How to Become a Flight Attendant

What You Need to Know About Becoming a Flight Attendant

Requirements:

  • Willingness to relocate
  • Must be a minimum of 18 or 21 years old, depending on the airline

Education:

Good news: you won’t need a PhD to become a flight attendant, but you will need to at least have your GED, if not some secondary education. Other degrees that can give you a leg up:

  • Hospitality
  • Social work
  • Psychology

Other things that will make you stand out

  • Languages: it helps if you know a second or third language
  • Experience in another country
  • Customer service experience
  • Flight attendant training school: usually a 12-week course that will give you a good sense about what the job involves. You can find these courses online, but make sure to check for a reputable one. Look for those backed by a union and/or those that have had graduates who’ve actually gotten jobs as flight attendants. Some colleges also offer courses for flight attendants.

Attitude

There’s a reason that guy from JetBlue told off a passenger on the intercom then slid down the emergency exit while sipping a beer. Passengers can be a giant pain in the, well they can be challenging. So it’s important to have a positive attitude and patience for all the different circumstances and personalities you’ll face on any given day. Introverts and folks who hate dealing with people need not apply. To be a great flight attendant, you’ll need to be:

  • Friendly
  • Cheerful
  • Helpful
  • Reliable
  • Able to think fast in stressful situations

Appearance:

OK, so it’s not the 50’s anymore. You don’t have to be a supermodel in order to serve people warm Cokes and be able to demonstrate how to use the oxygen mask.

That said, most airlines have pretty specific guidelines regarding appearance:

  • Height: you can’t be too tall lest you not fit in the plane nor too short lest you can’t reach the luggage rack.
  • Must be in shape: you’ll spend 12 hours a day lifting luggage, walking around and helping people, not to mention having to deal with irregular sleeping and eating.
  • No visible tattoos or piercings (other than ears)
  • No bizarre makeup, jewelry or hairstyles
  • No poorly-manicured hands (hey, we told you they were specific)

Looking for the job

If you are a moderately educated, not-too-tall and not-too-short person with a positive attitude, then the next thing you want to do is start looking for job openings. Keep in mind that this is a fairly competitive business, so send your resume to several airlines. Being aggressive during the application process will improve your chances of landing that dream job you know the one, where you handle all those regional flights out of Toledo. Here’s where to look for job postings:

  • Airline websites
  • Newspapers
  • Online job sites
  • Social media, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn (smaller airlines might use these sites)

Once You’re Hired

    • If you’re hired, you’ll go through six weeks of intense training, sometimes including weekends, where you learn about emergency equipment, firefighting and emergency scenarios. You’ll also learn about customer service and be tested every step of the way.
    • Depending on the airline, your salary might start at $14 to $20 an hour. Senior crew members can make up to $50 an hour depending on the airline (this is flight hours which average 75 hours a month, plus a per diem $1.50 to $2 an hour).

The Joys (and Headaches) of Being a Flight Attendant

So what are the benefits of having to be chipper even when you’re dead tired while wearing a sweater vest and matching polyester pants? The free (or at least super cheap) travel, of course! Depending on the airline, you can fly standby for $0 to $30. If you want to go somewhere your employer doesn’t fly, other airlines will sell standby tickets to crew for 75-95 percent off the cost of a regular ticket. Other benefits include:

  • 10-20 days off a month depending on seniority
  • Travel benefits for family and friends
  • Discounts on hotels, cars and sometimes cruises
  • Health benefits
  • Employee stock options (on some airlines)
  • 401K

Drawbacks

Of course, the life of a flight attendant isn’t all palm trees and margaritas. Until you get some seniority, you’re on reserve, which means the airline can call you any time of the day or night. There are also “short calls,” when you can be called to be at the airport for duty within an hour or two. On occasion, you may even have to stay at the airport all day on call. This fun status, called “reserve,” can last from a couple of months to a couple of years. After that, you become a line holder and you bid for your schedule each month.

 

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Published: September 16, 2011