It is possible to traipse around from city to city with hours of free time and almost no supervision in exchange for slinging a few smiles and picking up some trash. Sounds pretty nifty, right?
How to become a flight attendant:
1. Figure out what’s motivating this pursuit for a lifestyle change.
If you want to become a flight attendant, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.
- Money should not be one of those reasons. You won’t earn a lot as a flight attendant. If you can, it’s best to have solid savings before going into this career for what might be weeks of unpaid training on top of a low starting pay.
- The desire to travel is going to be a major force in this quest, but don’t let that be the only factor. You will get to travel, but you’ll also spend a lot of time enduring those not-so-favorite sides of travel: hours upon hours on a stuffy plane, being away from loved ones for several days at a time, short layovers, late nights and early mornings, delays and cancellations, and a constant cycle of getting sick and worn down.
- You simply must also get some sort of kick out of interacting with folks in a customer service environment. You’ll deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly in the service industry — and if you’re not exactly a people person, it’s going to become a lot to take. A desire to help and serve people should be among your reasoning for pursuing this goal. Being a flight attendant gives you the ability to have a positive impact on someone’s day through authentic interactions.
So, if you love travel, people, and an ever-changing work environment, this might just be the gig for you. And even if you try it and find out it’s not for you, you’ll still have lasting memories of a unique point in your life when you tried something completely different.
2. Do your own research to find out which airline best suits you.
There are the huge legacy carriers that have been around forever, mainlines and regionals. Then there are the fancy private jets. There’s a wealth of information online through Glassdoor and Indeed that will help you decide which route is best for you through information about company mindset/goals, employee morale, salary, benefits, work environment, etc. There’s no answer to the question, “Which airline is the best to work for?” It’s very subjective.
Here are some things you should keep in mind when doing your research:
For most airlines, you must be 21 to apply. That does exclude some regionals that will hire at 18 — a good option to keep in mind if you just graduated high school and aren’t keen on throwing yourself immediately into some student loan debt.
You need to at least have a high school diploma or GED, but more education, especially safety- or communication-related, is looked highly upon. The same goes for any experience in the medical field. If you’re proficient in another language, that opens even more doors!
- Crew base
A major factor to take into consideration is where these airlines have crew bases. If you plan to keep your home during this transition, do they have a crew base in your city? Are you willing to relocate? If so, take a look at which airlines have bases where you could potentially see yourself living.
Of course, you don’t absolutely have to move — there’s always commuting (living away from your base and flying there to start your shifts). If this is your plan, be sure to check if the airline you’re looking at encourages this way of life — specifically if their contract has a commuter clause that protects you in case you can’t get to work. It is also a good idea to check into flights from your home airport to that airline’s bases. Are there direct flights, or would you have to connect?
3. Understand that it’s not all a fairytale.
Flight attendant jobs are some of the most glamorized positions out there. It is a very cool gig that will pay you in amazing life experiences, but it’s not all perfectly painted lips and long layovers on the beach — it’s also a lot of slinging Diet Cokes to grumpy passengers, getting the bare minimum of rest before flying out again, testing your relationships, and squeezing by financially. Also, when you start out at most airlines, you’ll likely be on reserve (on call) for at least a year — or 15-20 with some legacy carriers. While it’s exciting in certain ways to be flying by the seat of your pants, not knowing which city you’re headed to next or who your co-workers will be, it can be stressful and tiresome.
If you want it bad enough, however, all of these things can be worked through with a little creativity and elbow grease. Still, it’s very important to think through every struggle that might be coming your way after making this switch.
Here are the comforts you’ll have to give up on:
- A steady, predictable paycheck. Flight attendant pay can vary greatly depending on how much you fly per month, whether that’s with a regular schedule or on reserve. But do keep in mind that it only gets better with time — raises come and picking up extra shifts gets a lot easier.
- Weekends, nights, holidays and birthdays off. If you’re someone who values specific days off — let’s say Christmas — you might struggle when you start off in this career. Seniority is everything in the airline industry. The longer you stick with one airline, the better chances you’ll have of getting certain days off. Looking at things from the other side, though, to have Monday-Friday off before a six-day stretch of work is a pretty sweet perk not many other professions could give you. Once you become a flight attendant, it’s hard to imagine going back to only having two days off at a time.
- A sense of routine. If you’re someone who thrives on having a set schedule to follow, flight attendant life could very well drive you mad. But on the flip side, varying hours and schedules can be a welcomed change. And as your seniority gets better and better, you can tweak, drop and swap days off to your liking, creating a lot more flexibility than you could ever imagine in your typical 9-to-5.
4. Apply, apply, apply!
Job openings can be found on the airline’s “Careers” or “Jobs” pages. There’s also a handy dandy website that highlights which airlines are currently hiring flight attendants. You’ll have to input or upload your resume — make sure to include specific details about service- and people-related positions. Let your sparkling personality shine through in your cover letter! Don’t be afraid to share what inspired you to embark on this new path.
You know those annoying application systems that have you input your resume and then enter your detailed job history on the very next page? You’ll likely have to do that. Proofread everything! Most airlines require a 10-year job history as well as a 10-year residence history — you might have to do some digging if you’ve moved around and changed jobs a lot. But that just shows how versatile you are!
Some airlines will also have you complete a personality assessment as part of this initial application. This information is usually related to working in teams and individually, problem-solving, what kind of work environments you thrive in, etc.
Don’t get discouraged if you don’t hear back right away. With the volume of folks who apply for these jobs, it’s not uncommon for your entire application and interview process to take nearly a year from start to finish.
5. The interview
Glassdoor is a great resource for finding sample questions before your airline interviews. Formulate some good responses from the heart and make sure you have them down, but don’t stress yourself out about it. You don’t want to be underprepared but you also don’t want to sound robotic.
Most airlines will have you complete a one-way video interview for the first round. Questions will pop up on your screen for you to answer aloud into the webcam, but a human will not actually be there to respond. Most questions will be related to your background, relevant experience, and why you want this job. Also, be prepared for some situational questions to answer in the STAR format: Situation, Task, Action, Result. Master that technique and you’ll be good to go. There are about five to seven questions in the video interview and you’ll be given about two or three minutes to respond to each one.
If you make it past this round, congrats! You’re one step closer to your dream job. Time for the face-to-face interview, which is usually set for about a month after you get your response from the video. Depending on the airline, your flight to the interview location may or may not be paid for.
The interview will involve a group portion where your interactions are observed. In some cases, you will be separated into smaller groups to complete an observed activity or game and answer a round of questions in front of each other.
Be prepared for anything. Your questions could range anywhere from, “How would you comfort a nervous traveler?” to “Describe the color yellow.” At some point throughout the day, there will also be a Q&A setup where you can find out more specifics about the company.
If the recruiters like what they see during this first round, you’ll be selected for a one-on-one interview where you’ll be asked more situational and personal questions.
If you take nothing else away from this guide, remember this: Do not get down on yourself if you aren’t selected on your first — or even your sixth try. Just because you didn’t make it this one time doesn’t mean you won’t be an amazing flight attendant. It’s a highly competitive field.
6. Flight attendant training
Once you’ve been invited to training and are sent your study materials, don’t stall on digging into them! The sooner you get to work learning the basics, the better off you’ll be.
Remember why you’re there. Don’t get caught up in petty drama with other trainees or go out partying every night. Try your absolute best to get along with your roommate. You are there to achieve what you worked so hard for, so don’t let anything get in your way. Buckle down, study, and focus.
Training is not easy and can range anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks. You’ll have written and oral exams on your flight routine, security, emergency procedures and equipment, First Aid, and other topics. You’ll also take part in drills where you’ll demonstrate CPR and land and water evacuation commands.
After you pass your cumulative final exam, all that’s left is your Operational Experience. You’ll get on a real, live flight and prove yourself. Once you pass this, you’re a certified flight attendant ready to report for duty — congratulations!