Employment Trends

Learning to Fly: How to Become a Flight Attendant

Written by Kate Lopaze

ever since commercial flying became a travel option for the masses, the role of flight attendant has been one full of appeal and mystique. travel the world! smile brightly as you usher people through the aggravations and indignities of modern travel! it sounds great, right? even as air travel has become both more common and more complicated, the flight attendants still have an air of glamour about them. their job is to make sure we’re safe and happy as we sit in a steel sky bus for hours at a time, and they do it well.

idealized dreams of travel and adventure are one thing, and a solid career path is another. if you’re not prone to airsickness, and don’t mind the idea of traveling almost constantly, this really can be a great line of work for you. now that we’ve thankfully moved beyond the days of barbie-esque flight attendants with short skirts and even shorter career spans due to “aging out,” the flight attendant world is bigger and more diverse than ever before. let’s take a look at what it takes to become a flight attendant.

the benefits

again, the passport stamps are nice, but being a flight attendant comes with a pretty appealing set of pluses. according to the flight academy, most airlines offer their flight attendants:

  • paid, on-the-job training
  • medical, dental, and life insurance
  • a 401(k) retirement plan
  • long-term disability coverage
  • performance-based bonuses
  • paid vacation and holidays
  • discounts on other travel and hospitality services

the qualifications

although restrictions on age and weight have loosened over the years, there may be some limited physical requirements, born out of working in a small space and needing to be mobile for hours at a time on a moving aircraft. typically, flight attendants are physically:

  • 4’11″- 6’4” tall (requirements vary according to airline requirements), with weight proportional.
  • 19 to 60 years old.
  • without tattoos, facial piercings, or other obvious body modifications.
  • able to wear contacts if they have vision issues.
  • neat in appearance and well-groomed.
  • able to stay on their feet for long periods of time.

there are also usually minimum educational, experience, and language requirements. depending on a particular airline’s policies, flight attendants will likely need to be:

  • a u.s. citizen or able to work legally in the u.s., if applying for a u.s.-based airline.
  • free of a criminal background, particularly felonies.
  • fluent in english.
  • a high school graduate, ged recipient, or higher.
  • well-versed in customer service.
  • adept at problem solving on the fly (pun intended).

although the image of a cookie cutter flight attendants are more a relic of the mad men era, each airline may have additional appearance standards for their customer-facing flight attendants.

the decision

if you meet these initial criteria, your next step is to decide whether you want to move forward with becoming a flight attendant. questions you should consider:

  • can you pass a criminal background check and a drug test?
  • can you work in tight spaces and stay mobile for extended periods of time?
  • can you sell in-flight services and products on behalf of your airline?
  • do you possess strong customer service skills? (meaning, are you likely to keep your cool when people are less-than civil in a contained space?)
  • are you willing to learn and perform basic emergency medical and lifesaving skills as necessary (anti-choking maneuvers, cpr, etc.)?
  • are you willing to relocate as necessary, travel frequently, and be away from home?
  • are you willing to work unpredictable shifts, including nights, weekends, and holidays?
  • can you commit to a rigorous training program?

if the answer to any of those questions is “no,” then perhaps it’s time to look at a different career path. but if you’re full of “yes”es all the way down the list, then the next step is looking at what it takes to become a flight attendant.

the training

airlines typically have in-house training programs, but there are also independent educational programs (like this one) that coach you on the daily tasks and responsibilities of the job, as well as teaching necessary skills like cpr/first aid, crisis management, customer service, and more.

all flight attendants need to be certified by the federal aviation administration (faa). this certification typically follows the intensive 3 – 6 week training course offered by the hiring airline. as they get closer to completing their training, flight attendants go on test flights before they can receive their faa certificate of demonstrated proficiency.

the outlook

according to the u.s. bureau of labor statistics, the median salary for flight attendants is $44,860 per year, with about average growth over the next ten years.

if you have people skills and a roaming spirit, becoming a flight attendant could be a fantastic career option for you. what do you think—are you ready to take to the skies for your next big career opportunity?

looking to start a career as a flight attendant, or find a new job in the field? search for flight attendant jobs in your area of the country. happy flying!

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About the author

Kate Lopaze

Kate Lopaze is a writer, editor, and digital publishing professional based in New York City. A graduate of the University of Connecticut and Emerson College with degrees in English and publishing, she is passionate about books, baseball, and pop culture (though not necessarily in that order), and lives in Brooklyn with her dog.

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