Many people assume that working for an airline is a joyful affair all the time. And whereas there are definitely some benefits in working for an airline, it is worth noting that there are challenges too. Therefore anyone seeking to work in an airline needs be aware of the challenges as well. The problem here is in the fact that many people who seek to work for airlines focus only on the benefits. They don’t stop for a moment to think about the challenges of working for an airline. If the challenges of working for an airline were as well known as the benefits, there would probably be fewer people applying for airline jobs. There certainly is some sense in anyone who is considering working in the airlines industry to be aware of the both the benefits (joys) and the challenges of working for an airline. Only then would they be in a position to make an informed decision on whether to proceed to apply for the airline jobs.
Without further ado, the challenges of working for an airline include:
- Irregular work schedules: airlines usually operate on 24-hour basis. This means that most of the people who work for airlines have to be under the shift system. You may have some folks doing a shift that runs from 6 Am to 2 Pm. Then you have others doing a shift that runs from 2 Pm to 10 Pm. And you have yet another shift running from 10 Pm to 6 Am, and the cycle repeats itself. Now this can be either a benefit or a challenge, depending on how it is implemented. Where the staff are allowed to select the shifts that they are most comfortable with, it is a joy. But where the management selects shifts for the employees — or where it keeps alternating the employees between the various shifts — it becomes a challenge. Either way, it is important to understand that most things in the society we live in are designed with the assumption that ‘most’ people work on a 9 to 5 basis. Therefore to the extent that an airline job forces you to work outside this 9 to 5 framework, it is bound to (soon or later) prove to be a challenge.
- Regular travel: many of the jobs in airlines require regular travel. This, in practical terms, means that one often has to be away from family (and from other personal affairs) for long periods of time. Thus whereas one may enjoy the regular travel, the implications – in terms of being away from family and other personal affairs – can turn out to be a challenge. It doesn’t help that the ‘regular travel’ often entails going across time zones, and in the process messing up with one’s sleep patterns. In the long run, this can have unpleasant implications on one’s health/appearance.
- The challenging nature of the work: the airline industry is one where very high standards have to be maintained at all times. This means that the people who work in the industry have to work very hard, in order to maintain the high standards. And this in turn means that the airline work (whatever position you are employed in) is very challenging. It is very easy for someone who is used to mediocrity – or someone who is coming from another industry where things are ‘slower’ — to feel that the work in the airline work has too much ‘pressure’. Indeed, it would be inadvisable for anyone who is not used to pressure (or anyone who can’t handle pressure) to seek a position in the airline industry, because chances are that they simply wouldn’t cope.
- Lack of job security: most of the airline nowadays seem to prefer hiring people on contract basis. This means that people who yearn for the job security that is associated with ‘permanent and pensionable’ positions may not find it in the airlines. In fact, for the support positions, some airlines nowadays don’t hire employees directly. Instead, the outsource the work to certain companies, which in turn find the people to do the work. This is the case, for instance, for the staff who do things like cleaning at the airlines’ offices, the porters, those who operate the ground support equipment… and so on. It doesn’t help that some jobs in the airlines specifically demand ‘youthfulness’. This is case, for instance, with regard to the air hostess/stewardess jobs – which, for the most part, seem to be reserved for ‘pretty young things’. This means that once one is hired for one such position, they have just a few years (a decade at most) to hold the job, before the next generation of ‘pretty young things’ comes to take over. Then we have to recall something we see often in the press: that such and such an airline is firing so many thousand staff (usually at a go). It means that working in an airline is really a ‘one day at a time’ affair – for the job security that exists is very little.
- Unrealistic societal expectations: just because you work for an airline, people expect you to have lots of money at your disposal. And just because you work an airline, people expect you to be living a certain lifestyle. The pressure to keep up with the societal expectations can be too much for some. Things are made worse by the fact that the earnings of many of the people who work in the airlines earn are, in actual fact, considerably less than what the society imagines they earn. And yet some airlines expect their staff to live in certain neighborhoods, drive certain cars, wear certain outfits… you know, just to maintain the corporate ‘image’. This can translate into too much pressure on the part of the people who work for the airlines.
So it is important for the people who are aspiring to work in the airlines to be aware of these challenges. The aim is not to discourage people from seeking to work in the airlines. The aim is to get them to have the right perspective, while seeking to work for the airlines. The aim is to get them to understand that, in certain ways, working for an airline is a challenging affair.