Flight Dreams: Airline Jobs and Salaries
Airline jobs ensure that air travel remains the fastest and safest way to get to destinations that lie hundreds or thousands of miles apart. The people who work for the airlines are responsible for keeping the airplanes in working order, piloting them on schedule, seeing to the safety of passengers and transporting cargo efficiently. They typically require certification and licensing from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Their salaries and responsibilities vary according to job position. All information is from the US Department of Labor.
Pilots and Flight Engineers
Airlines pilots, co-pilots and flight engineers, also known as cockpit crew, are responsible for guiding their airplanes through takeoff, flying and landing. They spend most of their time away from home because most commercial flights involve ovenight layovers. The scheduling of these airline jobs is strictly regulated so they can keep up with the rigors of the job. For example, the FAA requires pilots to have at least 8 hours of uninterrupted rest in the 24 hours before completing their flight duties. The 68,580 who work in these positions average a mean $115,300 per year. The lowest earning 10 percent make $54,890 annually, while the highest paid 10 percent receive over $166,400 per year.
Aircraft mechanics and avionics technicians maintain aircraft so they fly at the best operating conditions. Though they can repair engines and replace defective parts, many specialize in preventive maintenance. They periodically inspect aircraft systems according to mandated schedules to ensure that they are functioning optimally. These airline jobs involve sophisticated monitoring and diagnostic tools, and thorough record-keeping. Most work in 8-hour shifts around the clock for a standard 40-hour workweek, though overtime and weekend work are common.
The 117,510 aircraft mechanics make a mean $25.62 per hour or $53,280 per year, with a low of $16.17 per hour or $33,630 per year up to $34.74 per hour or $72,250 per year. The 18,230 avionics technicians average $25.02 per hour or $52,050 per year, with a low of $17.70 per hour or $36,810, and a high of $32.48 hourly or $67,560 annually.
Flight attendants provide for the safety and security of air travelers, as well as see to their comfort. The chief flight attendant who oversees the duties of all flight attendants is called a purser. In coordination with the aircraft captain, flight attendants prepare the interior cabin for flight, receive and seat passengers, make sure that travelers follow flight procedures, serve and/or sell food and beverages, and administer first aid to those who get sick. These airline jobs work days, nights, weekends and holidays, though on-duty time is typically limited to 12 hours per day, with longer schedules for international flights. The 88,020 flight attendants make a mean annual wage of $41,630 per year, with a range of $24,930 to $63,990.
Ticket agents accept and confirm reservations, and sell tickets by phone, online or in-person. Those who work at airline airport counters may also inspect tickets, assign seats, check baggage and direct passengers to departure gates. Most work a standard 40-hour workweek, though in 8-hour shifts that operate round-the-clock. Average pay for the 121,500 agents runs $15.69 per hour or $32,640 per year, with a range of $9.58 hourly or $19,940 annually to $22.35 per hour or $46,480 per year.