Flight attendants are responsible for the overall safety and comfort of an aircraft’s passengers, whether commercial or private. The job of a flight attendant is multifaceted, combining customer service with emergency care, food service, hospitality and sales.
Work schedules vary depending on the airline you work for and the specific routes you fly, but you can expect to work long hours on a regular basis – sometimes 12- to 14-hour shifts – on nights, weekends and holidays. As a new flight attendant, you will have to be on call and ready to work on short notice. That said, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) requires that all flight attendants receive a minimum of nine consecutive hours of rest between duty periods.
As the job requires extensive travel, you can expect to spend long periods of time away from home, especially if you serve on international flights.
The work can be physically demanding, as you have to spend a lot of time on your feet, and extremely stressful, especially when dealing with difficult passengers. Spending long periods of time in a confined space adds a higher risk of illness, while injuries are not uncommon (such as due to falling objects, like luggage, during turbulence). Many flight attendants also report problems with diet and sleep.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
No formal education is required to become a flight attendant, though you will need to complete extensive training and meet stringent physical requirements set by the airline that employs you.
Training typically lasts between three and six weeks, and includes instruction on flight regulations, emergency procedures and company operations. Physical requirements vary from airline to airline, but they usually include minimum 20/40 vision, no visible tattoos and an overall professional appearance. You will also need to pass a background check, a drug test and a comprehensive medical evaluation.
You must also be certified by the FAA. To maintain certification, you will need to meet annual training requirements.
Flight attendants generally progress from working on short-haul or domestic flights to long-haul or international flights.
With experience, you can advance to a senior flight attendant position, where you’ll be overseeing a team of flight attendants and have more control over your schedule. You can also move to a training role or another ground-based role such as in recruitment, marketing or sales.