When I was 19, (1994) "Airliners" Magazine had a help wanted ad for Continental Airlines. It said something like, "Do you Eat, Sleep, and Drink Airlines? Do you draw your own route maps? Do you make up fake schedules? If so and you have a four-year degree Continental Airlines is looking for you to be a planner/analyst"
Well, I did not have a four-year degree at the time, but I saved the magazine. I completed my degree (Economics) in 1995, and decided to send them a resume for fun. Two days later they called me and interviewed me over the phone. They asked questions like, "What could Continental have done in 1985 that would have that would have presented us with better opportunities today?" "If we gave you Continental Airlines right now and said fix it, what would you do?" "What is a cash cow?" "What is Continental's Cash Cow?" "Was Continental Lite a good idea?" "Why?" "Was it a good idea for us to leave Denver?" "What should we do with the Greensboro hub?"
After question after question, the guy said "well ,if we are interested we will call you in about six weeks."
The next day, another guy called and asked similar questions. Then he said, "if we are interested we will be in touch in about six weeks."
An hour later the guy that was in charge of scheduling and planning called and asked me to further explain my answer to the question about the Greensboro hub. Then he said, "I have only one question, why did you respond to a help wanted ad that was over a year old?"
The next day they called and said, "OK
come to Houston for a formal interview." Well now I am scared because Houston is far away and I am only 20. Plus, I had only applied for fun. But I went anyway. When I got there they took me into about 20 individual interviews. I met with ex Muse Air, Eastern, and Texas International folks. They were very interesting people. Then at the end of the day they brought me in front of several people at once. They asked questions like "What is the perfect hub and why?" "Explain why Houston is advantageous to Miami" "If Continental could have only one aircraft type, what should it be?" "What is direct marketing?"
Then I went home. I was nervous because I was a farm boy from a town smaller then Mayberry. I didn't know if I could handle the big city of Houston just yet. I declined a second interview because I decided to go into flying.
Take what you want from my story, but I guess they want someone well-rounded with an interest in aviation. They also told me that knowing airline history was important to them because we could learn from old mistakes. So if I were you, I would get a degree in finance, economics, marketing, etc. and start sending out resumes.