Airlines could not function efficiently without highly skilled people on the ground, ensuring aircraft are where they need to be at the right time. A vital part of airport life is the task of making sure that departures are on schedule – the individuals who take responsibility for this are know as flight dispatchers or aviation schedulers.

In airport operations, the airline captain and the dispatcher are held jointly responsible for the safety of the flight. Working with the pilot, the flight dispatcher creates a flight plan that enables the aircraft to arrive at its destination on schedule with the lowest operating cost. A job as a flight dispatcher or aviation scheduler involves a lot of pressure, but it’s a career that can be hugely rewarding.

The flight dispatcher must take into account the weather – both during the journey and at the final destination. That means studying winds, thinking about alternative destinations, fuel requirements, altitudes, and general traffic flow. The dispatcher’s signature, along with that of the pilot, releases the aircraft for flight. In this role he is the go-between for the pilot and ground service personnel, and keeps all personnel concerned with the flight informed about its status.

It’s also important for the dispatcher to fully understand navigation facilities, airline routes and landing characteristics of all aircraft operated by the airline. The flight dispatcher sometimes rides in the cockpit with the flight crew while the plane is taxiing to observe flight routes, conditions, and airports.

These employees are surrounded by people, teletype machines, telephones, and intercom systems in a noisy, busy atmosphere. Those who work for a small airline, carry on the duties of a meteorologist and schedule coordinator.

If you have excellent communication skills, high attention to detail and the ability to perform under pressure, a career as a flight dispatcher could be the right choice for you. Read on for more information on what a flight dispatcher does and how you can qualify.

What does a flight dispatcher do?

  • Performs the pre-flight duties as the cabin crew prepare for the flight
  • Provides the pilot with the advised route for an individual flight
  • Assesses weather reports and informing the pilot of any hazards
  • Makes checks on aircraft maintenance issues
  • Reviews aircraft weight, fuel loads and cargo loads
  • General duties to ensure the aircraft is safe and ready to fly
  • Reports to air traffic control and airport staff about departure times, and after departure, providing reports on aircraft status and predicted arrival times.

What qualifications do you need to become a flight dispatcher?

Although the entry requirements vary between employers, you will at least need a good set of GCSE’s before you begin training. Subjects such as English and maths at grade A* – C (9-4) are important.

A-levels will help your CV become more attractive to employers and there are some relevant subjects available, such as Travel and Tourism. Alternatively, you could study for a BTEC or Diploma in aviation operations. If you move on to study at university, there are degrees in travel or airline management.

Once you have been recruited, there is more training specific to the role. This will coach you in areas such as flight planning and scheduling, aviation regulations, and in how to use airline systems. Industry qualifications include: NVQs in aviation operations on the ground and Level 2 Awards in aircraft dispatch and support flight operations.

What skills do you need to become a flight dispatcher?

  • You will need to be able to work under pressure in a fast-paced environment especially when flying weather is bad.
  • You will need to be decisive as flight dispatchers must make many rapid decisions concerning safety, flight regulations, and the economy of operations.
  • As day-to-day tasks rely heavily on computer software systems, calculators, weather charts, and loading reports, competence with technology is very important.
  • Good analytical skills are important to help with the interpretation of information and applying this to flight plans.
  • You will need to work closely with other flight dispatchers, pilots, and air traffic controllers, so the ability to work well in a team is very important.
  • This is a high pressure role which is responsible for the safety of aircraft and passengers so the ability to concentrate for long periods of time is essential.
  • As you will be relaying instructions to pilots and other flight dispatchers, you will need excellent communication skills to make sure you are clearly understood.

How much does a flight dispatcher earn?*

Trainee: £14,000

Experienced: £20,000

Managerial positions: £25,000 to £50,000

What are your career prospects as a flight dispatcher?

Flight dispatchers have the opportunity to progress to managerial positions and supervise others.

Some decide to take the qualifications necessary to retrain as air traffic controllers who help pilots navigate the airspace safely.

Each airport needs a team of flight dispatchers in order to function efficiently. As English is the international language of air control, there may be opportunities for work at airports across the world.

Search for the latest flight dispatcher roles on Aviation Job Search.

*Salaries are meant as a guide and can vary depending on a number of factors.

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