, where they should be situated, where airport runways should be positioned, and what the possible consequences are for each of these decisions.

Airfield Operations Specialists

Airfield operations specialists are ultimately responsible for all operations on the airfield. This means overseeing take-offs and landings, collaborating with air traffic control staff, coordinating different teams when they need to work together, responding to emergency situations, providing instructions for maintenance staff and much more. Entry requirements typically include a degree in aviation, airport management, airport security or an equivalent field.

Aeronautical Engineer

Aeronautics can be defined as the study of the science of flight and an aeronautical engineer builds on this basic foundation by helping in the study, design, development and manufacture of aircraft. An engineering background is a must and you will also need to complete job-specific training. Aeronautical engineering roles are among the highest-paid airport jobs and demand is expected to grow in the coming years, as the need for ‘greener‘ air travel increases.

Aircraft Mechanic

Aircraft mechanics are responsible for carrying out maintenance and repairs on aircraft, which is an immensely important job in an industry where safety is paramount. With this in mind, to work in such a role, you will need to have an excellent eye for detail and the ability to work precisely. There will be an extensive training programme before you are able to work in this field and the training may also include passing practical and written examinations.

Baggage Handler

Baggage handlers have one of the most physically demanding airport jobs, as they are responsible for carrying or otherwise moving luggage. The job involves working in all weather conditions and will require heavy lifting and moving baggage to the right location at the right time. As a result, time management skills are important. However, it is also a relatively accessible role, with very little in the way of firm entry requirements.

Hospitality, Shops and Other Types of Airport Jobs

On top of the aforementioned airport jobs, there are also plenty of positions associated with hospitality, retail, travel information, ground transportation and food and beverages. Clearly, these roles are extremely varied in terms of the specific duties and skills required, but they will usually involve delivering high-quality customer service. There may also be a requirement to work unsociable hours, due to the 24/7 nature of many airports.

Video: A Day in The Life of an Airport Staff

In the video below you follow Sammy Yeung, an employee of Cathay Pacific, during her working day.


Airline Careers: An Overview of the Main Jobs

Airlines are reliant on people with a variety of skills, working in a number of different roles, including those in airport jobs. However, it is important to understand that airline jobs and airport jobs differ in terms of the exact positions that are available, where some of the jobs are based and who people are actually employed by.

Read “Airline Careers: An Overview of the Main Jobs”, where you can access a detailed breakdown of the main positions airlines employ people in, along with descriptions of what the jobs involve and who would be best suited.

Job Boards for Seeking Out Airline Vacancies

The nature of many airline and airport jobs means that some degree of churn is inevitable and, as a consequence, vacancies spring up regularly. However, to get your foot in the door, or take the next step in your career, you need to know how to find these vacancies and job boards are among the very best channels to turn to.

Give our “Job Boards for Seeking Out Airline Vacancies” post a read for more information on the value of job boards, along with a list of some of the best websites to visit for finding airline vacancies.

List of Companies to Approach for Airline Jobs

When it comes to finding airport jobs, it is often a good idea to approach airlines directly. After all, when you go straight to the source, you have the potential to find jobs that are not advertised on third-party platforms. Of course, to do this effectively, you will need to identify the best companies to turn to.

In the article, “List of Companies to Approach for Airline Jobs”, you can access more details on the value of the direct approach, along with a list of some of the biggest employers in the airline industry.

Recruitment Agencies for Finding Aviation Management Jobs

Some of the most senior airport jobs are related to aviation management, and whether it is the management of a department or overall management of a company, recruitment agencies can be invaluable for finding work. Crucially, these recruiters tend to have established relationships with employers and know exactly what they are looking for.

Read “Recruitment Agencies for Finding Aviation Management Jobs” and you can learn much more about the benefits of recruitment agencies and find some of the best agencies for exploring aviation management opportunities.

Best Channels for Finding Airline Manager Jobs

Airline managers are responsible for making sure their airline is performing to its full potential. To work in such a role, you need to have an excellent knowledge of the industry, significant experience in airline or airport jobs, and the right skills. Moreover, you will need to use the right websites and platforms to actually find vacancies.

Use the “Best Channels for Finding Airline Manager Jobs” article to find out much more about airline manager jobs, what the main duties are, what the entry requirements are, and to find the best channels to use when applying.

Tips for Finding Flight Attendant Jobs Online

Flight attendants have essential airport jobs, helping to keep passengers safe on flights, while also providing customer service. It is a demanding role, but one that offers excellent rewards, including the opportunity to travel the globe. For this reason, flight attendant jobs are in high demand and your application needs to be high in quality.

Check out our “Tips for Finding Flight Attendant Jobs Online” post for more information on flight attendant jobs, as well as some practical tips for how to find and apply for these roles using online platforms.

Tips for Hiring the Right Airline Staff

Whether you are in charge of an airline, or just involved in the hiring process, it is vital that you take the necessary steps to ensure you are attracting high-quality candidates to work in the various airport jobs you have available. This will involve using the right channels, defining the job clearly and taking various additional steps.

Read the “Tips for Hiring the Right Airline Staff article for more insights, including advice on defining job roles, conducting interviews and advertising vacancies on the right websites and online platforms.

All You Need to Know About the Airline Industry

No matter what airport jobs you are interested in, it can be valuable to learn as much as you can about the airline industry. This might mean, for example, having a strong knowledge of the main airlines, the different airline types, how people book airline tickets and how the industry is expected to change in the years ahead.

By reading “Airline Industry: All You Need to Know About the Airline Sector”, you can access all of that information, along with some additional insights, definitions and useful links to further reading.

The sheer variety of airport jobs available helps to ensure there are roles for almost anyone, from those in entry-level customer service positions, through to aviation management personnel, engineers and pilots or co-pilots. Each of these roles are crucial to the successful day-to-day operations, irrespective of the type of airport in question.

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