Read This If You Want to Get Into the Aviation Industry in Japan

It's one of the 14 industries included in the specialized skill working visa.

Photo iStock

Is there anything the Japanese can’t do with excellence? The aviation industry in Japan is topnotch. Their ground handling, airplane maintenance, and repair work lay down the foundations for the world-class service Japanese airlines continue to provide their loyal customers. As a matter of fact, it is said that the air crafts are so well maintained, that they have higher market values than the average going price for second-hand planes in the world! Now that’s what you call gold standard.

Passengers’ first-hand experience of the aviation industry happens from the airport to the plane, where they are served by cabin attendants and the crew. However, what most people fail to see is the service that goes behind the scenes is also as important as the service being provided at the front lines. In this article, we breakdown how the aviation industry in Japan operates, and how you can be a part of this prestigious industry. 

The aviation industry is one of the industrial fields in which specified skilled foreign workers can be accepted. Japan has been accepting workers in
14 industrial fields to make up for its severe labor shortage. In this article, we will cover topics like the job description, work environment, skill requirements, job prospects, and, of course, the salary. 

What do people in the aviation industry do?

The quality of work of the aviation industry in Japan is the reason why airplanes are well maintained and have higher market values. What sets it apart from others is the high standards required for work. Overcoming the exams to be granted a visa is not enough for aviation. As it is a high-risk industry, countermeasures are placed to reduce the chances of failure. Which is why there are qualifications to be able to do certain jobs. Naturally, acquiring these qualifications would mean better opportunities for climbing the career ladder, and securing your place in this industry.

The aviation industry refers to any activity surrounding the aircraft which could range from crew services and piloting to ground handling and maintenance. The specified skills work under the aviation industry involves the latter part, and is divided into two subcategories—
Airport Ground Handling and Aircraft Maintenance

Airport Ground Handling (??????????????)

Ground handling involves the following activities: Marshaling, Cargo loading, Cargo car operations, and Aircraft cleaning.

Marshaling involves guiding the plane for safe parking and exiting.

Cargo loading is the act of loading cargo inside the plane. It does not only involve manually bringing in cargo and luggage into the plane, but also involves sorting and stacking on the Unit Load Device. Human error in the loading step can be a cause for accidents. Since the aircraft must be well balanced for flight, everything must be well-calculated and precise.


Cargo car operations involve the operations of the loading vehicle. The road rules within the airport is different from city road rules, and the operation of the vehicle itself must be done carefully to avoid risking damage to the plane. Which is why this operation requires workers to pass a licensure exam.

Aircraft cleaning involves cleaning the inside of the plane. Making sure everything is clean and in place is part of the job. Cleaning the outside of the plane is also part of this job. However, this also requires another license.

Currently, foreign workers under the technical intern visa or exchange student visa are engaged in this field as a part-time worker. Since, they are recognized as short term workers, the tasks assigned to them are limited, but with newly implemented specified skilled visa, it is expected that one can acquire more skills and experience because one can work for a longer term.

It might seem like manual labor, but a lot of skill and thinking is involved in executing these tasks. Studying and passing exams for qualification is to be expected in working for ground handling to be able to do specific work, which can eventually lead to a career upgrade. 

Aircraft Maintenance (???????)

Aircraft maintenance is a new subcategory of work available to foreigners. It involves the following activities: daily aircraft maintenance, periodic aircraft maintenance, and airplane parts and engine maintenance. Maintenance and repair of the aircraft happen daily and periodically. Daily maintenance involves checking and maintaining the plane before take-off and after landing to ensure safety. Periodic maintenance involves checking, repairing and replacing parts that weather through time, periodically. Maintenance is done meticulously, making sure that everything works properly to ensure a safe flight. Like ground handling, this requires a lot of skill, because of the high risks involved, which means passing exams and obtaining licenses are also part of the work. Luckily, companies help their employees by implementing educational programs for the benefit of those who need to get their qualifications. 

Working Environment

In the aviation industry, it goes without saying that employees work at the airport. As most airports operate 24/7, it is normal to work in shifts, which include working on weekends and holidays as well. Note that many of the jobs are done outside which means it would get hot in the summer and cold in the winter.

The average monthly working hours per employee in the aviation industry differ per occupation. Ground handling has three shift schedules, early morning (from 4 a.m.), late shift (from 3 p.m.), and night shift (from 8 p.m.). The average working hours range between seven to nine hours a day, with a one hour break.


Communication is done in Japanese, which might be a huge hurdle for foreign workers in Japan. However, in the aviation industry, English speakers have an advantage because airplane companies such as Boeing and Airbus use English as the mode of instruction in their aircraft manuals. Although this is good news to some, we must not forget that licensure exams and the main mode of communication would still be in Japanese.  

Skill Requirements

After passing the Aviation Industry’s skills exam, there are many other skill requirements and qualifications required to do certain tasks in both Ground handling and Aircraft maintenance. The work assigned will depend on the skills and qualifications of the specified skills worker. 


Your income varies depending on your gender and age. Annual income ranges for new hires start from ¥3,000,000 to ¥5,000,000. Certainly, you are likely to get a higher salary if you gain more experience and skills, or get promoted to a higher position.

Job Prospect

The Japanese government is set to accommodate 2,200 foreign workers for the aviation industry alone. With the upcoming 2020 Olympic Games and growing inbound tourism, the frequency of air travel will increase. In turn, a shortage in the aviation industry, among many other industries, has been a prevalent issue.

Have you ever thought of getting into the aviation industry? Which job are you setting your eyes on?

 (29 October 2019)

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