How many people does it take to run an airport?

Line painter at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport

Line painter at Seattle-Tacoma Int’l Airport

How many people does it take to run an airport?

That’s the topic I tackle this week in my ‘At the Airport‘ column on USA TODAY.

And no, it’s not one of those “… change a lightbulb” jokes.

According to a recent economic impact study conducted for Airports Council International – North America, about 1.2 million people work at 485 commercial airports in the United States.

Some of those employees work directly for an airport operator. Others are employed by concessionaires, government agencies and other entities doing business at airports.

For example, 63,000 people work at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, making the world’s busiest airport the largest employer in the state of Georgia.

In that 63,000 count are two art department coordinators, a full-time wildlife biologist, and a mobile medical response team that includes EMTs who jump on bicycles to cut down on the time it takes to respond to a medical emergency inside the airport.

Los Angeles International Airport has issued badges for 50,000 airport workers but, as with the counts at other airports, that doesn’t include courtesy vehicle drivers for hotels, rental car companies and private parking lots or drivers for taxis and buses that serve the airport.

 And there are 19,000 badged employees at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, including airline employees, runway painters and the team that works on the bag handling management system that in 2014 processed 33 million bags.

At San Antonio International Airport, Michael Castillo keep track the keys issued for the airport's 4000 doors.

San Antonio International Airport has about 5,000 vetted and badged employees.  Included in that count are employees who make sure the airport’s 1,000 fire extinguishers are “present, accounted for and maintained,” and another highly-organized employee who issues and keeps track of the keys for the 4,000 doors on airport property.

Read the full column here.


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