Career Development

Career development resources for aspiring professionals.

Career Change Center

Career change guides, tutorials and resources for professionals in transition.

Job Search Resources

Job search resources, websites, guides and directories for job seekers.

Flight Attendant Careers, Jobs and Employment Information

Flight Attendant Career Overview and Job Description

According to the law, airlines must employ flight attendants to ensure the safety of its customers. Besides ensuring the safety of passengers, flight attendants also are employed to ensure passengers are comfortable and that the flying experience is a pleasant one.

Approximately an hour before every flight, the captain or pilot of the plane will meet with the flight attendants and go over emergency evacuation procedures, crew coordination, and length of flight, expected weather conditions, and special passenger issues with them. Flight attendants are responsible for checking to see that first aid kits and other emergency equipment are available on the airplane and in operating condition and that cabin is nice and tidy for customers and that the plane is stocked with food, beverages, and blankets. Flight attendants will greet boarding passengers, examine their tickets, and show them where to put their coats and carry on luggage.

Prior to take off, flight attendants show passengers how to use the emergency equipment in case of a crash, ensure each passenger is properly buckled in, seats are in the upright position, and all luggage is stowed away. The biggest duty of a flight attendant, once the plane has left the ground, is to aid passengers in the event of an emergency. They might be called upon to calm passengers when planes pass through strong turbulence or usher passengers off the plane during emergency evacuation procedures. Additionally, flight attendants attend to the needs of the passengers by answering questions and concerns, distributing pillows and blankets, helping children, disabled and elderly people, and all others requiring aide. They might also perform first aide for those who are ill. They also offer beverages and snacks to passengers as well as meals on long flights. Before the plane lands, flight attendants must inventory the number of headsets, alcoholic drinks, and revenues collected. They are also responsible for reporting medical issues passengers may have experienced as well as the state of the cabin equipment. On top of their flight assignments, flight attendants might also be asked to make public relations appearances for their corporation at career days held by high schools or at fundraising campaigns, sales meetings, conventions, and other goodwill events.

Some will work as lead or first flight attendants, taking the added responsibility of overseeing other flight attendants while still completing many of the same tasks.

Since planes are constantly in the air, flight attendants may work night shifts as well as during the holidays and weekends. For the most part, airlines and unions determine the acceptable amount of work done each month. Flight attendants are in the air approximately 75 to 85 hours each and they also spend about 75 to 85 hours every month working on the ground to prepare flights, writing up reports after landings, and waiting for planes to land. Due to unorthodox scheduling and limitations on in air work time, lots of flight attendants enjoy 11 plus days off every month. They might be working away from their home hub close to a third of the time. When they are working away form their home base, the airlines cover hotel fees and provided employees with money for meals.

Fight attendants reap the benefits of lots of free time as well cheap flying fares and thus are able to travel often and experience many parts of the nation or world. However, such a job can be very hard and fatiguing as well. Shorter flight times require fast service when meals are offered, and turbulent airways can make distributing drinks, snacks, and meals difficult. Despite having to stand most of the flight, attendants must still be courteous and productive, no matter how fatigued they are or how unkind passengers might become. From time to time, flight attendants might have to handle problematic passengers.

They are also open to injury due to the conditions of working on their feet during flight. The opening of overhead bins often can result in back injuries and accidents. Additionally, flight attendants can experience health issues due to the irregular sleeping and eating habits, dealing with disruptive passengers, working in a pressurized environment, and inhaling recycled air.

In 2000, flight attendants occupied approximately 124,000 jobs. The majority of flight attendants worked for the major commercial airlines and worked out of the airline’s main hub city. A small minority of attendants are employed by large companies which operate corporate jets for business activities.

Flight Attendant Career Training and Job Qualifications

To be hired, one should be confident, diplomatic, and inventive in order to be able to perform the work and serve strangers effectively and work under stressful conditions. Normally, workers need to be 18 to 21 years old. Flight attendants should be healthy and communicate clearly. Also, there usually some height requirements for applicants and airlines look for those with proportional height and weight.

Applicants must be okay with relocating, though many are able to commute from their central hub. Applicants should have graduated form high school. People with experience in customer service or some college education are favored by the airlines. Other preferred qualities include applicants educated in or experienced with people oriented fields such as psychological or educational disciplines. Those working on international flights must be fluent in a foreign language. A few for of the major airlines favor those who fluently speak two foreign languages.

To begin with, after being hired the candidates will be formally trained. Training can last anywhere form 4 to 7 weeks, depending on the size and type of plane. Training is carried out in the flight training center of the company. Companies that don’t have training centers typically send their new workers to the training center of another company. Companies might pay for transportation to the training location as well as pay for room and board, and supplies. Those in training are official employees of the company until they have passed the training program. Some airlines make candidates pay their own way through the training program. In training candidates are taught emergency procedures like evacuating an airplane, operating emergency systems and equipment, administering first aid, and water survival tactics. Trainees also learn how to handle stressful passengers and situations related to hijacking or terrorist threats. They also are taught flight rules and duties, company operations and policies, and are instructed on personal grooming and weight control. Those hired to work international flights receive extra training related to passport and customs regulations. At the end of the training program, trainees work on practice flights. They also are required to obtain 12 to 14 hours of training each year in emergency procedures and passenger relations.

Upon completion of the training program, employees will be delegated to one of the bases of the airline. To begin with flight attendants are designated to “reserve status” and asked to work on extra flights or to fill in for other workers on sick leave or vacation. When not working, flight attendants need to be able to report to work on short notice should the occasion warrant it. Beginning flight attendants typically stay on the reserve list for at least year, though in some cities it might take 5 to 10 years to get of the list. Those not on reserve status can bid each month for regular flights and shifts. Since flights are delegated out according to seniority, only those with a lot of time on the job typically end up with the assignment desired. Presently, it takes longer to advance in seniority than in the past since many flight attendants are staying on the job longer.

Other flight attendants are promoted to supervisory positions, or take on added duties like recruiting and training. Experience as a flight attendant might enable them to take on other customer oriented jobs like ticket agent or public relations specialist.

Flight Attendant Job and Employment Opportunities

Prospects are good as the number looking for flight attendant jobs is projected to equal the number of jobs open. For the best prospects, one will need 2 or more years of college education as well as experience working with public. Through 2010, most of the job openings that become available will be a result of flight attendants who leave the work force or take on other jobs. The job attracts many due to the airlines associated glamour and the chance it grants to workers to travel. However, many employees eventually leave the industry as they desire higher paying jobs as well as an occupation that allows them to spend nights with their families.

Employment of flight attendants is projected to rise on pace with the average for all occupations through 2010. Increases in both population and income are projected to increase the amount of airline customers. Airlines can increase their capacity through increases in the size and number of their fleet. More attendants will have to be hired since FAA regulations require there be one attendant for every 50 seats.

Employment of flight attendants can be very sensitive to economic conditions. When the economy is on the decline, the demand for flights falls, and thus many employees experience reduced hours or are laid off all together. New flight attendants will not be brought on until demand rises again.

Historical Earnings Information

In 2000. the average earnings of flight attendants were $38,820. The middle 50 percent made anywhere from $28,200 to $56,610. The bottom 10 percent made below $18,090, and the top 10 percent made upwards of $83,630.

According to information provided by the Association of Flight Attendants, beginning flight attendants made approximately $14,847 in 2000, although pay scales vary depending on the airline. Typically new employees will start at the same pay level, despite what experience they may have, and all flight attendants get the same future raises. Flight attendants get additional compensation for night and international flights as well for increased hours. Some companies even offer incentives to work holidays or to work in assignments which include extra responsibility or paperwork. For the most part airlines promise at least 65 to 75 flight hours per month, with the option of working more hours each month. Additionally flight attendants are provided a “per diem” allowance for meals when they are on duty and away from home. Most flight attendants and their families also have the added benefit of receiving free or discounted fares from their employee and discounted fares from other airlines.

Flight attendants must buy and wear uniforms while working. The airlines typically fund uniform replacement needs, and might even offer a minimal allowance to pay for cleaning and maintaining the uniform.

Most flight attendants are members of a union. Others might be unionized by Transport Workers Union of America, the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, or other unions.