How to become a ramp agent: Alex's story

Meet Alex, 19. He's a ramp agent for British Airways at an airport in London. Part of our Bitesize world of work series.

Alex at the airport wearing safety clothing and noise cancelling headphones.
"This was one of my dream jobs."

What is your job?

We’re there to help load and unload cargo and baggage onto aircrafts. We also load special goods and make sure they’re secure as well.

What do you do day-to-day?

It varies. We do a mixture of early and late shifts. A typical day is an eight and a half hour shift, and you might load between four and seven aircraft per day.

What did you study in school?

GCSE-wise I did Geography, History and Drama and I got Cs in Maths and English.

What skills do you use in your work?

We use a lot of teamwork, because you typically work in a team with four other people. You have to have patience as well, because sometimes things don’t go right. Also, not being complacent, because safety always has to be our first priority and you have to stay alert. We use a lot of communication in the team and a lot of time management, because you have to keep to departure times.

Is this the job you always wanted to do?

It was one of my dream jobs. I did Uniformed Public Service at college and I looked toward the ambulance service, but near the end I didn’t think it was for me.

Was it a smooth ride?

When I finished college, I went into work full-time at a theme park, which was more customer-facing, then I applied for my apprenticeship at the airport. The apprenticeship has been challenging – since you’re in an operational environment, no two days are the same. You have good days and bad days, but the people you work with help you get through it.

Alex next to an aeroplane.
Alex uses Maths skills daily to work out how much your cargo weighs compared to how much the aircraft weighs.

Top tips

  • Focus hard and try to get your Maths and English GCSEs

  • Customer-facing roles can be really helpful to teach you how to interact with passengers.

What to expect if you want to be a ramp agent

Airports need ground staff such as baggage handlers and ramp agents to load and unload luggage and cargo from aircraft. Ramp agents also guide aircraft to and from their gates.

  • Ramp agent salary: £15,000 to £20,000 per year
  • Ramp agent working hours: 44 to 46 hours a week – you could work evenings, weekends and bank holidays on shifts
  • Typical entry requirements: You can get into this job through a college course, an apprenticeship or applying directly. You could do a college course, which would teach you some of the skills and knowledge you need in this job. Relevant courses include the Level 2 Certificate or Diploma in Aviation Environment. You'll need two or more GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 3 (A to D) for a Level 2 course. You could train for this role through an intermediate apprenticeship as an aviation ground operative. This will usually take 12 months to complete. You'll do on-the-job training and spend time at a college or training provider. You'll usually need some GCSEs (or equivalent), usually including English and Maths, for an intermediate apprenticeship. There are no specific entry requirements but some employers may prefer you to have a few GCSEs (or equivalent) at grades 9 to 4 (A to C), particularly in Maths and English. Seasonal work may be available, with large increases in the number of travellers in busy holiday periods.

This information is a guide (sources: LMI for All, National Careers Service)

For careers advice in all parts of the UK visit: England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales

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