All Things Political

Air Transportation Industry Job Outlook

supplemental resource: Job Outlook by Profession

Job prospects generally are better in regional and low-cost carriers than in major airlines, where competition for many jobs is keen; a unique benefit—free or reduced-fare transportation for airline employees and their immediate families—attracts many jobseekers.

Wage and salary jobs in the air transportation industry are projected to increase by 7 percent over the 2008–18 period, compared with 11 percent for all industries combined. Population growth and growth in the overall economy should increase the demand for air transportation services in the long run. In particular, growth in international travel is expected to be strong. International travel will be spurred by the emerging economies in and around Asia, and by liberal regulations that allow U.S. carriers to fly to more foreign destinations. Also, growth in business travel is expected as the U.S. economy and world trade expands, companies continue to go global, and the economies in many foreign countries become more robust. However, the number of job openings may vary from year to year, because the demand for air travel, particularly business travel, fluctuates along with the economy.

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International cargo traffic is expected to continue to increase with the economy and growing world trade. It also should be stimulated by the development of global electronic commerce and manufacturing trends such as just-in-time delivery, which requires materials to be shipped rapidly. Growth of domestic air cargo traffic is not expected to increase as much as international cargo, primarily because of the decreased use of mail, increased security screening of cargo shipped on passenger planes, and the rise of time-definite trucking. In the coming years, more shipments will be sent via trucks, as opposed to aircraft, because trucks are reliable, can be monitored through Global Positioning System (GPS) technology, and are more cost-effective.

Employment growth will differ among the various occupations in the air transportation industry. Employment of flight attendants, aircraft pilots, and flight engineers will continue to grow as a growing economy and larger population boost the number of airline passengers, and as airlines expand their capacity to meet rising demand by increasing the number and size of planes in operation.

Employment of aircraft mechanics and service technicians is expected to decline as more airlines outsource the maintenance and repair of their airplanes to third-party contractors. Additionally, the airlines are expected to retire many of the their older, less reliable, aircraft, which will lessen the demand for mechanics and technicians.

Job opportunities in the air transportation industry are expected to vary depending on the occupation. Opportunities for aircraft pilots and flight engineers are expected to be best with the faster growing regional and low-cost carriers. College graduates and former military pilots can expect to have the best job prospects. Opportunities will continue to exist for those pilots who choose to work for air-cargo carriers because of the increase in global freight demand.

Job opportunities for flight attendants will vary by setting. Competition for job opportunities at major airlines is expected to be keen because of the few jobs that are available. Opportunities are expected to be best with the faster growing regional and commuter, low-cost, and charter airlines. Finally, turnover among flight attendants will produce additional job opportunities as many workers leave for occupations that offer more stable work schedules or better salaries.

Despite employment declines, opportunities should be favorable for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians, reflecting the likelihood of fewer entrants from the military and a large number of retirements. However, mechanics and technicians will face more competition for jobs with large airlines because the high wages and travel benefits that these jobs offer generally attract more qualified applicants than there are openings. Applicants who have experience and who keep abreast of the latest technological advances should have the best opportunities.

Competition for reservation and transportation ticket agent jobs will continue to be keen as the number of applicants continues to exceed the number of job openings. Entry requirements are few, and many people seeking to enter the travel business start in these types of jobs. Also, people are attracted to this occupation because it provides excellent travel benefits. Some job opportunities will occur as agents transfer to other occupations or retire.

Opportunities also are expected to be good for those seeking lesser skilled, entry-level positions, such as baggage handler and aircraft cleaner, because many workers leave these jobs and need to be replaced.

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Career Guide to Industries, 2010-11 Edition

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