Airline Staff Job Descriptions


The airline industry is tumultuous and often unpredictable. While passengers are quick to denounce an airline's competency, reading the job descriptions of the most popular airline staff positions might provide insight into a very difficult business operation.


  • These individuals fly the plane.Though the task is seemingly simple, pilots must work their way up the seniority list through years of training and work experience. In order to receive certification, pilots must have 250 hours of flying under their belt.Then, the pilot must undergo extensive training lasting a minimum of 3 months. New airline pilots usually fly small planes with routes not more than 2 hours of flight time. Seasoned pilots get the Boeing planes and trans-Atlantic routes. According to, new pilots can expect to earn $24,000 to $54,000 per year.

Flight Attendants

  • This profession, highly glamorized in the 1950s, is actually tough work.These people ensure no shenanigans take place on board the aircraft. Training, usually unpaid, lasts 5 weeks. Like pilots, flight attendants must work their way up in seniority to get more desirable schedules. Otherwise, traveling from Phoenix to Tucson three times a day is not uncommon for a new flight attendant. Trips to Paris or Hawaii for a weekend are usually reserved for those who have dedicated 30 years with the company. New flight attendants are also on call, meaning they might have to cover a last-minute flight on Thanksgiving. Many flight attendants would be just as happy as customers if a Passenger Bill of Rights was drafted, which, as explained by the Washington Post, would prevent passengers being stranded on a grounded plane for longer than a certain time frame. Most airlines pay flight attendants only for time spent in the air, not for time on the ground.

Gate Agents

  • Gate agents, or, those who are by the boarding area or downstairs at the ticket counter, ensure your bag is not overweight, your ticket is valid, and that you are accounted for on the passenger total. Yelling at these individuals for a delayed flight is pointless; such complications arise from weather, a late crew member, or mechanical difficulties. Gate agents have the power to deny passengers from boarding for drinking or arbitrarily, "rude behavior."


  • When planes break down, a mechanic is usually on call to check out the problem. These unionized employees receive extensive training in airline mechanics. Turnover is rare, as their specialty and skills pertain only to the airline industry. Despite expertise, fixing a problem usually results in a minimum one-hour delay.

Baggage Handlers

  • If a bag is lost, stolen, or damaged, these people are usually held accountable--they are responsible for transferring bags to another aircraft or to the baggage claim. These workers, also known as rampers, must go out in the blazing heat or freezing cold, often for minimum wage, and inhale the fumes from aircraft while ensuring they do not damage their backs.

Customer Service

  • If your flight is delayed and you miss your transfer, customer service workers try to remedy the problem.They reroute passengers, compensate passengers for their difficulties, and try to remain sane while being berated by unhappy customers. Customer service reps cannot repair a plane or prevent snowstorms from causing a flight delay.


  • These employees can belong in several departments: reservations, revenue accounting, information technology, marketing, payroll, accounts payable, yield management and refunds are just a few of the departments in any airline corporate office. Though most corporate employees are sheltered from customer interaction, their work is usually affected if flight operations are interrupted for any reason.

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