Travel

How Much Money Everybody Who Works at the Airport Makes

Published On 09/28/2015 Published On 09/28/2015
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We've all done it. After sitting in traffic for an hour while driving to the airport, standing in line behind 14 families with 25 bags to check your one suitcase, shuffling through security and seeing your plane delayed three times, you just snap. And that poor guy behind the Starbucks counter who spelled your name with one too many E's is now bearing the brunt of your air-rage.

And it's unfortunate, because most of the men and women who make your local airport run don't earn enough cash to deal with your crap. To prove it, we used data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, Glassdoor.com, and Payscale.com to compile the AVERAGE* annual salary for 20 airport jobs across the United States. From shuttle van driver to airplane pilot -- and everyone else you encounter along the way -- here's who's taking home what from the airport.

*Again, these are AVERAGE salaries. We realize that some people in each job will make more, others will make less.

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Flight attendant

Average annual income: $42,750
Think about THAT number the next time you want to press the call button to request another copy of SkyMall or a pillow.
 

Pilot

Average annual income: $118,435
It’s a lot easier to be chipper when saying, “We’re going to be on the tarmac at least another hour while they come and replace this toilet” when you’re making six figures.
 

Cargo handler

Average annual income: $35,016
They probably handle large containers leaving from Miami every day that are worth more than they’ll make in a lifetime.
 

Skycap

Average annual income: $25,893
If people realized $5 a bag is a bargain compared to waiting in that 400-person line at the Southwest counter, skycaps would take home a lot more money.

FLICKR/ISAFMEDIA

Air traffic controller

Average annual income: $109,308
You’d think the guys who keep planes from crashing into each other would make a little more than a Peter Luger’s waiter. Ronald Reagan would not.
 

Airport manager

Average annual income: $49,416
According to Glassdoor.com, running an ENTIRE AIRPORT only makes you about $400 a year more than managing a local Chili’s. Then again, worrying about everybody's chips and salsa refill can be stressful AF.
 

The cop screaming at you to move your car

Average annual income: $54,817
They may be the best-paid people on the planet who ride Segways.

Carolina K. Smith MD / Shutterstock.com

TSA agent

Average annual income: $40,452
Contrary to popular belief, there are no bonuses for confiscating the most 4oz containers of facial cream and souvenir cheese knives.
 

Baggage handler

Average annual income: $35,457
Before you start calling them “tossers,” find the nearest 50lb object. Now lift it. Put it down. Lift it. Put it down. Now do that for the whole day and tell us whether it's worth $16 an hour, before taxes. 
 

The lady who sells the newspaper and "I Heart NY" shotglasses

Average annual income: $19,406
Perhaps you should buy some candy or gum.
 

Airplane mechanic

Average annual income: $50,982
This works out to about $25 an hour. Which explains why any time “maintenance” needs to come out to the plane, you can go ahead and start that DVD of Step Brothers.

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Gate/ticket agent

Average annual income: $30,026
So, yes, a well-placed $20 actually MIGHT get you on that earlier flight to Boise. Or not. But man, $30k to put up with SO. MUCH. SHIT.
 

Limo driver

Average annual income: $24,355
Doesn't the real satisfaction come from the joy on people's faces when they see their name on a little white placard?
 

Janitor

Average annual income: $25,459
Plus, whatever hastily discarded drugs they find in the bathrooms right before security.

FLICKR/DAHLSTROMS

The guy making your pre-flight pumpkin spice latte

Average annual income: $22,110
Plus free tuition at Arizona State!
 

Car rental agent

Average annual income: $24,440
Almost makes you want to purchase the platinum protection plan so the poor kid can make rent.
 

Airport shuttle driver

Average annual income: $21,382
In case you missed the 17 signs in the van: THEY WORK FOR TIPS. And the money you’re saving by parking at the off-off-airport dog kennel/park-and-fly should more than cover his gratuity.

SHUTTERSTOCK

Ramp agent

Average annual income: $29,078
And in case you missed it, these folks are TOTAL BADASSES.
 

Taxi driver

Average annual income: $24,660
It would probably be under $20,000 if they took the shortest route or used air conditioning.
 

Parking lot attendant

Average annual income: $19,801
When you make less than the minimum wage in some states ($9-$10 an hour on average), the fact that you’re about three months away from being replaced by a credit card reader seems more like an opportunity than a setback.

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Matt Meltzer is a staff writer with Thrillist. Follow him: @mmeltrez.

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