Canceled flights, restricted services, price increases – the COVID-19 pandemic did a number on the aviation industry. How is it recovering? Is now a good time to pursue a career in aviation, or not?
Below, we’ll discuss the varied positions available in aviation, as well as projected job growth. Then we’ll take a deep dive into the industry’s overall recovery, and how this is affecting travelers as well.
Positions in the Aviation Industry
Interested in a job in aviation? Composing your flight attendant resume is a good place to start. Flight attendants act as a bridge between consumers and the airline, and they must be attentive to the needs of both. From there, you might seek pilot training and a license.
Another career path is that of the avionics technician or aircraft mechanic – maintaining the actual aircraft. Of course, the industry also needs engineers to design new crafts, UX designers to optimize customer experiences, IT specialists to maintain and upgrade computer systems, marketing specialists, and customer service representatives.
This wide variety of positions makes the aviation industry a viable career choice for many.
Aviation Job Growth Outlook
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth for airline and commercial pilots is “as fast as average” at 6 percent, with an increase of 7,700 jobs expected by 2031. Mechanics and technicians are expected to have a similar rate of growth.
Flight attendants have an even brighter outlook. More than 22,000 new jobs are expected in the same time period, representing a 21 percent increase – growth that is “much faster than average.”
Other aviation positions may not see as much growth. Air traffic controller positions, for example, are expected to increase by only 100 positions by 2031, representing “little or no change.”
Overall Recovery Following COVID-19
The aviation industry is no stranger to the ups and downs of the economy. From 1950 to the 1990s, the industry grew by leaps and bounds as ticket prices dropped and air travel became a reality for millions. There were then slumps in the 1990s, following September 11, 2001, and after the 2008 recession.
Then the COVID-19 pandemic upended travel and the economy at large. In 2020, for example, airline revenues were at just 40 percent compared to the previous year.
This is not surprising when we consider that the daily number of air travelers in the U.S. dropped from more than 2 million per day in 2019 to just over 100,000 per day in 2020.
These numbers slowly recovered as the pandemic progressed and gradually came to an end. In 2021, for example, daily traffic exceeded one million. As of April 2023, the Transportation Security Administration reported passenger volumes equal to those of 2019.
The pandemic also affected consumer behavior in profound ways. According to a report from the management and consulting firm McKinsey & Company, business travel is expected to rebound to only 80 percent of its pre-pandemic levels by 2024. The reason? Shifts to remote work and the use of videoconferencing technology have made business trips less necessary, especially when compared to the non-expense of an online call.
Therefore, leisure trips are expected to make up the bulk of airline recovery. Bain & Company predicts that overall demand will exceed 2019 levels by 2024.
Passing Along the Costs
Airline recovery still faces challenges. For a number of reasons, consumers can expect ongoing price increases. Vacationers have had to absorb a share of costs usually handled by higher business-class ticket prices.
Additionally, airlines are expected to increase efforts to mitigate carbon emissions, and they will be passing these costs along to customers. One prediction estimates that these costs will decrease consumer ticket demand by 3.5 percent by 2030.
Increases in ticket prices, combined with lower disposable incomes due to overall inflation, will hobble recovery and growth to a degree.
Above, we’ve described airline recovery in the U.S., but recovery differs greatly around the world.
For example, European airlines have less margin to cut increasing costs, and their recovery has been substantially slower. Additionally, demand has been seen to grow at different rates around the world. Travel between the U.S. and Europe is expected to grow by just 20 percent by 2030, while demand in Asia and its surrounding regions may blossom by 60 percent.
Of course, the results of the pandemic are not all negative. More stringent cleaning standards and digitization of documentation are likely here to stay. New technologies are expected to improve customs, security, and inflight experiences
The aviation industry offers a variety of positions, from pilots and flight attendants to mechanics, IT specialists, and customer service representatives. Most of these positions are expected to enjoy average job growth over the next decade, with flight attendant positions growing much faster than average.
Aviation has had its ups and downs over the years, and recovery following the pandemic has been relatively slow. The industry has already met some recovery benchmarks and will continue to in the coming years.