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How do I become a flight attendant?
This question is what originally inspired me to create a blog. Over the past year in my new career, this is the question I have been asked the most. The answer, though, isn’t clear-cut and is different for everyone. I know a lot of flight attendants who say the job just fell into their laps. But for me, I realized I wanted this career about a year before graduating from college, so I had a year to prepare. This is how I prepared and what I did before landing my dream job.
1. Understand the job description and prepare yourself for it
Many people who have come to me for advice think the job is something completely different than what it is.
A flight attendants job is primarily about SAFETY!!!
For a very detailed and generic description of the job visit this website.
I have seen “flight attendant schools” advertised online- DON’T do it! You absolutely do not need this in order to land the job. You also do not necessarily need a college degree (although some airlines will prefer that you do). Most airlines require you to have a high school degree and at least 2 years of customer service. A background in something safety related is also a plus. My customer service experience came from working at Chick-fil-A and my safety experience came from being a camp counselor, an intramural sports referee, as well taking a course through the Red Cross and becoming certified in CPR/AED, although this isn’t required.
You must have a valid passport and there might be a height requirement and/or you might have to do a “reach test”. This is to make sure you can reach into the overhead bins and reach safety equipment.
Your personality is also important for this job. You need to be someone who is very flexible, adaptable, and good at time management.
Each airline has different bases (an airport where you start and end every trip). You will likely work out of a base that is not where you currently live. It is not required for you to live where you are based, but it is required for you to be at that base on time to start every trip. I will talk about this more in the FAQs.
You also need to realize that this job is ALL ABOUT SENIORITY. The longer you have been at the company, the better your life gets. I’m still new but I love this- it gives me something to look forward to.
After you graduate from training, you will more than likely be on reserve for a while. That means that you don’t know what flights you will be working in advance – you either wait at the airport or at home by your phone until your airline calls you for a flight. Basically you are working the flights people call out of or don’t show up for. There will be a lot of times where you sit at home all day waiting to be called and end up not working for a week. Other times you could work every day. It all depends but it will all be worth it when you finally become a line holder! This is when you get a set schedule and know what days and flights you are working in advance. At first you won’t get all the trips you want, you will work weekends and holidays, but the more seniority you get, the more good trips and days off you’ll get. Not to mention most airlines give you a raise every year.
2. Understand that getting hired is very competitive
On average only 1-10% of applicants get hired. When a job opening is posted, thousands of people will apply for perhaps a couple hundred positions.
Don’t stress! While some will apply for years before getting hired, others will be successful the first time they apply. If your personality fits and you are well qualified for the job you could be one of the lucky ones who have no trouble and get hired right away! If you don’t get hired the first few times you apply, don’t give up!! Whether its your 1st, 2nd, or 10th time applying, once you get the job it will all be worth it.
I’m not telling you this to scare you, but I think it’s important to understand that this isn’t a job you just apply to without doing your research first. You can never be too prepared!
I looked at this website everyday until the airlines I wanted to apply to said “hiring” next to their name. The openings can close in just a few days, mostly because so many people apply for them, so don’t wait to apply once you see that there are openings.
Also, pay attention to the details of the job description! For example some airlines will call the position flight attendant, others might call it something else like inflight crewmember – look for the little things like this so you don’t make any mistakes on your resume or cover letter.
4. Research the companies
Before I even applied, I researched multiple airlines to help me decide which ones I was most interested in. Once I applied I looked at every website I could find to get more information and become as prepared as possible for a possible interview. With Google at our fingertips, you have no excuse not know as much as you can. Knowing information about the airline will also help you with the next step.
After you apply, there are a number of steps you might go through before an actual face-to-face interview. Not every airline will have all of these steps, but these are the ones I saw in my experience applying. Once you have passed one step you will be invited for the next if successful.
After applying you may be sent a personality assessment. Its not hard, but my advice is to BE YOURSELF!! You might think you know what the airline wants to hear, but if you’re not being yourself then you won’t be as likely to be successful in the long run.
Someone with the airline will contact you and try to gage your personality through questions and how you interact with them on the phone.
There are both video interviews with an actual person and video interviews where you are being recorded and answering questions as they pop up.
For the video interview, dress exactly like you would for a face-to-face interview.
The final interview is a face-to-face interview. This could be in a large group, a one on one with someone, or a combination of both. They want to see how you interact with people and how you do under pressure. They also want to see if your personality fits, how prepared you are, and how you are with time management.
What to wear for interviews
Women should wear their hair up if your hair is longer than shoulder length, dress professionally and keep it simple. I would stick with a black or dark blue suit with heels (not too high) or closed toed shoes. Always wear a watch!
Check out my post: What to Wear to a Flight Attendant Interview
I have heard of training being anywhere from 3 to 8 weeks. It could be paid or unpaid. My experience and what I have learned about other airlines is that training is almost 100% about safety and very little about customer service – if you were picked for the job the chances are you already have customer service experience. Training is tough with very long days, but if you pay attention and study you should be successful. And if you’re lucky like me, your training classmates will become some of your best friends!
How long will it take to get hired?
It really depends on the airline and their demand for flight attendants at the time. It took me about a month to go through the steps and schedule my face-to-face interview. I have heard of airlines replying to an application 6 months to a year later. I have always heard “no news is good news” meaning if an airline hasn’t gotten back to you in a while it’s a good thing. They will usually cut you right away, so if you haven’t heard anything, chances are they are still considering you.
What is the pay?
Again, all airlines are different. I believe most will pay hourly. You might start off not making as much as you’d like but you’ll get a raise every year. I do this for the lifestyle not the money!
Do you get travel benefits?
Yes! The travel benefits are AMAZING. But we fly standby. Which means we only get on the flight if there are open seats not occupied by paying customers. It’s great when it works out, but the reality is that you could be waiting all day to get on a flight if it’s a busy travel day.
Our direct family members can be on our flight benefits too, and we are allowed one travel companion who isn’t a family member. We also get buddy passes to give to our friends. This may differ from airline to airline.
Do I have to live in base?
You do not! That is what I love about this job- you can live anywhere you want as long as you are able to make it back to your base in time for work. But living in base does make life a lot easier, because if you don’t live where you are based, you have to commute, and likely stay in a crashpad (unless you know someone in that city who lets you stay with them every time you need to commute). Crashpad is a common word in airline employee terminology. Basically it is a house/apartment you share with other flight attendants/pilots who also commute. You pay for a bed and share everything else! It is very similar to living in a sorority or fraternity house, but with even less personal space. I lived in one in Boston (all female) and one in New York (both female and male) and I will say that it is a fun experience. You make a lot of friends and create great memories, but after a while I just needed my own space.
Check out my post: My Experience Living in a Flight Attendant Crash Pad
Here is an example of the commuting lifestyle: Say I live in Orlando but I am based in New York City. My (four day) trip starts at 10am tomorrow. I would have to either catch a flight that arrives before 10am or I would have to come the night before (I recommend coming the night before because you never know if there will be delays). That’s a three hour flight. The next day I start my four day trip, and when I get back I have to commute home. Hopefully I get back to base before the last flight of the day to Orlando. If I don’t, I have to stay in my crashpad again and go home the next day. I’m also flying standby so I hope all the flights aren’t full. If I make it on a flight I’ll be home in 3 hours.
That’s a lot of time away from home! And it’s something you should consider when applying for this job.
If you’re a commuter and on reserve, you will be spending a lot of time in your crashpad waiting to get called to work.
When I was researching airlines and deciding which one I wanted to work for, the bases were a big deal to me. I am from Florida but I knew I wanted to move to New York City, so I wanted an airline that had a base in NYC. I recommend doing research about the bases each airline has before you apply, if that is something important to you.
What is your schedule like?
Do you have another 8 hours? Just kidding! But seriously, it would take me way too long to perfectly describe my schedule. I’ve explained what reserve is. But when you are a line holder, you will bid for your schedule every month and be awarded based on seniority. If you get your schedule and aren’t 100% happy with it, there will be a website you can go on to drop/trade/pick up trips.
A flight attendant’s schedule is very flexible. I love it because it is not a normal 9 – 5 job. Again, seniority rules everything, but most of the time I am able to get the days I want off and get a lot of awesome trips!
I don’t have a normal route but there are a lot of senior flight attendants who bid for the same trips every month and are able to have a “normal” schedule. My schedule is nothing close to normal and right now I like it that way.
Here is an example of a three day trip:
I start the trip in base. I have three legs today.
New York to D.C., D.C. to Orlando, Orlando to Chicago.
I end the day in Chicago. I have an 18-hour layover and stay in a hotel. (Yes we get our own rooms! A lot of people think we share a room with the other flight attendants…) I might explore the city, or I might lay in bed all 18 hours.
I have two legs today.
Chicago to New York, New York to D.C.
Layover in D.C.
It’s an easy one leg day.
D.C. to New York
End in New York and go home.
It’s never the same (unless you have enough seniority to hold a normal schedule). Sometimes you might have four legs a day everyday for four days. Other times you might have an easy trip with one leg a day.
For more details on what my schedule is like, check out these posts:
I hope this helped you! If you have any more questions, don’t hesitate to ask!