Due to the pandemic, airlines have given thousands of airline employees retirement packages. They are now reloading with all new personnel ready to work and enjoy the benefits of this fantastic industry. Airlines are seeking anyone – young, old, college-age, and retirement age to join a very stimulating and selective environment.
I had worked in my own business for 30 years. During this time, I was so envious of my wife, Maureen, who entered the airline industry in the late 70s with small airlines, Evergreen International (before they went cargo) and Cosmopolitan Air, a small New York State airline. Her first big break was with People Express Airlines, the first airline to enter the industry under airline deregulation, with the direction of its creator, Alfred Kahn.
It is believed by many that this was the original golden age of airline employment because, beginning with People Express, there were close to 200 new entrant carriers that came into the airline industry over the next 50 years since deregulation, creating many millions of new airline jobs. Of course, many of those carriers have come and gone, but many new employees remained in the industry with successful carriers.
For those not old enough to remember, People Express Airlines had $19 fares up and down the East Coast and $99 fares to the West Coast and Europe. They were tremendously successful until the legacy carriers of the day caught on and devised computer programs that offered People Express prices for different seat percentages of the aircraft. These computer programs were very successful and drove People Express out of business.
Maureen also worked briefly for Continental Airlines and Trump Shuttle until her first major carrier, US Airways, and the US Air Shuttle took control of the Trump Shuttle. After being transferred to Pittsburgh, she went with her third “Start-Up” carrier, JetBlue Airways (original name True Air). Up to this point, she had gained a tremendous background in the industry. All employees of People Express were cross-trained, and each month had to either work as a flight attendant, ground ops agent, or reservations agent. During this period, she was offered the position of flight planner, assistant dispatcher, and full-time airline dispatcher.
This person is like a pilot on the ground for those unfamiliar with the role of an airline dispatcher. Each airline has a flight planning position on the ground that guides every departure and is legally responsible for the flight along with the pilot. This position is licensed by the FAA and plans the flight’s routes, along with the weight and balance of the aircraft and fuel burn. The airline dispatcher is responsible for cancellations, delays, the diversions of the aircraft, and any other emergencies that may happen during the flight. She had immense responsibilities and enormous pressures that went along with the job. I loved what she did and dreamed about being in the industry someday.
My day came after selling my business in 2006 when I joined Delta Airlines in 2007. I was 54 years old and worried that I was too old to start again, and also worried about how I would react to having to answer to a manager, and worst of all, being bored at a new job, but Delta was fantastic from the first day of training on. Delta gave me a four-week training course and taught me the airline business. I thought the information taught was revolutionary and sucked in the information like a sponge. Most people hated ticketing, but I fell in love with it. The only subject missing from training was the in-person airline experience, and Delta was very happy to furnish this. As Delta was coming out of bankruptcy, the airline was wide open, allowing all new agents to find their expertise and enjoyment in whatever job they found interesting; all avenues were open to me. I loved ground operations, and between ticketing, bag drop, and general lobby requirements, I was able to experience and learn the business quickly and thoroughly.
What made this job different from all other jobs was that every day was different, with different people, different problems, and different issues. I loved my original business, but it had the same daily problems. Airline work was diverse and stimulating, and I loved coming to work every day.
I quickly continued to master ticketing on Delta’s older ticket system, Delta Term, where it seemed that you needed to memorize 1,000 codes to activate what you wanted the system to do. These codes made the system instantaneously perform actions, and I loved it. I could rebook and re-issue tickets in seconds. I was assigned almost 100% of my Delta career to the Sky Priority Check-In area, checking in Delta’s best flyers; Delta Medallions, VIPs, and government leaders. Most agents were wary about this area, but I loved that I could virtually do anything for Delta’s best flyers to ensure they got to their final destination as efficiently as possible.
I loved the feeling that all airline employees seemed to be connected in a way, and there was a comradery that I never saw in other industries. I believe it had to do with the fact that all airline employees experience many of the same issues and problems, no matter what carrier. Most airline employees feel unique because the public wants to emulate the luxurious airline travel lifestyle.
I must mention the free and tax-free benefits of working in the airline industry. The advantage is stand-by travel, not only for the airline employee but for his family too. Generally, every airline employee receives free travel benefits on their carrier, domestically and internationally, and the only charge is a head tax when returning to the United States.
Most people do not realize that within six months, most airline employees can utilize a terrific system called ID Travel. Using ID Travel, an airline employee (and their family) can obtain stand-by flying benefits on approximately 190 other airlines domestically and worldwide at minimal costs. The airline employee can write their own ticket on those airlines anytime.
Let me not forget to mention airline discounts on car rentals, hotel rooms, and so many other industrywide benefits. I only hope the potential airline employee comprehends what fantastic travel benefits are offered to them, along with opportunities to see the world. I must also mention what a wonderful environment I was introduced to, working with people from different parts of the world, religions, and ethnic backgrounds working as one force to improve their airline and offer excellent customer service.
Delta taught you the basics3 but also allowed you to develop your own strategy for excellent customer service. For example, there were times when you were allowed to “go above and beyond” your responsibility for the passenger, and all you had to do was document the record for a reason. That was so impressive to me, and there was never anyone standing over me, watching my every move.
I was, and still am, so proud of Delta Airlines and the industry I worked for. I am still very active and continue to help worried and nervous travelers find their way at JFK Terminal 4 via the Travelers Aid Group at the Welcome Center and Information Counters.
The bottom line is, if you want to change your life, not just your working career life, this is the industry to look into and the time to check it out.
If you think the benefits were good after you started, you should have been here earlier when we were always offered “fam trips”. They were the best !