A Career in Aviation
Aviation is a truly global sector, offering a variety of exciting and rewarding
career prospects across a wide range of activities. Currently around 200,000 people
work at airports or for airlines in the UK.
The UK is a world leader in this sector, with Heathrow the busiest airport in the UK
and the third busiest in the world. Whether for business travel, leisure, or
moving freight around the world, airlines and airports are a key component of 21st
Opportunities fall into three main areas of activity – airports, airlines and
third-party work, for example, freight handling. Of the 200,000 people who work
at airports about 60% are employed by airlines or their handling agents, 11% by the
airport operator, 9% in concessions such as ships and restaurant, 6% by control
agencies like the UK Border Agency, and 5% by freight and cargo handlers. Typical
jobs roles fall into the following categories:
Airside operations, involving the handling of aircraft, engineering maintenance and
baggage, both at the operating level and in management
Ground transportation, motor transport operations and vehicle maintenance
Cabin services (specific to airlines) and ground handling passenger services
Procurement, IT services, marketing and cargo management and an increasing emphasis on
supply chain management
Airports also require safety and security functions, terminal baggage systems, fire
services as well as airfield operations like stand allocation and marshalling. In
addition, airports have a wide range of retail operations, including catering, car
parking and shops, which are usually operated by concessions.
There are many third party functions to support of airline activities at
airports. For example, at Heathrow there are 440 companies on the airport site
undertaking a variety of activities such as cargo handling and freight forwarding,
courier traffic, mail trans-shipment, engineering and transport services, and a range
of supply chain and distribution activities. The same range of services will be
available at most UK airports.
The following general skills will normally be required:
- Ability to work under
- Good communication –
written and verbal
- Team working
- IT literacy
- Problem-solving and thinking
on your feet
- Safety conscious
- Aviation is a 24/7 operation
so flexibility and an ability to work shifts is essential
- Adaptability and a quick
- An aptitude for languages can
also be an advantage
For certain types of careers, A levels/Highers, diploma or a degree is required but
that is by no means the only entry route.
There are also apprenticeship opportunities in aviation-related occupations, so it
is worth visiting the Apprenticeship websites to see what is available (there are
separate sites for each of the four nations):
There are graduate trainee opportunities with airline, airports and aerospace
industry. Some employers will be looking to recruit those with specialist
logistics and transport-related degrees but other subjects are also in demand.
Company training programmes usually last around two years and help employees to
build their knowledge of the organisation. Graduate roles are usually advertised either
directly via the company websites and/or via graduate recruitment websites.
Salary and career development
It is a diverse sector, with a wide range of jobs, and spread geographically over
the whole of the UK, so it is difficult to give salary guidelines or information about
typical development pathways but it is clear that the sector offers plenty of
opportunities for progression.
There are many employers in the sector:
Airlines – operations,
ground and cabin crew
Baggage and cargo handling
Airport concessions –
retail, catering and parking
There are a number of relevant professional bodies and trade associations:
The Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport is the leading professional
association for those involved in all aspects of logistics and transport.
Airport Operators Association is trade association representing the interests of UK
British Airport Transport Association - the trade association for UK-registered
airlines – the site includes useful data and links to other related
British Airport Services and Equipment Association
- www.aerosociety.com Royal Aeronautical Society with a
link to a dedicated careers website www.careersinaerospace.com/
- www.iata.org an
international trade body representing 240 airlines – the site also includes
intern opportunities on the careers pages.
- www.caa.co.uk The
Civil Aviation Authority is the UK's specialist aviation regulator – the site
includes information about job and training opportunities.
There are a number of sources for specific information about working in the