captain420

Interested in getting a job at the airport (KIAH)

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Hello everyone, as a fellow aviation enthusiast I am currently interested in changing careers. I would love to find something to do at a big international airport. But my career degree has nothing to do with aviation. I am a graphic designer and have been doing it for many years. I have no interest in continuing and want to change jobs. I know there are many positions available. But I would like some advice from those who have experience working for a big international airport. I love watching and hearing planes landing and taking off, which is why one of my favorite hobbies are flight swimming and plane spotting. I figured why not find a job where I most enjoy being at, and that's at an airport. I can be around planes all day. 

With that being said, what positions can I apply for? I only have an associates degree in graphic design. So I'm not sure if I would be able to qualify for any types of job there. I really hope that's not the case. I'm not young anymore either, so I hope that doesn't make it more difficult for me to get a job at the airport. I would like to start off somewhere and perhaps work my way up and find more opportunities to switch positions at the airport once I gain more experience. Perhaps network with the people there for new positions and advancements. I've heard there are some jobs where you change the seat covers of a plane. I wouldn't mind doing something like that as well. My options are open for almost anything. What would the pay be like and would there be any type of benefits such as 401k, health, etc?

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One thing I will caution you about at the outset is use of the "420" in your screen name along with your real name here (and perhaps elsewhere).

420 is a code word for marijuana, and is very well known and understood by employers of all kinds, who often do online searches for your name and online activity as part of pre-employment screening.   If they see it, many (most?) will hold it against you, most likely without your ever knowing how that's where you made yourself a noncandidate.  If I were an HR manager and saw that reference in a file, I'd route your resume directly to the shredder, without even a cursory attempt to investigate it further--it wouldn't be worth taking the risk when there's a pile of other applications not so encumbered.  You might just as well have a screen name like "captainweed" or "captaindoobie." 

This is even more critical for any airport job that will require security screening and badging, as the security screening may well catch things the HR department missed.

I have no idea if the "420" in your screen name is intended as a drug reference, and quite frankly, it really doesn't make any difference if you do or don't.  But lots of potential employers won't want to take a chance on you if they see it.

Regards

 

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I’ve worked at two different airports in the past 3 years as a line guy at an FBO and I also have a bachelors degree however airlines, cargo and GA do not exactly care about that. Most FBO’s have high turn over and what little work I’ve done with the airlines Southwest seems like the place to work. I suggest either doing cargo or a company that JUST fuels airlines because of how easy it is. Pay is not great but most offer benefits. 

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You will probably be best seeing if there are any vacancies for ramp personnel, as I presume you'd want to work airside and not be stuck in somewhere not near the actual aeroplanes lol. Many such jobs will offer you the necessary training (of which there is a lot) but you will have to prove to them that you aren't just doing it on a whim and are likely to leave after a few months, as they won't be interested in training someone where they think that might happen.

Have a look at this job application and it will give you an idea of the kind of things you can expect:

http://www.jobsinaviation.com/jobs/aviation/34421/airside-ramp-services-agent-in-derbyshire-swissport-international-ltd/?utm_source=Indeed&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=Indeed_Alljobs

Things to note are that language comprehension is a plus, a driving licence is mandatory, a security check will be carried out (and they'll go back at least five years for that one in most countries), and experience around aeroplanes is a plus. 

With that in mind, I'd make sure you haven't got anything iffy in your past, and work up a CV which highlights stuff related to what they are looking for. If relevant prior experience is a stumbling block, you can try what I did when (coincidentally) starting out in graphic design, and that is, I offered to literally work for nothing for quite a few months at a design studio, where I learned more than four years in college had ever taught me, and so you can see why many jobs want prior experience lol. It was what eventually got my foot in the door. So, you could phone round local airfields and see if they want anyone to do general work as a volunteer, perhaps on a weekend or whatever. Most places will probably be glad of such an offer, and though you might be doing the stuff nobody else wants to do, the fact that you do that will look great on a CV and will demonstrate that you are serious in your desire to work in that industry rather than simply saying 'because you like planes'. There is nothing wrong with saying you are interested in aviation of course, it is a plus point, but if you demonstrate that you regard it as something where you want to actually do the work, including the stuff which is in no way glamourous, that will be a big help.

Oh, and as Bob says, drop that 420 in your online presence. It might not be a reference to cannabis, but most recuiters will bin an application in seconds if they think you like 'rocking the gange' (and they will if they see that - see above where they make that five-year security check). They would be right to do so for anyone airside too, I wouldn't want a stoner messing with the cargo door of my aeroplane lol.

 

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Building on what others have said, you might want to look into the companies that subcontract at IAH. Menzies is the chief one for ramp operations that aren't handled by United, so check on their website and see if they have any openings. Make sure you can pass a drug test, because you're going to have to take one to get cleared for a movement area badge. Good luck. 

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Check www.abm.com/careers, they provide aviation services at IAH.  So does G2 Secure Staff www.g2securestaff.com.

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Thanks a lot for the wonderful responses guys. And the 420 reference in my name has nothing to do with the drug. I know most people will resort to thinking of that at first glance but it's the date that my beloved grandfather passed away, and I put it in my name for respect and to remember him by.

I will give all those places a try to see. I notice that most ramp jobs pay $10-$12 to start. I expected more, but I hope they are good with raises if I were to work for awhile. Are there any opportunities to get promoted while working as a ramp agent? Such as a higher position for higher pay?

It was also mentioned that if I were to work at the airport (outside) was to apply for the cargo planes, since it's less work. Is this true? and if so do you mean for a company such as UPS or FedEx or can it be any cargo company such as United? Not sure if they have cargo specific planes at KIAH though.

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2 hours ago, captain420 said:

What would the pay be like and would there be any type of benefits such as 401k, health, etc?

I considered a career change as well with some type of non-flying job, but after lots of research I found that the pay is pretty abysmal and I’d be taking a huge pay cut from what I do now.

Frankly, most of the good paying airport/aviation jobs are some type of ops or management jobs that will require some past experience in the field as well as a bachelors or maybe a military aviation background if you don’t have a bachelors.

Don’t expect to be refueling planes or working at an FBO and be making $60k a year, probably more like under $30k. Unfortunately that’s just the way it is. I talked to an airline friend of my who was on the ramp for a major US carrier and they only made around $30k to start which is really low. These days if you want to be able to save for retirement and live a descent life, you really need to make at least $60k a year or more to have a chance.

You might be better off becoming a flight attendant, that way you’ll at least be flying and traveling for free and if you stay long enough, some of them make over $50k per year and can even get the nice international routes.

BTW, I never knew you were as old as you say, meaning over 20. For some reason I always though you were a teen, most likely in high school. Maybe you can finish your bachelors since you already have an associates and can get a higher paying job.

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Get a job with a major airline. Most of them have been hiring. Do not hire with a subcontractor unless you want to work for low pay and little to no benefits. I spent 36 years working for a major airline. Most of it was spent on the ramp but I also worked operations and ticket counter\gates. I retired in 2016. I started in 1979 in CLE and retired at DFW. I'll be happy to answer any questions you might have. It can be a good living although it has changed a lot from when I started. Expect to work nights with days off during the week. Plan on working holidays for the first few years. You'll be at the bottom of the food chain so you'll get the worst of everything.

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14 minutes ago, cmpbellsjc said:

I considered a career change as well with some type of non-flying job, but after lots of research I found that the pay is pretty abysmal and I’d be taking a huge pay cut from what I do now.

Frankly, most of the good paying airport/aviation jobs are some type of ops or management jobs that will require some past experience in the field as well as a bachelors or maybe a military aviation background if you don’t have a bachelors.

Don’t expect to be refueling planes or working at an FBO and be making $60k a year, probably more like under $30k. Unfortunately that’s just the way it is. I talked to an airline friend of my who was on the ramp for a major US carrier and they only made around $30k to start which is really low. These days if you want to be able to save for retirement and live a descent life, you really need to make at least $60k a year or more to have a chance.

You might be better off becoming a flight attendant, that way you’ll at least be flying and traveling for free and if you stay long enough, some of them make over $50k per year and can even get the nice international routes.

BTW, I never knew you were as old as you say, meaning over 20. For some reason I always though you were a teen, most likely in high school. Maybe you can finish your bachelors since you already have an associates and can get a higher paying job.

Sean,

           I worked with guys smashing bags that were taking home $100k. Granted that was with working overtime. The rampers were making more than the station manager. Top out for Fleet Service at American (after 11 years) is $30/hr. United is right around the same as is Delta and Southwest. I have friends in Central Load Planning @DFW who top out at $37\hr. You do have to pay your dues though.

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Try for Check In with United Airlines....

Here is why. When you are check in you are working for an airline but never far from home, when you get time off you can fly standby for a low price and enjoy all the destinations they have to offer. When you are Check In you can always take on extra shifts because they do become available and use them towards some extra time off.

Why United? Because they use Houston George W Airport as a hub so lots of flights to choose from leaving when you want to travel. My sister in law works for United in Chicago and loves it. When she gets time off she usually finishes her shift, looks up at the board for what is about to leave in the next hour, jumps on any one that she feels like and then she can end up just about anywhere, she can sleep on the flights and makes it back in time for when she has to work again.

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1 hour ago, captain420 said:

And the 420 reference in my name has nothing to do with the drug. I know most people will resort to thinking of that at first glance but it's the date that my beloved grandfather passed away, and I put it in my name for respect and to remember him by.

I'd still change it if I were you, you can put some other personalised reference to your grandfather in there. Trust me, if a job recruiter sees that, they'll bin off your application before you get a chance to offer any explanation about it at any interview. So many people apply for jobs, employers have to use rapid criteria to get the numbers down to a suitably short list of interview candidates, and seeing that 420 is gonna light up suspicions like a Christmas tree.

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My two cents:

1) If you can help it, work at (preferably) the airlines HQ or at least its largest hub. I work for an airline at its 3rd largest and the job opportunities are pretty slim compared to HQ.

2) Working for cargo airlines does not necessarily mean less work. Most of the freight is in containers, however, not all of the automated rollers work. The older the plane (MD11, A300) the LESS likely the powered rollers work. So there is a high chance of manual labor. Think about this when you're in the plane and it's 96F outside and the crew hasn't started the APU yet. Last point: The aft bulk compartment is loose loaded freight. That freight ain't gonna load itself! :biggrin:

3) If you're looking to move up to manager level, the place where I work asks you to have 5 years of experience which can be offset by a degree or full time employment. Either way, you'll still have to do 12-18 months at whichever position you were hired for.

4) It's true! You can see all types of liveries, airplanes, events (Saw a 737 do a go around today, saw airport authorities escort a plane off the taxiway, saw the enormous trail of water kicked up by a 777 taking off..) but if you aren't in the right position you don't really get time to admire these sights.

Choose well!

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Maybe you can change your handle to 20/4 (the western European way of date formats).

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I work at KTUL but I work for a company in Fixed Wing Medical Transport. My office has no windows (except out into the hallway) but I can hear ANG planes and all the airliners all day. If I poke my head out of the office, the southwest ramp and terminal is right there so I see some of the random liveries.

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Somewhere on the application will be a question, "Are you willing to relocate?". Check yes even if you won't. If you check no, your application will end up in the circular file. At some point in your airline career you may have to answer that question in reality. The airline business is very cyclical and closely tied to the economy. I spent the first 24 years of my career in Cleveland. I saw a lot of people come and go due to layoffs and displacement. I figured after 24 years I was probably pretty safe where I was. 9/11 changed all of that and in 2003 my job was outsourced. I had the option to stay and work for the contract company at a significant pay cut or transfer. That's how I ended up at DFW. In 36+ years I was laid off twice and went through four mergers which are never pretty. I enjoyed my career and made a good living but as with any job, it has its ups and downs.

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15 hours ago, captain420 said:

Thanks a lot for the wonderful responses guys. And the 420 reference in my name has nothing to do with the drug. I know most people will resort to thinking of that at first glance but it's the date that my beloved grandfather passed away, and I put it in my name for respect and to remember him by.

I will give all those places a try to see. I notice that most ramp jobs pay $10-$12 to start. I expected more, but I hope they are good with raises if I were to work for awhile. Are there any opportunities to get promoted while working as a ramp agent? Such as a higher position for higher pay?

It was also mentioned that if I were to work at the airport (outside) was to apply for the cargo planes, since it's less work. Is this true? and if so do you mean for a company such as UPS or FedEx or can it be any cargo company such as United? Not sure if they have cargo specific planes at KIAH though.

You can expect the typical yearly raises as well as promotions for working hard. I fueled Fedex at my most recent FBO job and the guys there have the system down pretty well it seems like everybody has the same task assigned each time a plane pulls up. In my last post I mentioned fueling airlines and I found it easy because I enjoyed it so much because sometimes I had to juggle more than one plane in making sure they got the fuel on board before they pushed which was challenging and kept the job interesting. 

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Both FedEx and UPS have a large presence at KIAH, and there are two large cargo facilities. that service other freight haulers as well. Airline-wise, United is, of course, the dominant carrier. Ramp jobs are probably the best way to break in without previous aviation experience. 

There are two FBOs at IAH, but frankly, neither are extremely busy. Probably the majority of corporate /GA flights coming to the Houston area use Hobby - where there are many FBO facilities. Hobby also has a strong Southwest Airlines presence.

Standard Aero has a large maintenance facility at IAH, doing airframe and engine work on corporate jet aircraft. It would probably be difficult to start there with no previous aviation experience though.

 

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mwilk, thanks for your insights, this is great information for me. Would it be possible to work as a ramp agent, passenger service agent or gate agent in another country such as Asia for somebody with a US passport? I love to travel and I wouldn't mind working at the airport for one of these positions. I am interested in moving to Hong Kong, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Tokyo or Seoul and would love to work at an airport there, but is it possible for a US citizen to get a job there?

For the time being I would like to start at KIAH to get some experience and see what it's like. You guys recommend that I apply for the airline and not a subcontractor, that way I'll get better pay and benefits. And I also hope there will be room for growth as well as the opportunity for me to switch positions such as going from ramp agent to passenger service agent, etc.

Do you need any sort of degree to do these following jobs at the airport? I'm sure they will train you.

mwilk, did you get a lot of travel benefits/perks as a ramp agent at DFW? Like did you get vacation time, and free traveling, hotel discounts?

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Is your desire to work around aircraft in general or just for an airline?  My first aviation job was working as a ramper at an airport without airline service.  At one point I looked into getting a job as a ramp agent at an airline but slinging baggage as a major part of the job didn’t appeal to me. I still had to handle baggage but in much smaller quantities. I also had a chance to work around a much larger variety of aircraft, everything from single pistons to daily refueling of 767s.

 

Have you looked at the career page for United yet?  It’s probably the best place to look to see what type of jobs are out there as well as the requirements and benefits.  It’s also probably a good idea to think about what you want to be doing a few years from now so you can start planning to meet some of those requirements now.

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Well, both actually. I like being around planes and in that kind of environment. But I would prefer to work for the airline company because of better pay and benefits. I will check out United's website and see what openings they have. Not sure if I would be able to handle moving luggage all day. I'm not really the strongest person, but perhaps I'll naturally get stronger from doing it. Hope that I won't get back problems or pains because I can easily get those when moving heavy items and lift things the wrong way.

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