Flight Attendant Job and Qualifications

Flight attendants, also known as stewardesses, are an integral part of your flying experience. They make flight comfortable and assists in emergency situations. Unknown to many, working as a flight attendant is not all that glamorous. The job requires working long hours and being away from home for the most part. Many flight attendants relocate and live close to the airport they’re assigned to. If you’re good with this, read on to know more about a job as a flight attendant and the qualifications to be one.

Flight Attendant Duties and Responsibilities

One of a flight attendants main job is to make your flight comfortable. This means providing meals and beverages during a flight. More importantly, flight attendants also assist in emergency situations and provides safety measures before every flight. They are also in charge of some announcements and answer any questions you may have throughout the flight.

One hour before a flight is set to leave, attendants are typically briefed by the captain. This briefing touches on topics such as emergency evacuation procedures, flight length, expected weather conditions, and any issues that may have to do with the passengers.

Flight attendants are also the ones who ensure that all emergency equipment and first-aid kits are available aboard and in working order. This goes the same for the food and beverage supply as well as other amenities that the airline provides. Other minor duties of an FA include greeting passengers, assisting with luggage, accepting tickets, and directing passengers to their designated seats.

Additionally, they are also in charge of the upkeep of the plane’s passenger areas once all passengers have alighted. If there are any disruptive passengers, FAs are the ones that deal with them.

On the whole, work as a flight attendant is demanding. For the right person, however, it’s usually worth the hard work to be able to work on a job that resonates with them.

What is it like to work as a flight attendant?

As we all know, airlines operate the whole year regardless of holidays or weekends. This means that flight attendants usually work on holidays, weekends, and even night shifts.  The usual limit for on-duty time is 12 hours daily and could be more for international flights.

In total, flight attendants spend anywhere from 65 to 90 hours a month and about an additional 50 hours for ground preparation. Ground preparation covers any pre-flight work, report writing, and flight waiting time. Many airlines will guarantee their flight attendants at least 65 to 85 hours of flight time a month. However, FAs have the option to work additional hours. Those who work extra hours usually receive extra compensation.

Working as a flight attendant also means you’ll be away from home a lot. The good thing is you’ll be given meal allowances and hotel accommodations.

Another thing to keep in mind is that flights are bid for based on seniority. This means that you’ll be on call or on reserve status once you start. Once you’re in a senior enough position, you’ll be able to better choose your flights to maximize your hours on the plane.

More than the standard benefits that come with the work, you’ll get airfare discounts and will have the chance to visit new places.

Flight Attendant Qualifications

Flight attendant jobs have specific requirements depending on the airline you’re applying to. Although the usual age requirement is 18, some companies such as Delta Airlines require their FA’s to be at least 21. Your height must be anywhere from 5’0″ and 6’0″ without shoes (usually measured during the interview). In terms of educational requirements, you can get in with just a high school diploma or a GED equivalent.

If you want a leg up on other candidates, you have to have additional qualifications. Many airlines also prefer candidates with customer service experience. Strong verbal communication skills in English is also a must. Most airlines will also require you to relocate to any of their bases or headquarters. This is why you have to possess a valid passport or Visa, if necessary.

Your level of fitness or strength will also be assessed. This is because you have to be able to do tasks that require frequent standing, walking, and bending below ankle level. You’ll often have to reach above shoulder level as well and open and close emergency exits as well as aircraft doors weighing up to 45 lbs. Additionally, you’ll also have to push beverage cart weighing around 60 lbs. and lift items without assistance.

You’ll also need to complete a medical certification form and pass a pre-employment drug test by FAA. There will also be random tests like this throughout your stay in the company. The drug test administered by FAA will include screening for substances such as marijuana, cocaine, and opiates, to name a few. If you have any tattoos, you will be required to hide it while in uniform. Tattoos are not allowed to be concealed through makeup or bandages.

Flight Attendant Training Requirements

Virgin Atlantic Training
Virgin Atlantic Training

Once you’re hired by an airline, you’ll be required to undergo and pass training. Each airline will have its own training program set for a specific period (usually 3 to 8 weeks). This will depend on the type and size of carrier you’ll be assigned to. For airlines that don’t have their own training centers, new employees are typically sent to train on another airline’s center.

Some airlines also provide transportation allowance to the training centers. They may also include and allowances for room and boarding. However, there are also a select few that charge for training.

Keep in mind that trainees are usually not considered airline employees yet until they complete the training program. Airline training programs consist of emergency procedures, airplane evacuation, and emergency system operation, among others. Additionally, you’ll also be taught flight regulations and duties. Aside from that, you’ll gain knowledge of the company operations and policies of your airline. Some airlines also instruct their FAs on grooming and weight control. If a trainee is set to fly international routes, they’ll get additional instructions in customs regulations.

Trainees are also taught how to deal with disruptive or difficult passengers. This includes demanding passengers and hijackers as well as terrorists.

To pass the training, you must be able to perform the required drills and duties unaided. You will do this in front of the training staff. Throughout training, you will also take tests where failure means elimination from the program.

Before training ends, the remaining trainees will go on practice flights. Once you’ve successfully completed training, you will receive a Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency by FAA. Upon being hired, flight attendants are required to train yearly and pass a safety examination by FAA to be able to continue work.

Salary Comparison for New and Senior Flight Attendants

A veteran stewardess revealed the real figure of how much flight attendants really make is somewhere between $18,000 to $20,000. While flight attendants in regional carriers or smaller airline make even less than that. In fact, to get to the median salary of $40,000 that airlines say, you have to have acquired at least 10 years experience.

As an example, she shared a tweet by a flight attendant working 120 hours who said that whatever meager salary he or she earns is spent on vacations that he/she can’t afford.

Although 120 hours might not seem much, it translates to much longer hours than the standard job on the ground. In reality, flight attendants are only paid for their flight hours. Their time spent assisting passengers pre-flight is not paid. Whenever a flight is canceled, it means that the flight attendants don’t get paid as well. Many find another trip to make up for the lost hours.

This is why senior flight attendants always pick long haul flight in order to make the most out of their time in the air. If you’re up to these terms,

Flight Attendant Job Growth in 2016

flight attendant job

Flight attendant hiring reached its peak in 2015 and it’s expected that this increase will continue until the end of 2016. More specifically, flight attendant employment is set to grow at 11 percent. This is on par with the outlook of most occupations in 2016.

This growth is largely attributed to an improving economy and is, therefore, set to boost of people wanting to travel. In turn, many airlines are currently expanding their capacity to meet this demand by adding more planes in operation, which in turn requires more flight attendants.

Nonetheless, competition remains stiff as flight attendant jobs are one of the most sought after careers to date. In fact, Delta Airlines received more than 40,000 applications for 1,500 of their flight attendant openings. While US Airways received over 20,000 applications for an opening for 1,000 positions. Southwest also received similar numbers with 10,000 applications for the 750 vacancies they had, which they received in just two hours.

Experts say that to have the best chances of being hired, you should be at least a college graduate with an experience of working with the public. Better job opportunities are also in store for regional and charter airlines due to their fast growth.

Flight Attendant Job Opportunities in 2016

The year 2016 and the coming year are also ripe with job opportunities for flight attendants looking to work for private aircraft. Many of the job opportunities that will be available throughout the year will stem from flight attendants leaving the workforce to transfer to other jobs. The common reason for this is to obtain higher earnings or have a more stable lifestyle.

However, there are still fewer flight attendants leaving their jobs and job turnover is lower compared to past figures. The average job tenure for stewardesses is around 14 years and is set to increase over the years. Opportunities for those seeking flight attendant jobs is likely to improve in line with the growth of the airline industry.

Despite this, demand for flight attendants is likely to fluctuate in the next 10 years. The primary reason for this are the ever changing demands of air travel, which is highly dependent on the state of the economy. As air traffic declines, it follows that hiring of flight attendants also decreases as well. In worst case scenarios, some seasoned flight attendants may be laid off until such time the industry recovers.

Top Sites for Flight Attendant Jobs

If you’re actively looking for flight attendant jobs, here are some of the top sites that post stewardess jobs.

    • Monster.com – As one of the world’s biggest job sites, Monster.com frequently posts the latest flight attendant jobs from small to large airlines in various states across the country. They also post various flight attendant related jobs for those that want a related ground job in the aviation field.
    • FlightAttendantCareer.com – This site focuses on flight attendant specific jobs from all over the world such as Canada, New Zealand, and much more. They update their site regularly and has one of the most comprehensive job listings for a wide variety of airlines.
    • PayScale.com – Although this site is not specific to flight attendants per se, they run a job feed from Indeed which features FA jobs in the whole of United States.
    • United.com – United is an airline company that features its own career section on its site. Their FA jobs are often based New York and San Francisco City airports. They also hire a lot of flight attendants who know other foreign languages such as Cantonese, French, and Dutch, to name just a few. For more info, check out their site linked here.
    • AirlineCareer.com – Air Career frequently publishes an updated list of flight attendant hiring updates from airlines such as Emirates and SkyWest, to name a few. Each listing includes the cities and dates where the open house interviews are going to happen.

Should you pursue a job as a flight attendant?

If you don’t mind the above information and still like to be a flight attendant, then, by all means, do so! It will help if you have a dynamic personality and a people person as well. Becoming a flight attendant is a tough job, but an amazing experience for the right person. Many airlines don’t usually require previous experience. But to be able to pass the applicant phase, you have to show that you possess standout customer service skills. A love of travel and adventure would definitely help too!

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