Airport Manager – How to Soar At The Airport

There are many Airport Manager roles

If you work at the Airport, and you want to get on that ladder. You will want to learn everything from the curbside to the guy who pushes back the aircraft. Welcome my friends, to the definitive guide to becoming an airport manager.

Now this is a companion piece to our Airport Department Jobs article. Because those unfamiliar with the aviation industry should understand which companies are responsible for the distinct functions at the aerodrome.

This webpage on Airport Managers will help you understand...
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    Say you want to work on the ramp as a Marshall, you need to search for Ground Handling companies. The same goes for Security, if you want to find jobs at the Screening checkpoint, first you need to know who the Security employers are. In most cases, they will not be the Airport itself but a tenant or sub-contracted company.

    Airport Manager Types

    Airport Manager is too broad a title. Yes, there is one “Manager” at the airport but she’s the Airport Director of the building itself. We want to address those who seek involvement in the passenger journey, dealing with airlines, working with Law enforcement and Security, Ground traffic management, Airport slots, even the Wildlife found at the Airport.

    And, the most important manager, the person tasked with maximizing the revenue potential of this captive audience we call the passenger.

    We want to give you the Five main manager categories. And some suggestions of what qualifications we feel would be strong Resume items to get you to the top of any opportunities list.

    Airport Managers - Degree Qualifications

    First are the qualifications. Yes, a Degree in Aviation or Airport Management is valuable and there are several courses at colleges worldwide, but you don’t need it. At least not yet. And we suggest looking at specific areas or roles and their associated qualifications. You see Aviation management is certification heavy.

    That means that lots of roles require you to follow specific training programs for certain areas. We have a few details below to get you started. But for this article we will concentrate on the following training bodies. 

    IATA Courses

    Why these? You see, these are the regulatory bodies that decide what the training should be, and their courses are the most well-recognized. Also, their certifications will “travel” if you pardon the pun. This means your IATA Airport Operations certificate from Singapore will look great on the resume you send into commercial aviation airports.

    But most of all, when you look at a course from any of these providers you will see the role specific skills, they want you to learn, and this will allow you to recognize if you are heading in the right direction for you. In terms of accreditation, use the links below to make sure your chosen course is approved. 

    Airport Manager Types

    Duties and Responsibilities

    First. Let’s understand the aspects of airport operations in specific areas. 

    Airfield Operations Manager

    This is the actual Airport, the Aerodrome. Flight operations, Ground ops and Commercial activity in the terminal buildings, such as duty-free. Your duties are split between Airside and Landside. From Road traffic on one side to Air Traffic on the other.

    And everything in between. This is the physical journey of passengers and the aircraft. Terminals. Concourses. Security restricted areas. Apron. Runway. Taxiway. And all the different companies and their staff that occupy this space and provide services. 

    Airport Commercial Manager

    Airports are for-profit businesses, and their main income is passenger spending. Just like Cinemas who don’t make a lot of money from the film producers but charge top dollar for popcorn. Airports are the same, but on steroids.

    This guaranteed footfall ensures top brands, cafes and tech companies line up to open stores. And the Airport shares in these profits. So commercial managers deal with all avenues of revenue stream from tenants and any other ways they can. In terms of courses, IATA is the best place to start. Such as this course. 

    Airport Safety & Security Manager

    Safety and Security is a huge specialist area. The regulatory framework for Airport Security across the world is standardized. We have an article that explains all the roles. ICAO generates the bible which is then adopted by each country who follow these standard guidelines before implementing their own state rules that govern operations.

    So, if you want to dig deeper the best place to go would be your National Aviation Authority. Safety is also the state/government level taking directions from the FAA or EASA. There are clear instructions on how staff in these areas are qualified, trained and checked. This is too broad a subject and we recommend you start at your national authority level and find out what you can from them.


    But because we love it, here is a link to the FAA Safety Team portal. If your authority is not the FAA, then we recommend you just use it as an educational tool in your journey. But safety and security info will be available at your Aviation Authority website.

    American Airlines

    Airport Environmental Manager

    ESG. Environmental. Social. Governance. We have an entire article on it. And a page on Sustainability. Both are now as important as engines, fuel, and passengers to the Aviation business as we try to reach #NetZero by 2050.

    In this context it means the actual local environment of the aerodrome and how we can keep flora and fauna as unimpacted as we can. There are also practical issues like trying to keep birds and land animals from interfering with aircraft and other airport vehicles. And illegal animal trafficking. 

    More recently drones would fall into this category as they could threaten airport security and safety similarly to birds.

    Working life at the Airport

    If you prefer to work remotely or maybe a 09:30 to 5:15 kind of lifestyle, then airport staff might not be for you. At all. Airports are 24/7/365. Your shift can be anything in between. You can be called in for incidents or alerts at any time of the day.

    You’ll be exposed to heat, cold and levels of human behavior, from otherwise normal people, you would have never believed possible. Unruly passengers on flights get all the headlines, but at airports prior to boarding anything can happen.

    Aviation Regulations

    Flying is stressful, it makes us angry and causes us to feel stress levels we don’t normally feel. Yes, we know this is not an excuse. But it is a reality. On top of normal challenges, there is constant vigilance against security breaches.

    It takes a dedicated, thoughtful, calm, empathetic person to survi… We mean work at the airport. And communication skills and customer service skills are invaluable. 

    Airport Managers Salary and Universities

    The remuneration is particularly good. We have a good guide below that shows pay for these roles and other aviation specific levels.

    Role Employer Salary (p/a)* Qualification Attributes
    Operations Manager Industry Wide $ 97,500 Degree Shift, Physical, Technical
    Customer Services Rep Airline $ 39,000 Higher Diploma, Experience Shift, Confrontation resolution
    Ticket Agent Airline $ 45,600 Higher Diploma, College Shift, Financial, organization
    Baggage Handler Airline $ 30,000 Higher Diploma Shift, Physical, Noise, Cold, Heat
    Cargo Agent Airline, Freight Forwarder $ 48,500 Higher Diploma Shift, Physical, Noise, Safety, Technical
    Airport Manager Airport, Airport Authority $ 115,000 Aviation Degree, Air Transport MBA Management, Leadership, Organization
    FBO Manager Fixed Based Operators $ 100,000 Higher Diploma, Degree Shift, Management, Organization, Regulatory
    Station Manager Airline $ 79,000 Higher Diploma Shift, Physical, Leadership, Organization
    Concession Staff Retail Company $ 30,000 Higher Diploma Shift, Financial, Management
    Ramp Agent Airline, Airport, FBO $ 45,500 Higher Diploma Shift, Physical, Noise, Management, Cold/Heat
    Air Traffic Controller FAA, CAA, Military $ 130,000 Degree, Specialist Skills Shift, Technical, Organization, Computational
    Food Preparer/Chef Airline, Catering Company, Airport $ 59,500 Diploma, Health Certificate Shift, Culinary skills, H&S
    Sky Cap Airline $ 45,000 Higher Diploma Shift, Customer Service, organization,

    *Salary is Median Range in US 2023 dollars according to the US Bureau of Labor statistics. This has been crossed referenced with five top G7 countries and found to be within 3-5%. For indicative purposes only. 

    You can google for specifics in your airport, but we would suggest you concentrate on the higher ends of these scales. Why? You are working shifts, weekends and could be called out at short notice. You are working in a high stress environment. You will be qualified, background-checked and deal with a whole lot of airport business, good and bad.

    Aviation Industry

    If you have friends who work in the business, reach out to them. If we say anything on this beautiful, inspiring website that slips to the top of your list it is this – when you work in Aviation, no day is the same. And every day you see or learn something new. And that is why we love it. Every day you work at the airport zips by like a Boeing B737. Or your cash at the Chipotle in JFK when it’s your round.

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