What is a Flight Attendant?
A flight attendant is someone whose primary duty is to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers during an airline flight. They are part of the cabin crew for the plane, a team of personnel who operate a commercial, business, or even military aircraft while traveling domestically or internationally. Since the career began in 1912, male flight attendants have also been known as stewards or air hosts and females as stewardesses or air hostesses. Flight attendants are specially trained for the aircraft in which they work, since passenger safety is their foremost concern.
What does a Flight Attendant do?
Almost all of the flight attendant's duties are safety-related, though customer service is also important. Approximately one hour before each flight, attendants are briefed by their captain. Weather conditions, possible turbulence, flight duration, and other factors that may affect the upcoming flight are discussed in detail. They are also briefed on safety details and emergency equipment supplies relevant to the aircraft they will be flying. A list of passengers is verified and attendants are notified if any special needs passengers, small children, or VIPs will be boarding the flight.
After the briefing, flight attendants inspect the aircraft, ensuring the safety equipment is in place and working properly. If a piece of equipment, such as a fire extinguisher, is found unserviceable, flight attendants must replace the item prior to takeoff. Once passengers are called to board, flight attendants assist with the boarding process. They aid any special needs passengers, children, or VIPs to ensure they receive the proper care while boarding. Tickets and seating positions are verified, and attendants check for both accuracy and possible fraudulent or stolen tickets. Attendants also monitor passengers; they are trained to detect suspicious behaviour and evidence of malicious intent, to prevent hijacking or terrorism. In addition, they help passengers load carry-on baggage, checking that each adheres to aircraft or airline size and weight restrictions.
Flight attendants are also responsible for briefing the passengers on safety standards specific to the aircraft in a safety demonstration. Passengers are made aware of how to locate their nearest emergency exit, how to properly buckle their safety belts, what to do in the event of turbulence, how to operate safety vests or flotation devices, and how to use the drop-down oxygen masks. In some cases, passengers will watch a short video covering this information while the flight attendant monitors their behaviour. After the safety demonstration, attendants secure the cabin, making sure electronic devices and cell phones are turned off, carry-ons are stowed correctly, seats are in an upright position, and tray tables are stowed. The entire procedure, from boarding to takeoff, is known as pre take off service.
After the plane is safely in the air, flight attendants check for passenger comfort. They deliver headphones or pillows to passengers who request them and serve food or drinks. In addition to serving the customers, flight attendants must conduct regular safety checks and listen for unusual noises. Once the plane begins its descent, attendants must ensure all trash has been removed from the cabin and seats are in their correct positions before performing a final safety check. After landing, attendants assist passengers in safely deplaning the aircraft.
What is the workplace of a Flight Attendant like?
Since airlines operate day and night and year-round, flight attendants must have a flexible schedule. Generally, they work no more than 12 hours per day, but may in some cases - especially in the event of oversea international flights - work 14 hours or more. Attendants also work on holidays and weekends and typically fly for 65 to 90 hours per month, with another 50 hours spent on the ground preparing or waiting for flights.
Frequently Asked Questions
Are Flight Attendants happy?
Flight attendants rank in the 68th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.
In order to be a good flight attendant, one has to genuinely like people and want to make them feel comfortable and happy. Of course, it is impossible to make everyone happy. Not everyone on a flight will be in a good mood, and flight attendants do their best to be understanding and often try to turn negative situations around as best as they can.
For new flight attendants that are set in their ways, this lifestyle in the sky often helps them to let go of expectations and a need to control everything. Since flight attendants don’t get to pick their schedules, the spontaneous nature of the job often adds colour and interest to life. Delays are typical, long flights reach the destination eventually, difficult passengers have to exit at some point, and uncomfortable situations are not forever.
Flight attendants create friendships all over the world, and one can travel far away on a whim, which offers the opportunity to create unexpected relationships. At the same time, the ability to be in many places for a short amount of time diminishes the power to maintain these relationships as one would like.
This career beautifully blends hospitality with travel and tourism making it an excellent choice for individuals who want to provide service to people while seeing the world. However, it's important to weigh all the positives as well as the negatives and see if it would be a fit for your specific personality.
How long does it take to become a Flight Attendant?
Once a flight attendant is hired, airlines provide their initial training, ranging from three to six weeks. The training usually takes place at the airline’s flight training centre and must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
New flight attendants are then placed on call (or reserve status), and must be able to report to the airport on short notice to staff extra flights or fill in for absent crew members. Flight attendants usually remain on reserve status for at least one year, but in some cities it could be up to several years. After this stretch of time, flight attendants gain enough seniority to bid on monthly assignments.
Steps to becoming a Flight Attendant
The minimum requirement for flight attendants is a high school diploma, though a post-secondary degree, especially with a focus in public relations, is preferred. After being hired by an airline and passing background checks and drug tests, attendants train for six weeks to six months, depending on the country and airline requirements. Typically, they are trained at the airline's hub or headquarters and earn a Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency after successful completion of the program.
Training focuses primarily on safety for both the crew and passengers. Attendants are trained in first aid and can perform CPR and defibrillation, when required. After training, they are able to handle minor injuries, nosebleeds, and illness. Procedures are also outlined for how to handle on-board births and deaths, dangerous liquids or gasses released into the cabin, and intoxicated passengers.
In the event of an emergency, flight attendants know how to safely evacuate passengers from the plane and fight fires. They are taught survival skills in the event of a decompression emergency or remote emergency landing in a jungle, sea, or desert environment. In many cases, attendants are also taught self-defence and even the use of deadly force in the event of a terrorist attack or hijacking.
In addition to safety training, flight attendants learn good weight-management and personal grooming procedures. While they are no longer restricted to a particular weight, attendants must maintain an appropriate weight in proportion to their height in order to work in the tight, cramped spaces on an aircraft. Height requirements are also in place to ensure attendants are able to reach safety equipment in the event of an emergency. In addition, personal grooming habits must be impeccable not only to put across a positive impression to customers, but to prevent the spread of illness and disease.
Should I become a Flight Attendant?
If you are contemplating becoming a flight attendant, but aren't 100% sure yet, here are some tidbits of information that may help you in making your decision.
Adventure - No two days are alike - the people, places, culture and food that flight attendants experience are sometimes life changing.
Discounts - Flight attendants get discounts at airport shops, restaurants, hotels, rental cars, city tours and cruises. Some airlines also offer additional discounts to shows, amusement parks, etc. This is on top of free or discounted standby flights.
Time Off - Depending on the schedule, flight attendants could have a couple of weeks off per month. This amounts to six months of work spread out over a calendar year.
Alone Time - On layovers, flight attendants can use their down time as mini-vacations by relaxing, reading a book, getting a massage, or getting some much needed sleep.
Visiting Friends & Family - Sometimes layovers happen to be in places where family or friends live. This gives flight attendants an opportunity to get caught up and enjoy time with loved ones.
Shopping - Flight attendants may be able to shop in New York, L.A., Shanghai, or Dubai depending on where they fly to next - the shopping destinations are endless.
Restaurants - Every city or country has its food specialty. The chance to eat authentic, local food is a big plus whether you are a foodie or just hungry after your flight.
Uniforms - Flight attendants save a lot of money on clothing and accessories, which is especially great when one is just starting out and on a tight budget.
Being Away From Home - This lifestyle is not everybody's cup of tea. Flight attendants may be on the road for two, three or four days or even an entire week. They live out of a suitcase so it's good to ask yourself if you are more of a homebody.
Restaurants - Eating in restaurants can be expensive. In order to save money, flight attendants have been known to survive for days on juice boxes, ramen noodles, and granola bars.
Jet Lag - Flight attendants eventually learn how to live with the sleep deprivation and dehydration that comes with flying in a pressurized cabin and through several time zones. If this is not something you think you can get used to, it might be better to work in the airport rather than on an airplane.
Enclosed Spaces - If you don’t like confined spaces or you are a smoker, this may not be the career for you.
Socializing - Flight attendants are automatic spokespersons for their airline, answering people's questions and directing them to the nearest gate, restaurant, or bathroom. They also act as sounding boards for people's concerns and complaints. It would be very difficult to do this job well if you secretly dislike people.
The Unexpected - No two days are alike, so if you prefer a routine type of job, the unscheduled landings, flight cancellations and unplanned layovers will not be to your liking.
Working on Holidays - Flight attendants that are just starting out typically work all holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving). For the first few years of their career, they are usually not home for special holidays as most airlines run on a seniority-based system.
Children, The Elderly and the Infirm - Wheelchair passengers, unaccompanied minors, passengers traveling with service animals etc., all require patience and understanding on the part of the flight attendant. If having patience and empathy is difficult for you, this career may not be a fit. Also, if the idea of serving coffee, picking up someone’s garbage or cleaning a bathroom is distasteful, a less hands on career may be a better choice.
Repetition - Every flight attendant reads from a similar script - “please turn off your cell phone; buckle your seatbelt; stow your bags etc.” These reminders are repeated hundreds of times throughout a flight attendant's career so ask yourself if you can handle the broken record aspect of the job.
Make a list of what does or does not appeal to you about the flight attendant lifestyle, and after weighing the pros and cons you will be able to determine if this is a career you'd like to pursue. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to make an informed career decision.
Flight Attendants are also known as:
In-Flight Crew Member Cabin Crew Member Stewardess Air Host Air Hostess Cabin Attendant Airline Stewardess Airline Steward