International airlines transport both people and goods. They fly across national borders to airports identified as international airports. At international airports, airlines employ ground staff to perform a variety of functions. Although the pilots and plane crews travel from airport to airport, the international airline ground staff is employed at specific airports and does not typically travel as part of job function.
In order to become employed as a member of an international airline ground staff, applicants need to meet a number of minimum requirements. They need to pass security background checks and have the ability to lift weights of 50 to 75 pounds. They must be able to bend and kneel and navigate into aircraft cargo compartments. They should also be able to perform repetitive tasks with a high degree of accuracy. International airlines also expect all of their personnel to maintain high safety standards.
The ground staff of international airlines includes a number of positions, many of which are associated with the handling of baggage and cargo. Baggage handlers are also classified as stock, freight and material movers. They handle baggage, moving it on and off conveyors and terminal carts. Other ground staff positions include aircraft cleaners. They are responsible for cleaning the aircraft interiors after the completion of each flight.
Because the typical educational requirement for ground crew is a high school degree, these positions are among the lowest paid at international airlines. Typical starting hourly wages range from $9.25 to $11.00 per hour but can be as low as minimum wage. Wages can vary by state. For example, the average ground crew staff wage in Massachusetts is $16 per hour while in New York it is $9.74 per hour. The average salary can also vary with the airline carrier. According to an MIT study of airlines, economy airline ground crew salaries can be as low as $25,263, but the salaries for ground crew staff at larger airlines may be as much as $43,340 annually.
Positions on ground crews are expected to grow along with the rest of the airline transportation industry, according to the Occupational Outlook Handbook. Both wages and the number of jobs are expected to grow. Typical annual growth rates are expected to be around 7 percent. There could be fluctuations with this growth due to changes in general business activity and factors in the world economy. Because the starting salaries at major airlines are greater than at smaller airlines, competition for these positions is greater. Starting positions at smaller airlines are easier to obtain, but the starting pay is lower.
The ground staff starting salary is a beginning point that can grow larger with experience. For ground staff workers with one to four years of experience, the average hourly wage is $10.30. As ground staff personnel remain on the job for 10 to 19 years, this hourly wage increases to $18.25 per hour. Ground staff with more than 20 years of experience average $20.35 per hour.
2008-2009 Occupational Outlook Handbook
Pay Scale Airport Ground Crew
Mitchell Airport Employment