Tags: career development, blog

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Aviation offers a wide range of exciting and rewarding career prospects for individuals who work within this global sector. According to a recent report published by the Air Transport Action Group, 9.9 million people work directly in the aviation industry worldwide. Of these, there is approximately 200,000 people working at airports or for airlines in the UK. Heathrow is currently the busiest airport in the UK and the third busiest on an international scale, which makes Britain a world leader in this sector.

In this blog, we catch up with Margaret Phillips, Divisional Manager at Search Aviation in Crawley to find out more about the diverse range of roles and responsibilities within the sector, and what you need to consider before pursuing a career at an airport.

The roles within Aviation

According to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport, employment opportunities within aviation 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, approximately 60 percent are employed by airlines or their handling agents, 11 percent by the airport operator, 9 percent in concessions such as ships and restaurant, 6 percent by control agencies like the UK Border Agency, and 5 percent 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,” says Margaret.

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 Skills you need to work at an Airport

“Whether you’re flying through the air, sitting in the air traffic controller booth or working as an aircraft mechanic, it’s fair to say that the aviation sector has its fair share of ups and downs overall,” says Margaret. As such, there are essential skills that each member of the workforce must have in order to be truly successful in their careers. These skills are as follows:

  1. Ability to work well within a team

  2. Critical thinking and problem-solving skills

  3. Ability to work under pressure

  4. Good written and verbal communication skills

  5. Flexibility to work shifts – aviation is a 24/7 operation

  6. Safety consciousness

  7. IT literacy

  8. Adaptability and a quick learner

  9. An aptitude for languages can also be an advantage

Breaking into the industry

There is a variety of ways in which you can break into the aviation industry. Although you may need to have A levels/Highers, a diploma or a degree to qualify for certain positions within an airport, there are also apprenticeship opportunities to consider when pursuing an aviation-related career.


When deciding which apprenticeship to pursue, you need to assess what your strengths and interests are in regards to your career in the long term. If you’re a person who loathes daily routine, loves to be in an environment of constant change and who can work under pressure in a busy atmosphere, than an apprenticeship for an aviation-related career could be ideal for you.

You could choose to pursue a customer service role such as becoming a flight attendant, baggage handler or airline ticket agent. Or perhaps you are better suited for a technical role such as a pilot, navigator, mechanic, or engineer. Or maybe your skills lie in accounting, catering, finance, law or airport management. From entry-level to highly experienced, all employees work together to ensure customers get safely to their destinations.

Why you should consider a career in Aviation

Whether you’re employed for an airline or directly within an airport, you will be ultimately be part of a massive and varied team. “The vast range of skills required, combined with the fact that every major city in the world has an airport, means that jobs for airlines and airports are easily accessible to those looking to pursue a career in aviation,” says Margaret. Here, she outlines her top three reasons why you should consider joining the UK’s aviation workforce!

1. The opportunity to meet new people on a regular basis

Aviation is undoubtedly a dynamic and fast- paced industry, and every individual within the workforce contributes towards a bigger picture. Each role is essential to ensure that operations flow smoothly. Far from being a boring or stagnant career path, working for an airline or airport ensures that no two days are the same, offering a variety of experiences and interactions with people from all walks of life.

2. Career development opportunities

As a business it's in the best interest of airlines and airports that their employees are continually developing, so they ensure that they offer their employees training and career development. Along with annual reviews, some offer an annual financial incentive scheme to ensure that their employees' contributions are recognised.

3. Company/lifestyle benefits

Airports and airlines often offer well-paid jobs with excellent benefits. For example, the Manchester Airport Group proudly broadcasts the benefits on offer to employees on the company website. These benefits are provided as a complete package which span across professional and personal areas of an employee's life. Some benefits are specific to working at their airports, such as 50 percent off holiday airport parking. Others focus on how employees commute to work, such as cycle to work schemes and subsidised rail travel.

Airlines and airports also recognise how life outside of work impacts performance. As such, many will offer benefits to ensure their employees enjoy life outside of work. For example, Virgin Atlantic offers their employees deals on holidays through Virgin Holidays, stretching the benefits to staff beyond simply the flight. And it doesn't stop there, with some airlines, flight crew qualify for discounts on rental cars and hotels and even some travel attractions while on holiday.

So what are you waiting for? Why not apply to work in Aviation today?

At Search Aviation, we have a team of dedicated consultants who will guide and assist you through every step of your career application, interview and development thereafter. If you can envision yourself working within a diverse and global workforce, then why not give Margaret Phillips a call on 01293848113, or take a look at our latest vacancies by clicking the button below!