- Many people across the United States work in airports, employed either directly by the airport or by airlines, concessionaires, or other airport-related entities.
- Airport employees enjoy benefits, such as an exciting workplace, discounted travel, and generous pay.
- Airports hire for various positions, from technicians to customer service agents, so a variety of skills and abilities are needed.
With millions of daily passengers around the world, airports are global hubs of diversity and excitement. Employees keep airlines operating smoothly each day and in return enjoy a rewarding career in a fast-paced industry.
Whether you’re fresh out of school or looking for a career change, airport jobs can provide an attractive salary and a dynamic workplace. Discover the top-paying airport jobs in the United States below.
Pros and Cons of Working in the Airport Industry
The airport industry is responsible for employing millions of people around the world, and many of these employees enjoy benefits, such as a diverse workplace, generous salaries, and travel discounts. Airports need all kinds of workers to fill various roles, ranging from customer service to technical jobs, so there’s a job for almost any skill set.
However, flights and airports operate at all hours of the day and night. That means workers might be subject to long hours and struggle with work-life balance. Airport workers may also deal with negative aspects, such as poor flight conditions or disgruntled passengers.
1. Concessionaire – $25,980/Year
Major airports have many gift shops, restaurants, cafes, and other stores that provide various products and services to airline travelers. These stores are called airport terminal concessions, and the employees who work there are called concessionaires.
Concessionaires generally make slightly more than the minimum wage at an average of $12.49 per hour or $25,980 per year. However, workers usually don’t require any formal education or extensive work experience to be hired. With travel expected to increase and concessions open for extended business hours, workers have plenty of opportunities to work overtime and meet interesting travelers.1
2. Cabin Cleaner – $27,809/Year
A cabin cleaner is a type of custodial worker who is responsible for cleaning airplane cabins. To help keep flights organized and on schedule, workers clean cabins between flights, maintain restrooms and crew service areas, refill food and drink supplies and perform other miscellaneous cleaning tasks.
The average hourly wage for cabin cleaners is $13.37, which translates to about $27,809 per year. Prior experience isn’t necessary, and workers typically only need a high school diploma or equivalent. Attention to detail, physical fitness, and time management are important skills for this position.2
3. Custodian – $29,760/Year
Custodians are responsible for the maintenance, upkeep, and cleanliness of the airport. Depending on the scale of the airport, custodians are tasked with cleaning passenger areas, performing light building or grounds maintenance and operating cleaning equipment.
The average hourly wage for custodians is $14.31 per hour, which works out to $29,760 annually. Most employers prefer to hire custodians with prior experience, but they don’t usually require any formal education aside from a high school diploma.
Custodial work can be strenuous, and workers may be expected to work odd hours, but they work everywhere and get a different perspective of airports than customers or other workers.3
4. Baggage Handler – $30,409/Year
Airport baggage handlers ensure that luggage arrives at its destination by first transporting it from the check-in carousel to the plane and then from the plane to the baggage carousel at the destination terminal. This role is physically demanding and requires frequent lifting and carrying. Baggage handlers also need to work quickly to keep flight schedules on time and reduce wait times for arriving passengers.
Most baggage handlers only need a high school education or equivalent; however, they may need a driver’s license to operate airport vehicles. The average hourly wage is $14.62, which works out to about $30,409 per year.4
5. Ramp Agent – $35,230/Year
Ramp agent is a broad term used to denote ground crew workers, but it may sometimes overlap with baggage handlers. These workers are responsible for various external maintenance tasks between flights, such as assisting embarking or disembarking passengers, performing safety checks, and refueling the plane. Ramp agents report to a ramp supervisor.
Top-earning ramp agents can earn around $47,000 per year, but the average salary is about $35,230. The wide pay range suggests opportunities for advancement as workers gain skills and experience.5
6. Aircraft Fueler – $37,935/Year
Sometimes called fuel handlers, aircraft fuelers are integral members of the airport’s workforce. Workers are responsible for refueling airport vehicles and aircraft throughout the day.
Fuelers need to be physically fit since they often climb stools or ladders to access fuel ports and attach fuel hoses. They also handle dangerous materials, such as aviation gasoline and kerosene, so attention to detail and technical ability is important.
Most airports provide on-the-job training and may require workers to complete additional training and certification courses. This role comes with opportunities to move into other mechanical positions. On average, aircraft fuelers make $37,935 per year.6
7. Ticket Agent – $39,900/Year
Ticket agents are the customer service representatives hired by airlines. They work at airline check-in kiosks in the airport and are often the first-person passengers meet.
These agents may assist passengers by booking tickets, issuing boarding passes, checking baggage, or providing other administrative support. Ticket agents also communicate with other airline staff, such as dispatchers, pilots, and cabin crew, to ensure accurate passenger lists and other details.
Most airlines only require a high school diploma or equivalent and provide training for workers, but customer service skills, computer skills and second languages are valuable assets. On average, ticket agents make $19.18 per hour or $39,900 per year.7
8. Airport Security Handler – $45,470/Year
Airport security handlers are also known as transportation security officers or screeners. Security handlers screen passengers and their baggage to ensure compliance with Transportation Security Administration regulations. They sometimes use x-ray machines or hand wands at airport security checkpoints.
The average salary for airport security handlers is $45,470 per year. Becoming a security handler has few prerequisites, and training involves extensive classroom and on-the-job experience to learn TSA protocols and procedures, as well as scanning equipment operation. Security handlers may also be subject to in-depth security checks and training evaluations.8
9. Flight Dispatcher – $58,596/Year
Flight dispatchers, also known as flight operations officers, work with pilots to create safe flight and operations plans. Their jobs involve significant computation and analysis to determine flight needs, such as fuel requirements and maximum takeoff and landing weights. They consider weather conditions, en route winds, airspace restrictions and many other factors that can affect flight plans.
Dispatchers must also comply with government and company regulations and have the authority to permit or cancel flights. During flights, dispatchers are responsible for updating the pilot of any notable changes to the flight plan.
Flight dispatchers must possess licenses or certifications that demonstrate their knowledge and experience, such as the Airline Transport Pilot certificate. The average salary is $58,596 per year.9
10. Flight Attendant – $61,640/Year
Working as a flight attendant requires a variety of skills. Over long days of sometimes 12 hours or more, flight attendants must demonstrate excellent communication and organization skills as they assist passengers with boarding, flight service and other tasks. In return, flight attendants enjoy a dynamic work environment, and get to travel to new destinations each day.
The applicant process for flight attendants is often competitive, and new hires must complete extensive training in flight safety before they begin working. They must also be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration.
The average salary for flight attendants is $61,640 per year. This position offers opportunities to develop into a senior attendant role, which oversees other flight attendants.10
11. Aircraft and Avionics Equipment Mechanic – $65,550/Year
This position refers to a broad range of mechanics and technicians who install, repair, and maintain aircraft electrical, instrument and avionics systems to keep airplanes reliable and safe.
Mechanics are responsible for testing aircraft components, such as brakes and wings, and use hand or power tools to replace defective parts. They also keep records of all maintenance and repair work and perform regular inspections to ensure safety compliance.
The average salary for aircraft mechanics and avionics equipment mechanics is $65,380. Mechanics and technicians gain skills and accreditation through an FAA-approved aviation technician school or through work experience and other training. Most technicians possess an associate’s degree, although some may have a bachelor’s degree in engineering or transportation.11