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Why I Love the Airline Industry

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The best thing about FlyerTalk is everyone has a common interest in aviation, whether you work in the industry, are a frequent flyer, or just love plane watching. Personally, I’ve worked in the industry since 2014, mostly in airline safety, but have also dabbled in security, scheduling, dispatch, and airport operations.

Not only is the work something I’ve enjoyed over the years, but the opportunity for continued education, networking, travel, and amazing flying experiences is something that keeps me here. I know many people prefer to keep aviation as a hobby, but for those of you who are interested in pursuing it as a career, here’s some insight from an industry employee.

Please note: not everyone’s experience in the industry is the same, especially for pilots and flight attendants who I cannot personally speak on behalf of.

Rewarding Work

Most of my years in the aviation industry have been in airline safety, which, as you can imagine, can be stressful. I frequently have the FAA knocking on my door and heaps of data to analyze every day, not to mention the level of communication and teamwork it takes to push change. Although it may not be the most relaxing of jobs, working with pilots, flight attendants, mechanics, dispatchers, and ground personnel to fill gaps in the system, enhance training or policy, or implement new ideas is rewarding because directly affects the safety of passengers and the success of the company. Not only is the work enjoyable, but I get to be around airplanes all the time, which is what got us all interested in the industry in the first place, right?

Safety is obviously my specialty, but jobs are not limited to the operation. There are dozens of niches out there that are imperative for a successful industry, including human resources, marketing, finance, customer service, and sales. If you have a passion for aviation but do not have a technical degree in it, then there are still plenty of options that can carve the path towards a rewarding career.


One of the greatest things about working in the industry is the number of conferences you can attend. My personal favorite is InfoShare, which is a semi-annual conference that brings thousands of safety professionals together from government agencies and the industry to participate in an open exchange of safety concerns and best practices. The conference is influential because it separates competition and safety, allowing the advancement of safety to be tackled outside the walls of individual carriers. Rival airlines can work together by discussing events, trends, or other safety-related topics to promote a more proactive industry.

Although InfoShare is geared towards knowledgable safety professionals, one thing that some enthusiasts may not realize is that you do not have to work in the industry to attend aviation-specific conferences. Take the International Women in Aviation Conference for example. It revolves around encouraging women to enter the industry, but it also welcomes men, students, pilots in training, commercial pilots, and anyone with an interest in aviation. The conference costs a few hundred dollars, but it is a great way to get out there and start speaking with potential employers or attend educational seminars about different industry-specific fields, such as airports, general aviation, security, or human factors.


Continued education is an essential part of any career, and airlines are known for offering their employees great educational benefits, including reimbursing college tuition, paying off student debt, or sending employees to specialized training. I have been lucky enough to have my M.S. in Aviation Safety and Associate HFACS (Human Factors) Certification paid for by my company.

Although I have not taken advantage of all opportunities presented, there is a myriad of courses and seminars available to help forward my career, including accident investigation training, auditor certification, or obtaining a dispatch license.

Flight and Other Benefits

Obviously one of the most coveted perks of an airline job is the unlimited free or highly discounted flights for employees and their beneficiaries (parents, children, spouse, or friends can also enjoy the perks), but the catch is that is all based on seat availability – meaning you only fly if there is an open seat. To give you some perspective on how discounted these flights can be, I flew from San Francisco to Tokyo for about $100 roundtrip and Charlotte to Dublin for $44. Personally, I have not had a significant issue with standby in my years of non-rev travel, especially since I can use my ZED benefits (the term used for employees flying standby on another airline) to piece together routes.

The ability to list for a flight and fly across the world for a fraction of the price of revenue passengers is nice, but the cherry on top is the opportunity to fly business or first class. Now I know some people feel this is unfair and believe revenue passengers should be upgraded before an employee is given a business class seat, but it is merely a perk of the job. I have enjoyed many unique flying experiences, including flights in Delta Business and United Polaris on Boeing 777s, KLM Business on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and First Class on Air France’s A380. And as a fellow avgeek, you can be sure I have picked certain routes and airlines just so I could fly on a specific aircraft type, including the 737 MAX (before the whole fiasco).

Flight benefits are not the only perk of employment. Discount car rentals, hotels, and cruises also come with the job. Many car rental companies will waive the under 25 fee for airline employees (which was helpful at the beginning of my career), and the cruise lines will offer 50%-90% off the market price.

Aviation may not be the career for everyone, but I have had nothing but great experience so far. For those FlyerTalkers who work in the industry, what is your favorite part about it? Let us know in the comments!

BC Shelby February 20, 2020

....back in the day flight deck officers and mechanics were often ex-military and airlines had little trouble attracting applicants unlike today so you didn't get a second officer who was still "green around the gills" so to say. Both major and regional carriers, were also fully unionised which changed during post deregulation along with the advent of low cost "no frills" carriers (even majors have been on an anti union kick such as Delta which a pushed an anti-union campaign recently). From a passenger standpoint, the industry today has a lot left to be desired. The major change was the basis on how airlines competed. As they were subsidised in the pre regulation days, they would pride themselves on quality of cabin service (even coach back then was almost on par with what domestic first class is today, save for free booze), reliability, comfort, and on time performance. these days it's more who can undercut who (or consolidate with who) and how many seats can be crammed in that metal or composite tube to maximise profit? Route structures were more linear with more through flights rather than always having to change planes and often flying out of the way or even "overflying" your destination to/from a major hub. Tickets were also interchangeable as fares were standardised (as they were based on miles flown rather than city pair markets) and were increased at the most, twice per year. There were also no extra or hidden fees to deal with whether for luggage, fuel surcharge, change of itinerary, or cancellation like today. You also felt sort of special walking to the gate with that ticket in hand, so much so that you even dressed up a bit when travelling (I did). The ticket price you saw is what you paid no "surprises". Yes fares were relatively higher compared to today, but you got a lot more for your money than just a seat with the person in front effectively sitting in your lap and having to pay for everything which used to be included in the price of the ticket, There were also ways to fly on the cheap if you were slightly flexible or savvy about it. Family and group fares offered a discount (and you were not split up all over the cabin). There were military, student, senior, and space available fares (I often used the latter as overbooking was not an issue back then). Air travel and even the attitude of some airlines is no where near what it used to be, which has eroded the quality of service and experience which in turn reflects on the industry (TSA notwithstanding) and it just seems to be getting worse. I used to love to fly. and always kept my ear to the ground with regards to both technical and business trends, crikey, I even took pilot lessons when in college (quit because it became too expensive). Today I have come to loathe it along with the industry itself, which not only keeps shrinking more and more choice wise, but cuts corners, as well as tends to nickle and dime you for every little thing. Often it feels more like riding a Greyhound bus with wings (sometimes worse as on some airlines, I find I have less legroom in what I refer to as "steerage class" than on a city transit bus). I dread having to travel by air these days. unless I can afford an advance purchase seat in first which reminds me what it felt like in coach decades ago, though with a slightly bigger seat and free drinks.

Taylor Rains February 19, 2020

Hi alangore, that would not be true anymore. I know back in the day first officers on regional carriers would be making less than $20K, but today most are looking at at least $55K starting (plus a nice sign on bonus). Obviously that increases upwards of $300K a year depending on seniority and employer.

glob99 February 19, 2020

alangore, Walmart got rid of the greeters!

alangore February 19, 2020

Is it true that today's pilots make less than Walmart greeters until they have several years of seniority?

Taylor Rains February 19, 2020

Hi am1108. That is definitely true for airport employees and pilots/flight attendants, but there are TONS of jobs at the corporate level in the airline industry. My job is a regular 9-5, Monday-Friday. I get paid time off and holidays off as well - so as long as you aren’t looking to work directly in the operation, then you can find a M-F job in aviation.