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How to Become a Flight Attendant
Have a desire to travel the world, but want to make some money while doing so? If so, then becoming a flight attendant may be a great fit for you! Working on planes traveling across the country (and even across the world), flight attendants are responsible for keeping passengers’ needs met. They help passengers find their seats, provide food and drinks, and even demonstrate how to use planes’ safety equipment. In between flights, they may even get the chance to do some sightseeing around their destinations.
If this sounds interesting to you, keep on reading for a step-by-step guide on how to become a flight attendant!
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What is a flight attendant?
If you’ve been on a plane before, you’re probably vaguely familiar with the duties of a flight attendant. It may seem as if they carry out many customer-service-like duties, including interacting with those on the plane and handing out foods and beverages as needed. While this is true, what may surprise many people is that the primary responsibility of a flight attendant is to keep passengers safe. Thus, a large part of their training includes going over safety procedures and emergency protocols. Luckily for most, they’ll never actually have to employ this training on a real flight. However, it’s still good to be aware of such responsibilities to know what you may be expected to do in more extreme situations.
With that said, here are some of the more common and far less common duties of flight attendants:
- Attend preflight briefings with pilots to get flight information for each trip
- Inspect emergency equipment before each flight
- Ensure that the plane’s cabin is clean and filled with food and beverages
- Ensure that all passengers are prepared for takeoff and landing
- Offer food and beverages to passengers during flights
- Assist passengers who are young children, those who have special needs, and those who require medical assistance
- Calm disruptive passengers and keeping an eye out for suspicious behavior
- In the case of an emergency: help passengers find and use safety equipment, put out fires, and direct evacuations
- Report safety or medical issues that arose during a flight
Pros of being a flight attendant
Before we get into the process of becoming a flight attendant, it’s best we go over the pros and cons of the job. This way, you’ll get a more realistic view of what the job entails. Then, if you sense that the job might not be right for you, you can save yourself the time of reading further. Alternatively, you may decide that you love it even more and choose to read on!
For now, here are some pros of becoming a flight attendant:
- You get paid to see the world
- With hotel and food expenses paid for
- Discounted or free plane tickets
- Some companies even give flying benefits to employees’ families and friends
- You make lifelong friends with similar interests (i.e. traveling)
- You gain and improve your people/social skills
- As there’s no routine, you’ll never get bored!
- Can pick where you live (i.e. your base)
- Can choose your lifestyle
- Determined by the type of carrier(s) you apply to, but we’ll explain this more later!
- Can personalize your schedule (once you’ve gained a little seniority)
- Discounts for many hotels, car rentals, medical services, spa treatments, and other services
Cons of being a flight attendant
Evidently, there are many unique upsides to becoming a flight attendant. You get to travel around the world at little to no cost, all with friends by your side. However, this does not mean that the job comes with no responsibilities or struggles. Although a flight attendant is certainly a unique job, this also means it comes with unique problems. While this aspect of the job may be compelling to some, it may be a turn-off for others. Nevertheless, here are some of the (potential) cons of becoming a flight attendant:
- You miss important events
- Holidays, birthdays, weddings, baby showers, etc.
- Lots of time commuting
- Especially if you don’t live near your base
- Less time with family and friends
- Irregular sleeping schedule + jet lag
- Bad eating habits due to airplane food
- Low pay at first (before you establish seniority)
- You largely work “on-call” at the beginning of your career
- Meaning you have little to no control over your schedule/time
- Difficult to establish relationships with non-flight attendants due to irregular schedule
- Whether platonic or romantic
- Can be very stressful
And that’s it! Although it may seem as if there are a lot of downsides to being a flight attendant, keep in mind that many flight attendants still truly love their profession. It really is a one of a kind opportunity, so we encourage you not to be discouraged if it’s your dream career. With that said, let’s get into how you can fulfill those dreams!
Step-by-step outline on how to become a flight attendant
Another upside to becoming a flight attendant is that it’s a (relatively) simple process. Besides a high school degree, no further education is required in order to secure the job. However, there are a few basic requirements you might have to meet in order to be a flight attendant. Here they are:
- Be at least 18 years old (may be higher for certain airlines or carriers)
- Have a current passport
- Have at least 20/40 vision
- Pass a drug test, background check, and medical examination
- Meet an airline’s height requirements
- Have no visible tattoos
- Be able to complete a range of physical tasks
- Such as pushing, pulling, bending, and lifting with reasonable accommodation
Meet all of those? We certainly hope so! If not, just try to meet them by the time you start applying for flight attendant positions.
For now, let’s get into the first step towards becoming a flight attendant!
1. Obtain your high school diploma
As mentioned before, those looking to become flight attendants must have earned either a high school diploma or a GED. During high school, taking courses which emphasize good communication skills will help later on, but is not necessary.
2. Pursue postsecondary education (optional)
After graduating from high school, you have the option of pursuing postsecondary education. While this is certainly not a necessary step in becoming a flight attendant, having earned an undergraduate degree may make you a more attractive job applicant down the road. So, let’s check out your options.
Receiving an associate’s or bachelor’s degree
Your first choice would be to receive either an associate’s or bachelor’s degree. While associate’s degrees typically take two years to complete, bachelor’s degrees take an average of four years. If you decide to obtain either of these degrees in the pursuit of becoming a flight attendant, it may be best to major in an area that emphasizes hospitality, communication, or travel. We would also recommend trying to learn a foreign language (or a few) during this time. Doing so will not only enhance your application, but will make it easier to communicate with customers from all around the globe.
Completing a flight attendant training program
Another postsecondary education option that will certainly help prepare you for the work of a flight attendant is to complete a flight attendant training program. These are sometimes offered by community colleges. So, if you’re interested, we would highly recommend checking out the community colleges in your area.
Common courses to be expected in flight attendant training programs include those covering airline operations, air transportation, cultural geography, and first aid and cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Some programs may even offer classes in computerized reservations and physical science. Once completed, these programs typically grant either certificates or associate’s degrees.
3. Accumulate customer service skills + experience (recommended)
After receiving your high school diploma, and possibly even an undergraduate degree, it’s time for the next step! This would be to accumulate customer service skills and experience. Although this is not a “necessary” part of becoming a flight attendant, it is certainly recommended to improve your application. After all, a large part of the job is communicating with and assisting customers on flights. So, getting used to interacting with customers certainly can’t hurt!
The good news is that accumulating customer service experience can be done in a wide variety of settings and jobs, including:
- Restaurant jobs
- Hotel jobs
- Resort jobs
- Retail jobs
- Movie theater jobs
- + any job that allows you to interact with customers
4. Apply, and interview!
Once you have some customer service experience under your belt, it’s time to apply for flight attendant positions! You can typically do so on airline websites. Before you apply, we simply recommend making sure that you fulfill the age, height, and other requirements outlined by the airline. Doing so will ultimately save you time so you don’t spend time applying to a job you don’t qualify for.
Besides your own qualifications, you should also be sure that you’re applying to airlines you’d want to work for. So, let’s get into some factors you should consider before applying to airlines.
Choosing where to apply
A large portion of deciding what flight attendant positions to apply to has to do with your travel and living preferences. Thus, the first major factor you should consider is your base. This is where you’ll start and finish working from. As each airline typically has a number of bases throughout the country, we would recommend making sure that your airline has base cities you’d enjoy living in. To do so, do your research! Be sure to look up the bases for the airlines you’re applying to ahead of time.
Next up: would you prefer having layovers between flights to go sightseeing and travel, or would you prefer being able to sleep in your own bed every night?
If your answer is the former (traveling during layovers), we’d highly recommend applying to charter or mainline carriers. Doing so means you’ll likely have more international flights with longer hours, more passengers, and more travel time!
Alternatively, if you’d prefer to sleep in your own bed every night, consider applying to low budget or regional carriers. These typically fly within the country, have fewer passengers per flight, and will allow you to fly from and back to your base every workday.
Once you’ve figured out your preferences, it’s time to apply! We wish you the best of luck with your applications. Just keep in mind that it can take weeks or even months to hear back from airlines. So, in the meantime, we would highly recommend sticking with your current job.
5. Prepare for and complete flight attendant interviews
If an airline is interested in your application, you’ll more than likely be called in for an interview (or a few). While the first interview will likely be a phone or group interview, the proceeding ones may be one-on-ones. We would recommend dressing professionally, and doing some preparation beforehand by looking up what questions are typically asked in flight attendant interviews. Remember to emphasize why you’d be a great choice to represent the airline. If you have previous customer service experience, we’d recommend mentioning that too! The airlines will more than likely want to hire someone with previous experience communicating with and serving customers.
6. Undergo flight attendant training
If the interviews all go well, you’ll more than likely be offered a flight attendant position. So, congratulations! Now that your job is secured, all that’s left is training and obtaining certification.
Once you’re hired, your new airline will reach out with instructions on how your training will go. This training will typically occur at an airline’s flight training center and will take between three and six weeks to complete. During this time, flight attendant trainees can expect to receive classroom instruction on flight regulations, job duties, and company operations. They will also learn how to handle emergency procedures, operate emergency equipment, and even deal with disruptive passengers. Nearing the end of your training, you will be evaluated for your performance on practice flights.
For the duration of one’s instruction, trainees can expect to live at or near their training center. While the airlines will typically cover the costs of lodging and transportation, individuals may be required to pay for their own meals. Depending on one’s airline, the training may be either paid or unpaid.
7. Obtain your Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency
After finishing training and successfully demonstrating your ability to carry out your expected duties, the director of operations at your airline will apply for your Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency from the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Once the FAA confirms your record and you obtain certification, you will then be eligible to work on flights for a particular type of aircraft (yay!).
However, keep in mind that this does not signify the end of your training. To maintain certification, you will be required to retrain periodically and take FAA-administered safety examinations. Further, if you happen to change carriers at any time, you will have to undergo an additional one- to two-period day of training. On the bright side, any additional training will typically be provided by the airline you work for. Thus, you will not be expected to look for training resources yourself.
8. Complete reserve status
You are now ready to begin your career as a flight attendant! Perhaps, you’ve even already started. Either way, it’s good that we go over some basics of what to expect when you start out.
Typically, newly-certified flight attendants do not have a “regular” schedule. Rather, they’re expected to work on “reserve” status. This means that you’ll work largely on-call, filling in for other flight attendants or working on extra flights. During this time, we would recommend having your overnight bag packed and phone ringer on in case you are called at a moment’s notice to hop on a flight for work. While this sounds quite difficult, keep in mind that it’s only temporary! While a few airlines may require new flight attendants to be on “reserve” for over a year, the vast majority will stick to a year of reserve status. Further, you’ll typically be assigned specific days to be on-call. Thus, you won’t have to spend every minute worrying about whether or not you’ll be called in.
While being on reserve may sound tough, we’re sure that you’ll be able to get through it. Remember: the longer you stick with an airline, the more seniority and choices you’ll have!
9. (Flight) Attend, and advance!
As you start and stick with your flight attendant career, you’ll notice that it’ll get easier. Not only will you get more used to the position, but your seniority will give you extra perks too.
With years of experience flight attend-ing under your belt, you’ll have the seniority to choose your preferred base, routes, and schedule. You may even get to mentor and train new flight attendants or help schedule others.
And with that, we’re done! If you choose to pursue a career as a flight attendant, we hope you are able to fulfill all your dreams. Whether that means traveling the world or simply learning how to stay upright during turbulence, there are truly few more exciting professions.
So, we hope you love it. Remember to reach for the stars!
Frequently asked questions
How long does it take to become a flight attendant?
Unfortunately, there is no one clear answer to how long it takes to become a flight attendant. This is because, besides a high school degree, there is no other education required in order to get the job. Further, while some will allow 18 year olds to apply, others have a slightly higher minimum age requirement for applicants. This causes some prospective flight attendants to pursue further schooling in the meantime.
Additionally, it takes some longer to be accepted to flight attendant programs than others. While it may take only months for some to get into flight attendant training programs, it could potentially take others years. This is due to the competitiveness of the field, causing open positions to fill up fast. On the bright side, if you are accepted to such a program, they only take between three and six weeks to complete!
Thus, how long it takes to become a flight attendant is highly dependent on the path you choose to take. Considering schooling, getting into a flight attendant program, and a number of other factors, it can take anywhere between a few months and a few years to become a flight attendant.
Do flight attendants make good money?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, flight attendants made an average of $59,050 in 2020. However, this average varied across industries, with some flight attendants making more than others. Those working in scheduled air transportation made an average salary of $59,220 in 2020. Flight attendants in nonscheduled air transportation made $57,320, while those in support activities for air transportation made roughly $48,550.