Method 1 of 3: Preparing for a Career as a Flight Attendant
Know what the job entails. Flight attendants are caregivers, customer service professionals, and safety providers. They ensure that passengers have a safe and calm passage while they’re on the plane. They work hard to make sure everyone's comfortable while constantly wearing a friendly smile. Their responsibilities include:
Greeting passengers as they board the plane, and thanking them as they exit.
Helping passengers get seating and stow their luggage in the overhead bins.
Giving a presentation of the airline’s safety procedures.
Facilitating beverage and food services.
Answering passengers’ questions, and calming passengers who are anxious or upset.
Guiding passengers to safety in the event of an emergency, and administering first aid if necessary
- Get familiar with the benefits and drawbacks. In addition to getting the opportunity to travel all over the world on the job, flight attendants receive steeply discounted airline tickets for themselves and for their families. For many, this makes up for the fairly low pay (the entry-level salary is $18,000 per year) and the taxing hours a flight attendant must endure. A particularly grueling trip might include a ten-hour flight, a twenty-four-hour layover, another ten-hour flight, and so on. In addition to base pay, flight attendants also receive a "per diem" from under $2 to $3 per hour depending upon domestic or international assignments, to cover meals and incidental expenses while they are away from their base - even when on layover and not working. Thus, a flight attendant with a per diem of $3 per, receives an additional $72 for each day spent away from base.
- Understand the hierarchy. New flight attendant hires go through a few months of training before they become “junior” flight attendants. Junior flight attendants are under close scrutiny, and they receive lower pay and fewer benefits than “senior” flight attendants while they learn the ropes. After about a year of doing a satisfactory job, junior flight attendants get promoted to senior status, which gives them greater control over their hours.
- Make sure the lifestyle is right for you. Since flight attendants travel so much, they often have to make personal sacrifices. But flight attendants function as each other’s family, and they provide each other with a lot of support. Flight attendants usually have the following qualities:
- They’re fiercely independent. Flight attendants are able to navigate new places alone, and they enjoy being on their own, even if it means being away from their families during long trips.
- They live in the moment. Many flight attendants explore the nightlife in the cities they visit, or take advantage of the attractions each city has to offer. They enjoy having new experiences and finding something great about every city.
- They’re generous with time and space. Flight attendants don’t get a lot of personal space. They share their quarters with other flight attendants on longer trips. While flying, they have to put the customer first, even if they may be just as exhausted from being in the air for ten or more hours. Flight attendants have a cheerful attitude and uplift others under uncomfortable circumstances.
- Meet the physical requirements. Each airline has different physical requirements tailored to the dimensions of their planes. Airlines want to make sure that flight attendants are tall enough to reach the overhead bins, but not so tall that their head hits the ceiling of the plane. Airlines also require that flight attendants be able to sit in a seat and buckle the seat belt comfortably.
- The height range for most airlines is between 5’0” - 5’ 1” and 5’8” - 6’3”. Some airlines do not have height requirements, but instead require that you be able to reach a certain height.
- There is no numerical weight requirement, but many airlines do a visual assessment, looking at weight in proportion to height.
- In the 1960s, flight attendants were required to be females of a certain weight, and to retire before they reached a certain age. Some airlines continued these discriminatory practices through the 1980s and 1990s. Now men can be flight attendants, there is no numerical weight requirement, and people may continue working as flight attendants until they’re ready to retire.
- Have your GED. Airlines won’t hire people who don’t have their GED, but no higher education is required. That said, airlines do look favorably upon people who have a college degree, or even a few years of college under their belt. It shows that you’re ambitious and able to handle a challenge.
- Some companies offer “flight training programs,” but this is not a requirement before applying to airlines. You’ll receive training if you’re hired as a flight attendant.
- Have some customer service experience. The primary role of a flight attendant is to provide excellent customer service, so it really helps if you’ve worked in a similar role before. There are many types of jobs that count as customer service experience: answering phones for a company, working in retail, or working at the front desk of a small business all require interacting with and helping the public. This isn’t a mandatory requirement for all airlines, but it will help give you an edge.
- Research airlines to find job openings. Go to the websites of airlines that appeal to you and find their “careers” page. Make a list of all the jobs that appeal to you, and figure out whether you meet their requirements before proceeding.
- Some cities host flight attendant “open houses” to give potential flight attendants the chance to learn more about the career and meet employers. Do an online search to find out if there’s an open house coming up near you.
- Apply to open jobs. Most airlines will require that you submit an application with your basic information, a resume, and sometimes a cover letter. Make sure your application materials are clear and well-written, and stress your customer service experience.
- It may be a matter of days or as long as several weeks before you receive a telephone call or an email from the airlines to whom you have submitted an application.
- Most major airlines have only one city in the United States where they conduct interviews, so you may have to travel to your interviews. Know what makes each airline unique, and be prepared to discuss the qualities that make you right for this particular airline during your interview.
- Ace your interviews. Airlines are quite selective when it comes to hiring flight attendants; the right candidates must have a special mix of cool-headedness, endurance and the ability to provide excellent customer service. Show that you’re personable, responsible, and that you care about people’s safety and comfort. Be personable and don't forget to smile. Many interviews consist of two parts:
- In the first part, your customer service skills will be tested with a written examination.
- If you pass, the second part of the interview will test whether you have good leadership skills. You'll be asked how you would handle different scenarios that could occur while working a shift in the air. For example, what would you do in a emergency if the aircraft started to descent? Or how would you handle a drunk passenger?
- Use anecdotes to illustrate times when you handled a situation that required acting as a leader while others were anxious and stressed.
- Pass the medical exam. If you’re hired for a position, you’ll have to undergo a medical exam before the airline makes it official. Find out what the exam will entail and make sure you’ll be able to pass it.
- Excel during the training period. Every airline has a slightly different system for training flight attendants. You may be required to take an online course as well as do field training on a plane. You'll receive training regarding how to handle an emergency landing and evacuate a plane as well as how to answer customers' questions and operate the drinks cart. Depending on the airline, you may also receive instruction on how to make announcements to passengers.
- The four- to six-week training period is described by many as being difficult, but rewarding. Learn from your mistakes and always maintain a positive demeanor. Remember that every flight attendant started out as a rookie. You have a lot to learn, and a lot to look forward to.
- It's essential that you pass the training period in order to move into full-time status as a flight attendant. If you do not pass, your contract will be revoked. You may reapply after six months to a year, depending on the airline policy.