Do you dream of traveling for work, touching down in a new city every day and experiencing different cultures regularly? Do you love helping people, and live for customer interactions (even the not-so-pleasant ones)?
If so, you might want to consider a career as a flight attendant.
Despite their glamorous TV and movie reputation, flight attendant jobs are difficult. They're also competitive to get. In this article, I'll break down how to become a flight attendant by first deciding if a job as a flight attendant is right for you and, if so, how to apply for flight attendant jobs. Becoming a flight attendant is an exciting, unique career path that has the potential to transform your life.
Interested in Becoming a Flight Attendant? Consider These Questions First
Flight attendant jobs are exciting, unique, and well-respected. They can also be exhausting and intense and require you to make significant sacrifices in your personal life. Before beginning the lengthy application process to be a flight attendant, consider these questions.
Are You Okay With Working Long, Difficult Hours?
A flight attendant's schedule, at best, includes long, difficult work days. At worst, a flight attendant's schedule can be unpredictable and exhausting.
Once becoming a flight attendant, you'll be responsible for having specific days where you'll have scheduled trips to complete. You'll also be responsible for a handful of days each month where you must be on-call to jump on a trip if required. Your on days, and your on-call days, can be any days - weekdays, weekends, holidays, etc.
As a first year flight attendant, you'll likely have to be on or on call for most major travel days, and have less seniority in picking which trips to fly. That means that you'll probably be working on holidays and almost definitely be working on at least some weekends.
The trips you take will often be extremely difficult and tiring on your body. If you mainly fly short, national flights, you'll likely have two or more flights in a day and be responsible for overseeing the customer service needs of hundreds of customers. If you fly international trips, you'll probably only have to fly one trip a day, but you'll typically have a quick turnaround time before you have to be on your next flight. The toll of traveling to so many different places so quickly can heavy on your body, as you'll often be adjusting to different time zones and getting up extremely early or staying up very late.
Are You Able to Commit to an Intense Training Process?
Flight attendant training is a long, intense process. For flight attendant training, you'll need to move to a specified training location, where you'll live with other flight attendant trainees for the duration of the training, which can last for several months. Most airlines only have two or three training facilities, so you'll likely be far away from home for the entirety of your training.
Training days themselves are mentally and physically exhausting. You'll be learning rules about how to keep people safe in the air, as well as practicing the physical skills you'll need to help pack the planes or conduct safe evacuations.
Would You Be Okay Moving For Work?
Airlines have hubs where many of their flights originate, and their flight crews are often required to live nearby so that they can be ready to jump on a flight at a moment's notice.
If you don't live near your airline's hub, you'll likely have to move, at least for the part of the month where you're on-call. That can mean leaving your friends and family behind for large amounts of time.
Do You Like Dealing With Customers?
As a flight attendant, you'll have to deal with customers all the time — and they won't always be pleasant or happy to work with you. If you don't like dealing with customers, being a flight attendant probably isn't the right job for you.
How to Become a Flight Attendant: Flight Attendant Requirements
Still want to be a flight attendant? Applying for a job as a flight attendant is highly competitive. For instance, Delta regularly receives 100,000 applications during its open enrollment periods, from which they only accept several hundred trainees. Many airlines have strict requirements for their flight attendants. In this section, I'll talk about what some of those requirements are. Keep in mind, however, that every airline has different requirements of its attendants.
Flight Attendant Requirements for Minimum Age
All airlines have minimum age requirements from applicants. These can range from 18 to 21 years old, depending on the airline. There is no maximum age requirement for flight attendants at any US airline.
Flight Attendant Requirements for Physical Ability
One of the greatest myths about being a flight attendant is that you need to be a beautiful supermodel in order to be a flight attendant. Not true!
Airlines don't have physical appearance requirements, but they do want you to look neat and well groomed. Normally, airlines tend to look for conservative, classic styles of dress and appearance. That means that your hair should be dyed a natural color and you shouldn't have any visible tattoos or piercings, besides ears.
In terms of height and weight, airlines require that you'll be able to reach the overhead bins to store luggage and that you can fit into the jump-seat easily. Other than that, there are no hard or fast cutoffs for height or weight.
Airlines require their flight attendants to have 20/20 vision, which can be achieved either naturally or through the use of contacts and/or glasses.
Finally, some airlines may require you to undergo a medical or physical fitness test to ensure that you're in good enough health to fulfill the job's requirements.
Flight Attendant Requirements for Education
All US airlines require that you have a high school diploma or GED to apply. You must also be able to pass a full background check and drug screening.
How to Become a Flight Attendant: Finding a Job
Flight attendant jobs can be difficult to find. Airlines often have hiring windows throughout the year during which they accept applications. Very few US airlines are hiring year-round. To that end, here are some tips for finding the flight attendant job of your dreams.
Decide Which Airlines You'd Like to Work For
First, you should decide what airlines you'd like to fly for. All of the US airlines are very different. When considering which airline you'd like to fly with, think about the following questions.
#1: Where do I want to fly? Not every airline flies the same places. If you've got your heart set on making it out to the Pacific Northwest, make sure you're applying to an airline that flies there.
#2: What's my customer service philosophy? Each airline has its own philosophy about customer service. Read up on the airlines to see which matches your own customer service philosophy.
:3: What're other flight attendants saying about working for this airline? You can use online company review sites like Glassdoor to get a sneak peek into what it's like to work at a different airline. These reviews can help you see the positives and negatives a company, so you can make a more informed decision about where to apply. Always take these reviews with a grain of salt, however–just because someone else had a bad experience, doesn't mean you will, too.
Use Job Search Sites
Job sites like Indeed.com and Monster.com can help you find out when companies are hiring flight attendants. You can also check Flight Attendant Career, a website that provides information about open applicant periods for all airlines in one place.
Check the Websites of Airlines You're Interested In
Another great way to find flight attendant jobs is to watch the websites of the airlines that you're interested in applying to. They'll often have information about open positions on their sites.
How to Become a Flight Attendant: Applying for Jobs
As I mentioned, applying to be a flight attendant is very competitive. In this section, I'll talk about how you can stand out from the crowd during the application and interview process.
How to Present a Polished Flight Attendant Application
Hiring managers at airlines have to look through hundreds of thousands of applications. Here are a few tips to make your application stand out.
Show Off Your Skills
Airlines are often looking to hire flight attendants who have special skills, like exceptional customer service ability or a passion for travel. If you've proven yourself to be able to work with people in different situations, you'll definitely want to highlight this on your application. For instance, if you've encountered and had to serve people from different backgrounds in a previous job, it'll show that you've got what it takes to deal with people.
Similarly, airlines are looking for candidates who will enjoy traveling, which will obviously be a large part of your job description. If you've traveled a lot, highlight that, even if it's in a later section of your resume, such as personal interests or skills.
Finally, if you're looking to fly internationally, fluency in another language can help you truly stand out from the pack, as you'll have to help customers whose first language isn't English. Make sure that your application reflects any unique skills you have that'll help you standout from the crowd.
Highlight Your Experience
If you have previous experience as a flight attendant or in other high-stress customer service fields, make sure you note that on your application and resume. Airlines are looking for flight attendants who'll be able to provide exceptional customer service to all of their customers.
When highlighting your customer service experience, make sure you provide context. For instance, if you've worked in a shop before, quantify the number of customers you dealt with on busy days, which'll show that you can handle numerous customer interactions in one day. Even if you've worked in a less relevant position, highlight how you've had to be flexible and helpful to different groups of people.
Check Your Application Carefully
Because hiring managers need to quickly screen hundreds of thousands of candidates at one time, you'll need to make sure that your application is free of errors or mistakes that may automatically disqualify you from the position. Check for typos or other easy-to-correct errors that'd make your application look less professional.
Make Sure You Fulfill the Requirements
Before applying, make sure you fulfill all the requirements for employment. For instance, if the airline requires that you have a passport, make sure you've got one. If you don't, the hiring managers will likely get rid of your application right away.
How to Stand Out at Your Interviews
Flight attendant interview days can be stressful affairs. You'll often be interviewed amongst hundreds of your peers who're applying for the same limited spots. Follow these tips to stand out from the pack.
Make Sure You Look Professional
As I mentioned previously, airlines place a high value on having their flight attendants be neatly groomed. Make sure you're wearing a professional outfit, that your hair is neatly combed, and that you are awake and alert during the interview.
Practice Flight Attendant Skills
Airlines may have you demonstrate flight attendant skills during your interview, such as making an announcement on the PA loudspeaker of an airplane or dealing with an unruly customer. Prepare for these scenarios ahead of time by practicing what you'd say over the loudspeaker (remember to speak slowly and clearly) or how you'd deal with an angry customer. Coming in prepared for any scenario will help you stand out and give you a sense of calm during the interview process.
Demonstrate That You Can Work Well As Part of a Team
Flight attendants are part of a team. They work with other flight attendants on the plane, as well as with the captains and first officers who fly the planes. Make sure that you demonstrate your ability to be a good teammate during the interview process. Be prepared to highlight specific examples from your previous work where you've had to collaborate with other employees or positively resolve a workplace conflict. If there are any group activities, treat your other applicants cordially and respectfully, even though you're competing for the same job.
Training to be a Flight Attendant
Once you've been provisionally hired as a flight attendant, you still have to complete the long and difficult training. Not everyone who's accepted to training makes its all the way through to officially become a flight attendant. Knowing what you'll face when going into training can help prepare you.
Flight attendant training is an intense, multi-week program. You'll be in training from anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks. You'll likely have to move away from home to be at the training, which means you'll be away from your friends and family.
Your training will consist of educational and physical portions. You'll learn about the codes, rules, regulations, and theories you need to know to safely transport passengers from one place to another.
You'll also go through the physical requirements of being a flight attendant. You'll learn how to evacuate a flight, how to stow and remove luggage, and how to protect and see to passengers in the event of an emergency.
To complete your training, you'll be required to pass a safety, emergency, and evacuation test administered by the FAA. For most airlines, you must pass with a 90% or higher in order to be accepted as a flight attendant.
Review: Is a Career as a Flight Attendant Right for You?
If you're wondering how to become a flight attendant, it's first important to understand if being a flight attendant is right for you. Flight attendant jobs are quite difficult, and the path to becoming a flight attendant is long and competitive. Make sure that your application is polished and competitive so that you standout from the pack.
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Hayley Milliman is a former teacher turned writer who blogs about education, history, and technology. When she was a teacher, Hayley's students regularly scored in the 99th percentile thanks to her passion for making topics digestible and accessible. In addition to her work for PrepScholar, Hayley is the author of Museum Hack's Guide to History's Fiercest Females.