Some of you may have caught a glimpse of this new show on ABC portraying flight attendants working for Pan American Airlines in the 1960’s. Word on the street is that the television network has pulled the plug on this drama, but watching just the pilot episode caused me to wonder what a current flight attendant’s job is really like.
For a good general overview, stop by the following two websites listed. The first link offers a great .pdf that has general information about the career field. The second link is a great video. Both of these resources are available from the O*NET.
For more details, continue reading. Almost all of the information, especially everything in italics is taken directly from the Occupational Outlook Handbook website. I’ve bolded key concepts and bulleted some lists for easier reading. They have tons of detailed information to tell you all the ins and outs of this career field. Even more info is available on the website that I didn’t list here, so definitely check it out.
OOH <–Click here for the complete info
· Competition for positions is expected to remain keen because the opportunity for travel attracts more applicants than there are jobs.
· Job duties are learned through formal on-the-job training at a flight training center.
· A high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement, but airlines prefer applicants with a college degree and with experience in dealing with the public.
Why flight attendants?
Major airlines are required by law to provide flight attendants for the safety and security of the traveling public.
- Primary job: ensure that security and safety regulations are followed
- Attendants also try to make flights comfortable and enjoyable for passengers.
What happens before passengers board?
At least 1 hour before takeoff, attendants are briefed by the captain—the pilot in command—on such things as emergency evacuation procedures, coordination of the crew, the length of the flight, expected weather conditions, and any special issues having to do with passengers. Flight attendants make sure that first-aid kits and other emergency equipment are aboard and in working order and that the passenger cabin is in order, with adequate supplies of food, beverages, and any other amenities.
As passengers board the plane, flight attendants greet them, check their tickets, and tell them where to store carry-on items.
What are the hours?
Because airlines operate around the clock and year round, flight attendants can work nights, holidays, and weekends. Scheduled on-duty time usually is limited to 12 hours per day, however flight attendants can be scheduled up to 14 hours per day, with somewhat greater maximums for international flying. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that flight attendants receive 9 consecutive hours of rest following any duty period.
Attendants usually fly 65 to 90 hours a month and generally spend another 50 hours a month on the ground preparing planes for flights, writing reports following completed flights, and waiting for planes to arrive. Most airlines guarantee a minimum of 65 to 85 flight hours per month, with the option to work additional hours. Flight attendants receive extra compensation for additional hours.
After reading this info, I did a little math. Flight attendants working a max of 90 flying hours and 50 ground hours would work an average of 7 hours a day over 20 working days.
How does this all work in real life?
Flight attendants may be away from their home base at least one-third of the time. During this period, the airlines provide hotel accommodations and an allowance for meal expenses.
Flight attendants must be flexible and willing to relocate. However, many flight attendants elect to live in one place and commute to their assigned home base. Home bases and routes worked are bid for and awarded on a seniority basis, so the longer the flight attendant has been employed, the more likely he or she is to work on their preferred flights. Almost all flight attendants start out working on reserve status, or on call. Flight attendants on reserve status usually live near their home base, because they are required to be able to report to their home base on short notice. On small corporate airlines, flight attendants often work on an as-needed basis and must adapt to varying environments and passengers.
The combination of free time and free or discounted airfares provides flight attendants the opportunity to travel. However, the work can be strenuous and trying. Flight attendants stand during much of the flight and must remain pleasant and efficient, regardless of how tired they are or how demanding passengers may be. Occasionally, flight attendants must deal with turbulent flights which can cause difficulties regarding service and cause anxiety among passengers that flight attendants must address.
Working in a moving aircraft leaves flight attendants susceptible to injuries. According to BLS data, full-time flight attendants experienced a much higher than average work-related injury and illness rate. Various physical injuries can occur when opening overhead compartments or while pushing heavy service carts. In addition, medical problems can arise from irregular sleeping and eating patterns, dealing with stressful passengers, working in a pressurized environment, and breathing recycled air.
Education and training.
- A high school diploma minimum
- airlines increasingly prefer applicants with a college degree.
- Applicants who attend schools or colleges that offer flight attendant training may have an advantage over other applicants.
- Highly desirable areas of concentration include people-oriented disciplines, such as communications, psychology, nursing, travel and tourism, hospitality, and education.
- Flight attendants for international airlines generally must speak a foreign language fluently.
- For their international flights, some of the major airlines prefer candidates who can speak two major foreign languages.
I got the job, what’s next?
Once hired, all candidates must undergo a period of formal training.
- Ranging from 3 to 6 weeks,
- New trainees are not considered employees of the airline until they successfully complete the training program.
- What is taught in training?
- emergency procedures
- how to deal with disruptive passengers and with hijacking and terrorist situations
- flight regulations and duties
- company operations and policies
- personal grooming and weight control
- instruction in passport and customs regulations
- Trainees must perform many drills and duties unaided, in front of the training staff.
- They also take tests designed to eliminate unsuccessful trainees.
- Toward the end of their training, students go on practice flights.
- Upon successful completion of training, flight attendants receive the FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency.
- Flight attendants also are required to go through periodic retraining and pass an FAA safety examination to continue flying.
- Median annual wages of flight attendants were $35,930 in May 2008.
- The middle 50 percent earned between $28,420 and $49,910.
- The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,580, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $65,350.
- According to data from the Association of Flight Attendants, beginning attendants had median earnings of $16,191 a year in 2009.
- Some airlines offer incentive pay for working holidays, night and international flights, or taking positions that require additional responsibility or paperwork.
- Flight attendants and their immediate families are entitled to free or discounted fares on their own airline and reduced fares on most other airlines.
- medical, dental, and life insurance
- 401K or other retirement plan
- sick leave
- paid holidays
- stock options
- paid vacations
- tuition reimbursement
- “per diem” allowance for meal expenses while on duty away from home.
- required to purchase uniforms and wear them while on duty. The airlines usually pay for uniform replacement items, and may provide a small allowance to cover cleaning and upkeep of the uniforms.
Be sure and explorer specific airline websites for more detailed information about their available positions and what their particular requirements are.