Profile of a Flight dispatcher

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Jane is a flight dispatcher for KLM Ground Services at London City airport. She entered the work after gaining experience as a passenger handling agent.

What is your main role?

My role is to ensure the safe and quick turnaround of an aircraft. I make sure that all the different departments have done their work to prepare the aircraft between flights. For instance, it has to be cleaned, refuelled and loaded with luggage.

I also make sure that other staff such as the cabin crew and aircraft engineers have done their checks, and that all passengers have boarded the plane. Once I am satisfied that everything is ready, I dispatch the aircraft.

Do you work out the payload?

After placing passengers, bags, mail and cargo, I then produce a computerised load sheet, which the captain uses to make sure the aircraft is within weight limitations and is balanced for take off and landing.

What equipment do you use?

I use a radio to alert arrivals of the inbound flights, to call outbound flights to their gates and to be available should anyone need to contact me. To produce a load sheet, I use several computer systems depending on the airlines; however, it can be done manually too. I also wear protective clothing.

What hours do you work?

I work 38 hours a week, which are broken up into early and late shifts. This airport doesn't operate 24 hours a day, so I don't have to work through the night.

What is your working environment like?

It is generally busy, but there are quieter periods when there are no aircraft on the ground. I work closely with boarding agents and the operations controller.

Why did you choose this career?

I wanted an active, hands-on job that provided variety every day. My first job as a passenger handling agent gave me confidence and an insight into how the travel industry works. After a year, I wanted a new challenge, so I applied for my current position as a flight dispatcher, which I was delighted to get.

What training have you received?

I was given initial flight dispatch training, which included learning how to operate the various computer systems that the different airlines use. When a new airline begins to operate out of the airport, I receive training on the airline's policies, so I can give them the highest level of service.

What skills and qualities do you need?

You need to be very organised and able to keep focused on the task when under pressure, because it is a highly responsible job.

What do you enjoy about your work?

The main aspect of my job that I enjoy most is being able to work on my own, while still remaining in a team environment. I am able to use my own initiative and, to a certain extent, work at my own pace. However, I still have a network of dispatchers available to help me should a problem occur.

Is there anything you don't like?

The main disadvantage of my job is having to work at weekends and during public holidays. However, I get days off in lieu.

What are the challenges in your work?

The main challenge I face in my job is having to turn an aircraft around quickly. Sometimes, I have just 20 minutes to do this, and when there are delays I can be dispatching two at the same time.

Jane's route to becoming a Flight dispatcher

  • GCSEs
  • Advanced GNVQ in Travel and Tourism.
  • Worked as a passenger handling agent with KLM Ground Services.
  • After one year, applied for current position as a flight dispatcher.

Jane's Flight dispatcher tip

  • Anybody thinking of becoming a flight dispatcher should start by working at the check-in desk, to gain an understanding of the importance of documenting accurate baggage weights, aircraft weight restrictions and general aircraft security.

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Flight dispatcher salary information

  • Salaries for flight dispatchers start at around £12,000.
  • With more experience, it is possible to earn around £14,000 - £16,000, rising to £18,000 in a senior role.
  • These earnings may be increased with overtime pay.

Becoming a Flight dispatcher

  • Employers may ask for GCSEs to enter the work. IT skills and the ability to speak a foreign language are desirable.
  • Many flight dispatchers have gained experience in an area such as passenger services before entering flight dispatch.
  • Training involves instruction in flight dispatch computer systems.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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