Wage and salary jobs in the air transportation industry are projected to increase by 12 percent over the 2002-12 period, compared with 16 percent for all industries combined. However, job opportunities may vary from year to year, because the demand for air travel-particularly pleasure travel, a discretionary expense-fluctuates with ups and downs in the economy. In the long run, passenger and cargo traffic is expected to continue expanding in response to increases in population, income, and business activity.
Despite a recent slowdown in passenger air travel, demographic and income trends indicate favorable conditions for leisure travel in the United States and abroad over the next decade. The aging of the population, in combination with growth of disposable income among the elderly, should increase the demand for air transportation services. Also, business travel should improve with the economy and as world trade expands, companies continue to go global, and the economies in many foreign countries become more robust. However, as businesses also try to reduce costs, they are resorting to cheaper alternatives to flying and finding new ways to communicate. Many business travelers are using other means of transportation, such as driving or using the railway system, or are conducting more business by phone, e-mail, or better quality and lower cost video-conferencing technologies.
Cargo traffic is expected to increase with the economy and growing world trade. It should also be stimulated by the development of global e-commerce and manufacturing trends such as just-in-time delivery, which requires more materials to be shipped rapidly.
Job opportunities in the air transportation industry are expected to vary depending on the occupation. Pilots and flight attendants are projected to experience average growth through 2012 as the economy and passenger traffic rebound from the severe downturn in the industry. In the near term, the best opportunities will be with the faster growing regional and low-fare carriers. Persons with a college degree, or former military pilots, can expect to have the best job prospects. Turnover of flight attendants will also produce job openings for this occupation as many leave for more stable work schedules or better salary.
The number of reservation and transportation ticket agents will grow more slowly than the average as airlines phase out paper tickets and move to electronic "ticketless" travel, and as more passengers purchase electronic tickets over the Internet. However, the safety and security responsibilities of these jobs will continue, preventing a decline in these jobs. Competition for ticket agent and customer service representative jobs will continue to be keen as many more people are likely to apply for these jobs than there are openings.
Opportunities should be excellent for aircraft and avionics equipment mechanics and service technicians. The likelihood of fewer entrants from the military and a larger number of retirements indicates excellent opportunities for students just beginning technician training.
Opportunities also are expected to be good among unskilled entry-level positions, such as baggage handler and aircraft cleaner, because many workers leave these jobs and need to be replaced.