With 20 years on the job at Southwest Airlines as a ramp agent in Dallas, 39-year-old Shane Parker is hoping for 20 more.
"It's physically demanding — you have to be ready to get down and dirty," Parker said of his job, which calls for getting luggage transported properly and helping to turn aircraft on time.
The work of agents like Parker is ever-important, with air travel on the rise and aircraft services following suit. Today, nearly 700,000 direct employees in the U.S. airline industry usher some 2 million people traveling domestically and internationally on 27,000 flights per day, according to industry trade group Airlines for America. The number of air travelers across the globe stands to nearly double in the next two decades, with the global trade group International Air Transport Association projecting 7.2 billion passengers a year by 2035, up from 2016's 3.8 billion.
"The outlook for the industry is very good. We've sustained profitability, and we are reinvesting both in our people and product and customer experience to make flying better," said Nicholas Calio, CEO of Airlines for America. "The more we hire, the more actual jobs we create in that ripple effect throughout the economy."
Adding to the industry's optimism is the White House's new focus on creating American jobs. In February, President Donald Trump invited executives from the nations' largest airlines, including Delta, United and Southwest, to discuss travel infrastructure and regulation in February. Trump also proposed the privatization of the nation's air traffic control system in his skinny budget last month.
"They've shown a proclivity, the administration, for looking at current regulations that don't make any sense and eliminating those," Calio siad. "So, those savings, those efficiencies will make us better able to continue to invest in our employees and products."