The Future of Work in Aviation: Trends and Predictions

The aviation workforce – and the jobs involved – are evolving. From ground handling to maintenance, from baggage handling to airport management, technology is redefining roles, while an ageing workforce is driving organisations to revisit their value propositions in order to attract new talent.  

This article explores some key trends and predictions about the future of work in aviation. We’ll look at which roles are in-demand, which are significantly changing, the effects of automation, new approaches to training, and more. 

In-Demand Aviation Roles

Pilots, Technicians and Cabin Crew

In CAE’s 2023 Aviation Talent Forecast, it was estimated that within 10 years,1.3 million civil aviation professionals will be needed (1,180,000 for commercial aviation and 106,000 for business aviation). This includes 284,000 new pilots, 402,000 new technicians, and 599,000 new cabin crew staff. 

This demand is in-line with the growth of commercial fleets. CAE state that the number of commercial aircraft in-service by 2032 will reach 43,000, up from 31,000 in 2023 (a 39% increase). The number of business aircraft in service is forecast to grow by 18%, reaching  26,000 in 2032, up from 2023’s total of 22,000. 

The report also emphasises the need to replace the professionals in these roles that are due to retire (for example, 99,000 commercial pilots will retire by 2032). Many airlines are now launching attractive recruitment and outreach programmes with the view to make up for the impending deficit – not just for the above roles but for engineers and maintenance personnel as well. 

Cybersecurity Specialists

The demand for cybersecurity specialists is strong across industries, and aviation is certainly no exception. In fact, the global aviation cybersecurity market was worth USD 4.6 billion in 2023 and is forecast to reach USD 8.0 billion by 2032. 

As aviation systems become more interconnected, the risk of cyber threats increases. The industry’s reliance on cybersecurity professionals will therefore grow, especially concerning those equipped to protect flight systems and other critical infrastructure.  

Sustainability Officers

More often these days, aviation companies are seeking dedicated sustainability professionals to develop more eco-friendly and compliant strategies and operations. 

According to Statista, the initiatives that will contribute the most to achieving net zero by 2050 are sustainable aviation fuels (which will reduce emissions by 65%), followed by carbon offset/capture (19%), new aircraft technologies (13%), and improved infrastructure and operations (3%). 

The role of a sustainability officer can include the following responsibilities: 

  • Researching best practises pertaining to sustainability and implementing initiatives. This could include making airport operations greener, forming strategies to switch to sustainable fuels, electrifying ground vehicles, and so on. 
  • Collecting data and reporting on the company’s sustainability performance.
  • Communicating the above findings – and communicating about sustainability in general – with internal and external stakeholders.
  • Promoting sustainable operations within various departments and providing any required support. 
  • Staying informed about regulations and implementing compliant policies. 
  • Identifying sustainability risks and developing strategies to mitigate them.
  • Working with L&D to develop and implement sustainability training.
  • Assessing the effectiveness of initiatives and working to continuously improve sustainability within the department or across the company.  

How Artificial Intelligence and Automation Are Affecting the Aviation Workforce

Moving on from the roles we can expect to see more of, how are current aviation professionals adapting to technological changes? 

Automation in Aircraft Maintenance

Maintenance staff find themselves spending less time dealing with paperwork, as work orders and associated documentation are generated automatically. They also have less inefficiencies to worry about when it comes to inventory management and administrative processes, as advanced MRO software exists to streamline it all. 

Automating Ground Handling

Ground handling and baggage operations are also seeing the introduction of automated systems. For example, cloud based software like FirstRamp streamlines turnaround planning and fleet management, helping ground handling staff meet SLAs with ease. 

When it comes to baggage handling, airports have solutions such as FirstBag at their disposal, which enables the efficient and accurate management of baggage and its reconciliation. Robots are also being implemented to reduce the physical strain on workers and improve turnaround times.

Automation Using Drones

Drones have multiple uses in maintenance, airfield management, and beyond.  They’re used for cargo delivery, efficiently and quickly transporting small items between different locations within airports.  They can also quickly inspect runways and airframes for damage (a task that would take much longer if performed manually) and survey the area for wildlife-related risks and actively mitigate those risks. 

For example, there are robotic drones that mimic the behaviour of birds of prey, which are used to disperse flocks of birds that are too close to critical areas.    

Will Automation in Aviation Lead to Job Losses?

Does all of this automation mean that a lot of jobs will be lost? Like in most industries, automation will reduce the number of available positions in certain roles but will also create new jobs. 

study by the UK government discussed what the industry needs to do in light of increased automation in flight and ground operations. Suggestions included:

  • Upskilling low-paid workers in digital and technological areas 
  • Achieving the above through on-the-job training
  • Increasing the number of data and engineering roles
  • Focusing on diversity and inclusion to access a broader talent pool
  • Learning from other industries undergoing similar transformations

The study also recommended that the sector focus on STEM outreach and transferrable skills, in terms of attracting more talent to the sector on the whole and overcoming the skills shortages mentioned earlier.  

Remote and Hybrid Work Models

Since working from home took off in 2020, many studies have been done to assess the effects on productivity. Some have even shown productivity gains as high as 47%.  

While certain aviation staff have to be on-site, many operational roles are transitioning to remote or hybrid models. This shift is particularly pronounced in areas like flight planning, revenue management, and customer support. 

For roles that require a physical presence but not necessarily a 9-to-5 on-site schedule, customised hybrid models are being used. For instance, maintenance crews might come in for a specific task or during certain hours only, completing other duties remotely. This flexibility can improve job satisfaction and retention, crucial in an industry facing skill shortages.

L&D Changes 

Training within the aviation sector is transforming. Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) are being used to simulate real-world scenarios for pilot training, cabin crew training, and emergency response drills,  allowing for a hands-on learning experience in a controlled, risk-free environment.

Maintenance technicians also use these technologies to practise various tasks without accessing physical aircraft. Again, this enhances safety, but it may also reduce training costs, speed up the learning curve, and enhance retention and recall

In a study by PwC, VR learners had 35% improvement over e-learners to act on what they learnt after training. This ability is essential when it comes to the scenarios mentioned above. VR learners were also four times as focused compared to e-learners and 1.5 times more focused than classroom learners. 

Beyond maintenance and on-board operations, we may see AR used in many other areas due to its versatility and ease-of-use. Overlaying digital information onto real-world scenarios can be beneficial in a broad range of circumstances beyond the hands-on nature of the roles above.  

New Skills Required

The required skillset for many aviation staff is expanding to include competencies beyond traditional operational knowledge. Environmental stewardship is emerging as a crucial skill, as professionals across the board are expected to understand and implement sustainable practices. 

In addition, as global connectivity continues to grow, multilingualism is becoming increasingly valuable. Being fluent in multiple languages enhances communication with a diverse international clientele and facilitates smoother operations in multinational teams. 

Finally, staff that use AI systems will need training to manage them, while AI specialists may be called for to implement strategies for using AI in areas such as customer service, marketing, and others in which it is already providing significant advantages. 


As we look towards the future of work in aviation, it’s clear that the industry is on the brink of significant changes, driven by advancements in technology, evolving workforce dynamics, and sustainability regulations. 

AI and automation are streamlining certain roles and creating new ones – but of course, the industry couldn’t exist without pilots and technicians – so let’s hope that the sector can attract new talent to make up for the deficit.

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