Flight Attendants are in many ways the faces of airlines. They take care of passengers, tending to their needs, comfort, and safety during a flight.
The primary duty of a Flight Attendant is to ensure passenger safety during flights by adhering to safety regulations. In order to do so, they need to maintain constant communication with the Pilot, in order to be informed of the general situation and to follow the right procedures if an emergency comes up. They are also tasked with serving meals and drinks to passengers, but this is mostly a secondary responsibility.
Flight Attendants are employed by airlines and most of them work in commercial flights, although there is also a market for private flight attendants (e.g. private charter planes or jets). Depending on the size of the plane, international safety regulations demand a certain number of Flight Attendants to be on board the aircraft. The standard rule is that there should be one Flight Attendant for each 51 passengers.
Although most Flight Attendants in the majority of airlines are female, there has been an increasing number of male Flight Attendants in the last years.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Flight Attendants are required to complete.
- Attending a safety briefing along with Pilots prior to boarding the plane:
- Reviewing safety and emergency procedures specific to the type of aircraft prior to boarding.
- Greeting passengers as they board the plane:
- Helping special needs passengers, unaccompanied children, passengers with small babies, or VIPs; and
- helping passengers find their seats and stowing their carry-on luggage.
- Explaining safety procedures and measures to passengers:
- Going over the safety procedures speech;
- ensuring all passengers understand how to use the emergency equipment; and
- making sure the emergency exit seats are occupied by passengers that are willing and able to respond in case of an emergency.
- Making sure that all the safety procedures for take-off are met:
- Ensuring tray tables and carry-ons are stowed and secured correctly;
- making sure all passengers have their seatbelts fastened, that all seats are in the upright position, and all armrests are down; and
- ensuring that all electronic devices are turned off.
- Serving meals and drinks to passengers during the flight.
- Conducting periodical cabin checks to ensure the safety of the crew:
- Checking for unusual noises or situations;
- checking the lavatory smoke detector hasn’t been tampered with;
- checking with the Pilots to ensure their health and safety; and
- restocking supplies as needed.
- Handling emergency situations:
- Evacuating passengers out of a plane;
- using emergency rafts and slides;
- in-flight firefighting;
- checking passengers’ condition;
- providing first aids;
- providing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR);
- defibrillating passengers when needed;
- adhering to emergency landing procedures; and
- handling emergency decompression situations.
- Making in-flight announcements.
- Ensuring cabin safety during turbulence.
- Ensuring cabin safety prior to landing:
- Collecting all loose items such as trays and rubbish;
- ensuring all passengers’ loose belongings are stowed away; and
- ensuring all passengers have their seatbelts fastened, that all seats are in the upright position, and all armrests are down.
- Assisting passengers as they get off the plane:
- Assisting passengers with special needs, unaccompanied children, passengers with small babies, or VIPs; and
- making sure all passengers leave the plane.
- Escorting unaccompanied children to the person designated to pick them up.
- Greeting and helping passengers board the plane.
- Helping passengers with their carry-ons.
- Going over safety and emergency procedures.
- Serving meals and drinks to passengers, as well as complying with some special requests.
- Making in-flight announcements.
- Ensuring the safety of the crew.
- Assisting passengers during an emergency or any unexpected event.
- Helping passengers leave the plane.
The average Flight Attendant salary in USA is $35,945 per year or $18 per hour. This is around 1.2 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $25,000 while most experienced workers make up to $50,000. These results are based on 49 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding interpersonal and communication skills:
- Communicating clearly with passengers, in order to explain safety regulations and procedures;
- making in-flight announces in a calm and clear manner;
- being empathetic and able to inspire trust;
- being proficient in a second language; and
- having a friendly and engaging personality and being able to work as part of a team.
- Passion for customer service:
- Being able to tend to the needs of passengers and answer any inquiries or complaints they may have.
- Excellent physical condition:
- Having excellent eyesight and hearing;
- being able to stand for long periods of time without sitting; and
- being able to work in small spaces.
- Safety conscious:
- Being able to go over security checklists, to identify possible security threats and to react accordingly; and
- remaining calm in emergency situations.
- High levels of initiative, resourcefulness, flexibility, and compromise.
Flight Attendants are usually recruited and trained by airlines at their headquarters. Although it is a position mainly filled by females, males are also eligible. Being at least 18 years of age, having clean criminal and drug records, undergoing a medical examination, and having a high school diploma are the basic requirements to become a Flight Attendant, although many airlines prefer their staff to also have a college or university degree in Communications, Education, or any other customer service-related field. There are some schools and training centers for aspiring Flight Attendants; while the training at an airline’s headquarters is specialized and adapted to the specific regulations and policies of each company, training institutes offer a more generic, but equally comprehensive preparation.
Training to become a Flight Attendant focuses mostly on safety and security measures. These programs usually include how to handle emergencies, how to administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), federal regulations, flight procedures, aircraft evacuation, and techniques related to rescues. Training can take from 1 to 6 weeks. It also focuses on the use of the equipment available for the crew inside a plane. The final part of the training focuses on customer service. All content is always reviewed, evaluated, approved, and established by The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
After finishing the training process, it is obligatory to apply for the Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency issued either by The FAA or The National Transportation Safety Board. There is a certification for each kind of aircraft. Therefore, a specific training and a new test are required depending on the aircraft applicants are willing to work in. Nevertheless, it is important to note that Flight Attendants will only be employed as such if they can prove that they know what to do during an emergency, which includes handling an emergency evacuation and using the emergency equipment.
International regulations and airline policies establish certain physical attributes that Flight Attendants must meet to be eligible. Most airlines require a minimum height for their employees for safety reasons to make sure that all crew is able to reach the overhead compartments and safety equipment. The most common minimal height is 1.50 meters or 4 ft. 11 in. tall. Airlines also require Flight Attendants to adhere to weight restrictions. Their weight and body mass must be proportionate to easily navigate through the narrow aisles of a plane.
Being in constant contact with travelers from all over the world, all Flight Attendants in major airlines are required to be proficient and fluent in at least two languages. Depending on where the airline is from, they will require its employees to be fluent in the native language of the country and at least one other. The most demanded languages are English, French, Spanish, Hindi, Mandarin, and Arabic. If working for an international airline, Flight Attendants must be able to legally enter and stay in the countries served by the company. It is common for Flight Attendants to spend the night in other countries. Therefore, they must possess a passport or the proper paperwork that will allow them to leave the airport and head to a hotel while abroad.
Flight Attendants must be able to work flexible schedules, including regular and irregular hours, such as weekends and national holidays. They also must be available for on-call work for at least a week each month.