A flight attendant's primary responsibility is to make sure safety regulations on airplanes are followed. They also do what they can to make sure passengers are comfortable during their flights.
Flight attendants held about 90,500 jobs in 2010. Most of these jobs were with commercial airlines. Others were with corporations or chartered flight companies. Flight attendants are typically on duty 12 to 14 hours but working on international flights may require more time. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) mandates that there is at least a nine hour break between two on-duty periods. Flight attendants often work evenings, weekends and holidays.
Those who are new to this occupation work reserve status, which means they are on call and can be called to work at any time. Fortunately, more regular schedules come with seniority.
While a high school diploma is the minimum requirement for anyone who wants to become a flight attendant, many employers prefer to hire job candidates who have a college degree. All newly hired flight attendants receive three to six weeks of formal training from their employers.
Those who want to work as flight attendants must be at least 18 years old. Airlines prefer to hire job candidates who have experience working with the public. There are also height requirements since flight attendants must be able to reach overhead bins. Vision must be correctable to 20/40 or better. Flight attendants must be certified by the FAA. This requires one to pass a proficiency check after completing his or her employer's initial training program. Certification applies to only the specific type of aircraft on which an individual is trained.
Your formal training will prepare you for your job, but you need specific soft skills—personal characteristics—in order to be successful. You must be attentive to peoples' needs. Excellent communication will allow you to interact well with passengers. Strong customer service skills will help you during stressful situations. You will also need good listening skills to help you understand passengers' needs.
Once they complete formal training, new flight attendants are placed on reserve status where they could remain for at least one year, but as many as five to 10 years. This means they work when called upon to fill in for absent or
vacationing employees or on extra flights. After being on reserve status for a while, they can bid for regular assignments. They generally get their choices based on seniority. Because flight attendants remain in their jobs for a longer period than in the past, advancement takes more time.
The job outlook for flight attendants isn't good. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects this occupation to experience little or no change through 2020. There will be more applicants than there will be job openings so if you
want to enter this field, you should expect lots of competition. The retirement of current workers may lead to job openings for new ones, but only if airlines don't decide to cut their workforces.