When deciding which career to choose, it is important to assess your career aspirations, the benefits of any potential jobs you are considering, and how your skills and personality traits will fit with various roles. If your preferred industry in which you would like to work is the travel and tourism sector, then one job you might consider is a flight attendant. Before embarking on this career path, it is vital that you research the requirements of the role properly and find out what you can expect in terms of the duties undertaken, the career prospects, and the salary of a flight attendant. Here is what you need to know about how to become a flight attendant, what the role involves, and your earning potential in this role.
What is a Flight Attendant?
Flight attendants are known by many names, including air hosts/ hostesses, air stewards/ stewardesses, flight crew, cabin attendants, and cabin crew, says Wikipedia. These are people employed by airlines to ensure the safety of the passengers and to make them comfortable throughout a flight. Most flight attendants work on commercial flights, although some work on business jet aircraft, private jets, or military aircraft.
What is the Role of a Flight Attendant?
The role of a flight attendant is varied, and the type of flight, the length of flight, the number of passengers, their seniority, and their employers. According to Career Explorer, some of the duties that this role may include are:
- Flight briefings- Before each flight, the captain meets with the flight attendants to plan the flight. They will discuss weather conditions, the flight path, and the intended time of arrival at the destination. All the staff then check the passenger list to see which passengers have special needs, if there are any VIP passenger, how many children are on the flight, and other important passenger information.
- Aircraft inspections- Prior to each flight, the flight attendants inspect the aircraft and check their supplies.
- Greeting passengers- Flight attendants greet passengers as they get on the plane, welcome them to the airline, and guide them to their seats. They also give them any important flight information at this point if it is relevant to the individual.
- Administration- When completing their various checks, dealing with passenger inquiries or complaints, and handling any in-flight incidents, flight attendants must complete any relevant documentation.
- Passenger safety- One of the major aspects of the flight attendant roles is passenger safety. Before take-off, they give passengers detailed safety instructions. Throughout the flight, they continue to monitor passenger safety, especially in the event of turbulence.
- Securing cabins- When the passengers are all on board, the flight attendants make sure all passenger hand luggage is securely stored away in the cabin. This is another aspect of their role to ensure passenger safety.
- Food and drink preparation- Throughout a flight, the flight attendants will offer passengers drinks and snacks at regular intervals. On longer flights, a meal is often offered, and the flight attendants are responsible for getting the pre-cooked meals ready and serving them to the passengers.
- Customer service- Flight attendants handle customer inquiries and requests throughout a flight. They also handle any customer issues or incidents throughout the flight.
- Landing procedure and departure from the plane- When it is time for the plane to land, flight attendants prepare the cabin for landing and make sure the passengers are in their seats with their seatbelts fastened. They also give passengers instructions for landing and leaving the plane.
Reasons to Consider a Career as a Flight Attendant
There are many people who will find a career as a flight attendant interesting, exciting, and rewarding as it has many benefits. Just some of the reasons to consider a career as a flight attendant include:
- Varied role- The role of a flight attendant involves many different tasks. Each flight is different in terms of both the length of the flight and the passengers on board. Therefore, the role of a flight attendant is varied.
- Chance to travel- One of the predominant reasons people chose a career as a flight attendant is so they have the chance to travel and see the world.
- Job opportunities- There are many different types of companies that you can work for as a flight attendant, and there is the chance to progress in the career.
- Salary growth- As you gain experience as a flight attendant, your salary will increase.
- Interesting work- you will meet new people and work alongside different colleagues. You will also visit various destinations around the globe. This means that working as a flight attendant is interesting.
- Personal satisfaction- Taking care of customers is very satisfying, and many flight attendants believe that this makes the role rewarding.
- Free air travel- Flight attendants are usually offered free air travel from their airline.
- Low entry requirements- Many careers require a minimum of a college degree. However, working as a flight attendant only requires a high school diploma. This means it is an accessible career for more people who have not gone on to higher education.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Flight Attendant?
A career as a flight attendant is not one that will suit everyone. You need the right set of skills and personality traits to undertake this role. Truity says that some of these include:
- Communication skills- Flight attendants need to communicate well with both passengers and other employees of the airline.
- Customer service skills- A flight attend needs to have the ability to cope with customer complaints and manage the situation.
- Organization and time-management- Flights are run on a tight schedule, so you must have organization and time-management skills.
- Physical stamina- You will spend many hours on your feet and must lift baggage above your head. Therefore, this job requires good physical stamina.
- Decision-making-The ability to make the right decisions quickly is essential, especially in emergency situations.
- Teamwork- Although some aspects of the job require working alone, you must work in a team in many situations.
- Personal presentation- Flight attendants are representatives of the airline, and good personal presentation is expected at all times.
- Confident with air travel- If you are a nervous passenger or suffer from travel sickness, then the role of a flight attendant is not for you.
What Qualifications and Experience Do You Need to Become a Flight Attendant?
With some jobs, you need the training or qualifications before you apply for the job. It is a little different if you want to become a flight attendant because you apply first, get the job, and then begin your training. However, there are some requirements for applying for a job as a flight attendant. Although these can differ from one airline to another, The Balance Careers says that some examples of typical requirements for application include:
- A minimum of a high school diploma
- A relevant degree is preferable
- At least 18 years of age
- Weight and height in proportion and tall enough to reach overhead luggage
- The ability to stand for long periods without rest
- To pass a 10-year background check, including criminal history check
- To work with the public and handle various situations
- To take and pass a pre-employment drug test
- Two years of experience in customer service, hospitality, or sales roles
- No tattoos, facial piercings, or extreme hair colors or styles
How to Become a Flight Attendant
There are three steps to becoming a certified flight attendant, according to How to Become. These are as follows:
Step 1- Apply for the Role
If you fulfill the basic requirements for application at an airline, then you can submit an application. It is important to note that the exact requirements will vary from airline to the next, so check this carefully. If accepted, you will be invited to attend the airline’s training course.
Step 2- Undergo Flight Attendant Training
The flight attendant training lasts between three and six weeks. It includes training for all aspects of the job, from developing customer service skills to understanding flight procedures. Most airlines provide this training themselves, and many offers paid training.
Step 3- Get Certification
In 2004, it was made compulsory that all flight attendants working on aircraft with 20 seats or more must have a Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency. This certificate is issued by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Flight attendants are awarded this certificate following the completion of an FAA-approved training course offered by airlines.
What is Reserve Status?
Although you will become a flight attendant as soon as you complete your training, most airlines will class you as reserve status. This status usually lasts at least one year but can last for up to seven years. This means that you will not have a set work schedule or flight routine, as these are reserved for more senior flight attendants. While you are in reserve status, you must always have your bag packed ready to go. The airline may ring you at a moment’s notice to cover the flight of an absent flight attendant. During this period, you will work irregular hours and there is no certainty of your earnings potential. Once you have finished your time in reserve status, you will have a more regular working routine and you may have regular flights on your schedule. As you become more senior, many airlines will allow you to choose your flights off the flight schedules so that you get the flights and hours you want. This is one of the advantages of progressing in your career as a flight attendant.
Even after completing initial training and getting certified as a flight attendant, your training isn’t over. Continuous professional development is an important part of a flight attendant career. You must undergo training each year to update your certification. You may also need additional training when new laws, regulations, or procedures are introduced. Similarly, extra training is required for new technology used in air travel.
How Long Does It Take to Become a Flight Attendant?
You cannot become a flight attendant until you are 18 and, in some cases, airlines will not accept applications from anyone under 21. The training usually lasts from three to eight weeks. Following training, you can begin working as a flight attendant straight away.
Can You Qualify as a Flight Attendant Online?
While there are any excellent online courses available that will qualify you to work in a variety of positions, a flight attendant is not one of them. It is not possible to qualify as a flight attendant online as the training is more practical than theoretical. However, there are many online courses that flight attendants can take as part of their continuous professional development.
What is a Flight Attendant Salary?
The salary of a flight attendant can vary. Some of the factors that can impact on the earning potential of a flight attendant are experience, seniority, the type of company you work for, individual employers, and location. Money.com says that some flight attendants earn as little as $18,000 a year at the beginning of their career. However, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says that flight attendants usually earn between $23,000 and $25,000. Salaries generally increase as a flight attendant gains more experience. The Bureau of Labor Statistics says the median wage of a flight attendant is $48,500, but that experienced flight attendants earn a maximum of $80,000. On the other hand, PayScale reported that the average wage for a flight attendant is $39,000.
The airport base of a flight attendant can play a significant difference in how much a flight attendant can earn. Flight attendants based in Miami or Atlanta generally earn 15 percent less than the national average. However, those who work in Houston or San Francisco can earn up to 10 percent above the national average. It is worth noting that many airlines pay their flight attendants for the amount of flight time rather than for the number of hours they spend working, including waiting in airports for delayed flights. Another point to note is that the potential salaries of those working on private aircraft may differ significantly to the average salaries of those working for commercial airlines.
There are some further benefits to becoming a flight attendant that can impact on your overall finances. First, most airlines offer flight attendants free air travel. However, this is usually on a standby basis, so flight attendants do not always get the flights they want. Also, many airlines offer excellent employment packages that include things like medical insurance and a pension.
How Can a Flight Attendant Increase Their Earning Potential?
There are some ways that a flight attendant can achieve the best salary possible. Some of these include:
- Get the best training possible- Getting the right training and qualifications can give you a better chance of employment and of progressing in your career. Consider going the extra mile and learning a second language or obtaining a qualification in a travel and tourism-related subject to make you stand out from your competition.
- Build experience- It can take patience to achieve a good salary as you need to gain experience in the role.
- Choose the base location carefully- There is a significant difference in the salary you will receive at different base airports. Check the earnings potential at each of the options.
- Aim for promotions- Those in senior flight attendant positions earn significantly more. So, you should check the requirements for promotion and aim towards this.
Is It Worth Being a Flight Attendant?
Although the starting salary for flight attendants is quite low, there is the chance for career progression and salary growth. For many flight attendants, the benefits of the job far outweigh the low starting salary.
Is It Possible to Progress in This Career?
When choosing a career, it is important to know if there is the opportunity to progress, take on more responsibilities, and earn more money as you gain experience. As a flight attendant, you can progress both in terms of responsibilities and salary when you gain more experience. Many airlines have senior flight attendant or team leader positions available with higher salaries than regular flight attendants. College Grad says that senior positions can include training, scheduling, and recruiting flight attendants. A career as a flight attendant can also open other job opportunities where the experience is relevant and the skills are transferrable. Many of these positions are in the travel, tourism, and hospitality industries.
Are There Plenty of Job Opportunities for Flight Attendants?
It is also essential that you choose a job where there are plenty of job opportunities for you to choose between. Fortunately, if you opt for a career as a flight attendant, you will find plenty of job opportunities. This is because there is an increase in demand for commercial flights, more airports are being built to meet this demand, and more people than ever are traveling for business. Therefore, there is a growth in the need for flight attendants. According to the Bureau for Labor Statistics, there is an estimated rate of growth in employment for flight attendants of around 10 percent between 2016 and 2022. This is significantly higher than the average growth for all employment in all industries.
What is the Working Environment of a Flight Attendant?
Flight attendants work in a variety of environments as part of their role. They spend most of their time on airplanes, either on the ground or in flight. They will also spend a significant amount of time at the airport, either preparing for flights, checking in passengers, or waiting between flights. Sometimes, flight attendants will spend the night away from home between flights, often in a foreign destination.
What Are the Working Hours of a Flight Attendant?
According to Career Explorer, flight attendants work flexible hours that can include working in the day, at night, during weekends, and on holidays. They will usually not work for more than 12 hours per day. However, if it is an overseas international flight, they may work over 14 hours per day. Each month, a flight attendant will typically fly for between 65 to 90 hours. They will also spend around 50 hours on the ground preparing or waiting for flights each month. Flight attendants may often stay away from home overnight, even when they are not flying, due to their schedules.
Can Flight Attendants Work Internationally?
The certification gained by a flight attendant after qualification is an internationally recognized qualification. Therefore, flight attendants can move abroad and gain employment as a flight attendant without the need to retrain or gain additional certification. However, there are still some points to consider. First, if English is not the first language in the country, then it can become a barrier to employment if you do not speak the native language. You must have the ability to converse clearly with passengers departing from that country. Therefore, you may need to learn the language. Secondly, a new airline may have different policies and procedures from your current airline. Therefore, they may require you to undertake some training that is specific to working for their company. The same is true if you move to a new airline within the United States.
A Career as a Flight Attendant - The Final Verdict
A career as a flight attendant is an excellent choice for those who want to work in the travel and tourism industry. This is a varied and rewarding role that offers people the chance to progress within the career and to earn a higher salary as they gain experience. There are many benefits to choosing this as a career path and most people who become a flight attendant have an enjoyable career.
Written by Liz Flynn
Read more posts by Liz Flynn