The UK aviation sector is booming as more of us than ever take budget flights overseas or fly for business. Heathrow is so crowded that permission has been granted to build another runway, and other airlines are expanding their networks through regional airports. Increased passenger numbers mean more opportunities for work in airports up and down the country, whether that be in retail or food outlets, as a customs officer, security worker or on the check-in desk. So what types of jobs and salaries are on offer?
Security staff are generally employed by the airport, rather than by an individual airline. They’re the people who watch your hand baggage go through the X-ray machine, and search passengers for prohibited items. It’s a responsible job, and requires great customer service skills. Security staff might have to work unsociable hours including overnight, but rates are usually adjusted to account for shift working. All security staff are vetted before being offered a position, to make sure that there is nothing in their background which could raise concerns about them working in a sensitive area.
Retail and Catering Staff
Staff in shops or restaurants might work landside (before security checks) or airside (after security), or both. Employers will also look into their background and police record before offering them a job – not because of the retail or catering role, but because they are working in a sensitive area. Shops and cafes in airports are often open much longer hours than on the high street, and wages for staff may be higher to reflect this. However, you may be expected to make some very early starts or stay late into the evening.
Baggage Handlers are employed by whichever company has the contract to manage the bags at that particular airport. It’s a physical job, involving lots of manual handling so requires a good level of fitness. Baggage handlers are usually on an hourly rate of around £9, but are often paid more for early starts or late night shifts. As baggage handlers have access to the most secure parts of the airport and planes, they must be vetted before starting work. This sort of vetting is different from standard DBS checking in that it’s not really about checking the baggage handler is safe to be around passengers. It’s more about identifying people who could pose a risk to the security of the airport because of a criminal past, or association with extremist groups.
Check-in staff may be employed by the individual airline, or by a handling company. The average salary is around £18,000 per year and the work will involve shift working depending on the operating hours of the airline concerned. Staff working on check-in need to have great customer service skills, but also be good at solving problems and dealing with difficult customers. Check-in staff may be able to progress up the ladder to a more senior customer service position within the airline or the airport.