VC25A
Topic Author
Posts: 1
Joined: Mon Jun 19, 2017 1:12 pm

How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 1:35 pm

Ever since I was really little I've loved airplanes and airlines. I'm now in college and I have a private pilot's license. I used to want to be a pilot and part of me still does, but airline pilots get screwed over by airlines with low pay and little chance of advancement. I want to be an executive at an airline and change the way that US airlines operate. I would like to provide airline pilots with better pay and customers with better service. How does a person get to be the Vice President of Human Resources or Chief Operations Officer or Vice President of Flight Operations? And then how can a person become CEO? I plan to apply for a few internships at airlines next summer (I was a freshman this past year), but otherwise how can I get a job like that? It seems like being an airline executive would be really cool.
 
MIflyer12
Posts: 2623
Joined: Mon Feb 18, 2013 11:58 pm

Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:25 pm

Look at the education and career progressions of the people in those positions to which you aspire. U.S. carriers typically have executive bios of key leadership positions.

You will want to look at academic work in financial analysis. You might benefit from work in labor economics, too, to give you some context for pilot pay realities.
 
klakzky123
Posts: 198
Joined: Mon Jul 04, 2016 4:05 am

Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:31 pm

Airlines do a lot of promoting from within. Airline experience is a unique area that can't be replicated from other industries so you find a lot of airline execs have 20 or 30+ years of experience.

Easiest way to get to this point is to find a way into an airline at a lower level, even if that means being hired as a ground handler (but work for the airline, not a contractor). Once you're directly working for the airline, you just have to work your way up. I've met countless people who have started as gate agents and are now in mid or upper level corporate positions. The airline industry is still pretty good about giving you the opportunity to move upwards as long as you're putting in your time and doing quality work.
 
Newbiepilot
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Joined: Tue Aug 30, 2016 10:18 pm

Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:53 pm

You work your way up based on experience and skill at an airline just like any other company.

You say that you just completed freshman year. You have a long way to go. Start by looking at internships and entry level jobs. What part of an airline are you interested in? The management jobs at headquarters are a better way to work your way up. Finance, accounting, engineering, legal, materials, information technology, flight operations, dispatch, etc all have entry level opportunities. You need to get a skill and start expanding your knowledge.

If you want to make a difference in how an airline operates, I would suggest starting with an engineering degree and getting your pilots license on the side. With time you could get an MBA and become more well rounded and start working in engineering and operations.
 
Rdh3e
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Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 2:59 pm

VC25A wrote:

Being a pilot at a big 4 carrier is one of the best jobs in the world. Good hours, great pay, work doesn't follow you home (no late night or early morning emails marked "URGENT!". Many people refer to pilots as flying Managing Directors because they earn as much money as an MD.

Becoming an executive is a hell of a lot harder than becoming a well paid commercial pilot. There are probably something like 50X more pilots earning 200K as there are management personnel at that income level, and the company can't fire the pilot whereas the management people are "at-will" and can be terminated at any time. Not to mention the work-life balance is better as a pilot.
VC25A wrote:
but otherwise how can I get a job like that?

Airlines are no different than other companies. The best thing you can do is stay abreast of current trends and continue to expand your knowledge base. Leverage your professional network, use LinkedIn etc to get introduced through friends/relatives to people in the industry. Ask them to grab coffee and chat. At the end of your chats ask them if they can give you the contact info for a few other people you could talk to. This will build your network.

At the same time, keep an eye on the job boards, build a profile on the career site for every airline you would consider working for and sign up for notifications on new job postings. When you find a job you like, apply for it and leverage the contacts you've been building (above) to get recommended for jobs or get your foot in the door. If the company is trying to decide between two equally qualified candidates the one with the recommendation from a current employee is going to win.

In the meantime, leverage all the academic resources you have. If you have professors who used to be in the airlines, reach out to them. If you have resources to be able to learn systems in use by the airlines, make use of them. The less training the company has to do, the better you will look.

Once you're in the door, work your :butthead: off and try to maintain your passion for the job. Having a passion for the work will carry you through the dark times when you can't see the light at the end of the tunnel. With time, and a good bit of luck, you'll get to where you want to be, although by then it may not be the same destination you think you want now.

Best of luck.

Amiga500 wrote:
Something like that.

Thanks for your insightful analysis :banghead:
 
stlgph
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Joined: Tue Oct 12, 2004 4:19 pm

Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:15 pm

You go to work for the largest activist shareholder.
if assumptions could fly, airliners.net would be the world's busiest airport
 
Flighty
Posts: 8481
Joined: Thu Apr 05, 2007 3:07 am

Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 3:37 pm

VC25A wrote:
Ever since I was really little I've loved airplanes and airlines. I'm now in college and I have a private pilot's license. I used to want to be a pilot and part of me still does, but airline pilots get screwed over by airlines with low pay and little chance of advancement. I want to be an executive at an airline and change the way that US airlines operate. I would like to provide airline pilots with better pay and customers with better service. How does a person get to be the Vice President of Human Resources or Chief Operations Officer or Vice President of Flight Operations? And then how can a person become CEO? I plan to apply for a few internships at airlines next summer (I was a freshman this past year), but otherwise how can I get a job like that? It seems like being an airline executive would be really cool.


How do you become an airline executive is you become the most useful person in your department in an airline company, and the most trusted and admired. This means you have to think faster and be totally sure of the stands you take - you have to be better at analysis than your peers.

You would like to provide pilots with better pay? Do you know how much they make now? No airline would hire you if that is your goal. Maybe you really want to become a pilot union staff member. Be aware, pilots will pay you as little as possible - as any employer does.

How a person becomes CEO is a mix of detailed understanding of operations, emotional intelligence, ability to forecast the future, play political games while appearing nice, ability to use other people's advice and make a strong team while still appearing in control. It usually takes about 25 years of hard work after school, arriving early and staying late. In other words you give up your adult life for it. Talking about the big network carriers. You can run a little cargo airline but that is usually more of a family business, so you have to be born into the family.
 
Aptivaboy
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Joined: Fri Jul 15, 2016 3:32 pm

Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 4:53 pm

What is your major? As en educator, the one piece of advice I can give you is to make sure that your major accords with the profession or field you want to enter. Talk to airline personnel departments to find out. Seriously, a general background inquiry can't hurt. I have had a multitude of students who enter various social justice paths, or philosophy, or "insert racial or ethnic group here" studies and then cannot find work because their major doesn't translate into an actual 9 to 5 job.

Please don't anyone take what I said above as a slur or attack. It isn't meant to be. It's just that in my first hand experience, a lot of the "trendy" college majors may result in feel good sensations and feelings of social knowledge, but not necessarily into well-paying jobs with career opportunities. Some UC students tried suing the university system a few years back when they couldn't find work with their nice fresh social justice-related majors. Anyway, I always tell my students to follow their dreams in what they study but to be sure that their major is something that can lead to an actual job. VC25, best of luck, and don't forget to check with your college's career center to perhaps network with students who have gone before you to learn from their experiences.
 
c933103
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Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:02 pm

Another way I can think of to accomplish what you want, is to become rich enough to buy and control an airline, and then work on it.
 
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BobPatterson
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Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 9:11 pm

Apply to and intern at an airline while you are in college. Demonstrate your willingness and ability to do whatever work is required, cheerfully, accurately and on time. There will almost surely be a job waiting for you after graduation.
Facts are fragile things. Treat them with care. Sources are important. Alternative facts do not exist.
 
Wacker1000
Posts: 67
Joined: Tue Jan 07, 2014 6:36 pm

Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:13 pm

Applying for internship opportunities is definitely a great way in the door. Airlines are always looking for people with new ideas and you recognizing how poorly pilots (particularly mainline captains on widebodies) are treated will be welcome. Its always nice to see a young mind with new ideas that wants to buck trends like paying market price and building sustainable business models that can weather downturns.
 
DL777200LR
Posts: 65
Joined: Fri Nov 20, 2015 12:15 am

Re: How do I become an airline executive

Mon Jun 19, 2017 10:26 pm

I'm sorry but pilots need better pay? What about the rest of an airline's employees? Pilots earn the most money by far compared to any other work group, and particularly mainline captains? Whom earn the most come on now. Anyways interning is a great way to get your foot in the door and allows you to network within the airline.
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