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|Welcome to Airport Career
Without air transportation, today's world would be very different from the one we're living in. People all over the world depend on air travel for business, leisure, and visits to family and friends. Businesses rely on air transportation to move materials, to bring branch managers to headquarters for meetings, to connect with clients and customers, and even in the age of the Internet, to move important documents quickly from one place to another. Government uses air transport in all these ways and more--to fly officials all over the world, to bring members of congress back and forth to their home states.
All kinds of people work in airports, but many of them, like secretaries and janitors, fill jobs that are generic; that is, they're jobs that exist in just about every industry, from the smallest medical practice to the largest corporation. The people we call "airport workers," though, have jobs that are only found in airports or require special airport-related skills. Airport operations managers, for example, need many of the same skills that people who oversee other kinds of operations need, but they also need a whole additional set of skills to deal with the very special requirements of air transportation.
While some airport workers--particularly those in management--work directly for the airport itself, most people who work in airports actually work for an airline. Some airport workers work for shipping companies like Federal Express, that are housed at airports but have their own fleet of planes. Others work for what are called "Fixed Base Operators" (FBOs), private companies that offer services like flight training, aircraft rentals, air taxi service as well as maintenance and repair services.
Airports also range in size from small operations, with only a few workers and only one airline serving them, to huge international airports, like Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia, with thousands of workers and many airlines. What airport worker's does often depends on the size of the airport. In small airports, a single worker frequently does a whole variety of jobs--issuing tickets, checking passengers in, even helping to move baggage onto a plane--whereas in large airports, each of these tasks is a separate job. In either case, these jobs involve working in shifts, since even small airports operate for long hours, and the larger ones are up and running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
But above all, airport workers are the nation's first-line of defense against air transportation-connected attack, whether by foreign terrorists, domestic ones, or just plain criminals. Security personnel, the people who check passengers in, and those who screen baggage are the most directly involved in protection. But all airport personnel, even those like restaurant servers, must be constantly on the alert for unusual behavior, stray packages, and anything else that might pose a threat. To this end, workers themselves must undergo a thorough background checs before beginning work and must wear ID badges at all times.
The job outlook for airport workers is variable. The events of September 11, 2001, together with some temporary airport closures and a downturn in the economy, drastically reduced air travel, and with it the demand for airport workers. Recently, however, the volume of travel has begun to increase to more normal levels, and there are more opportunities for airport workers. Disasters aside, when the economy slows, airlines often suffer and lay off workers. When it improves, so do the prospects for airport workers.
Despite this uncertain future and other drawbacks, such as shift, weekend, and evening work, airport jobs offer some attractive benefits. Airlines employees qualify for discounted or even free air travel on their employer's airline. Most positions at airports offer benefits--like health insurance and retirement plans. People who love to travel and want a full-time job with benefits should consider working at an airport.
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