If you have an unrelenting desire to travel, either domestically or internationally, a job as a flight attendant might be right up your alley. And this is particularly true if you don’t have an aversion to flying and take pride in providing an outstanding customer service experience. Of course, merely desiring such a role and being committed to delivering a memorable customer service experience is not enough to make this dream job a reality, say most headhunters and those already working in the industry. So if these are the only things you have to bring to the table, chances are you don’t have what it takes to fulfill the role of a flight attendant. While this might sound harsh and in no way resembles being supportive, there is a fair bit of truth in these words.
The Challenge of Becoming a Flight Attendant
Before detailing what it takes to become a flight attendant with a premier airline carrier, let’s first look at the sobering odds of ever becoming one. According to an article published by Travel and Leisure, an NYC-based travel magazine with close to five million readers, only 1 percent of applicants will land a job as a flight attendant. To further put this into perspective, the famed Harvard University in Massachusetts has a much higher acceptance rate when compared to many of the top airline carriers in the U.S. That said, the cream of the crop applicants who make the cut and become an attendant for United, Delta, Jet Blue, or American Airlines, for example, earn an attractive salary while flying all across the nation and, in some cases, around the world. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for flight attendants was around $59,000 in 2020, and 10 percent of attendants reportedly earned close to $85,000.
Minimum Requirements to Become a Flight Attendant
We have established that only 1 percent of applicants will land a job as a flight attendant, but we didn’t delve too deep into how competitive things can be for those vying for such a role. For example, Delta and Emirates receive 150,000 and 144,000 flight attendant applications each month, respectively. Fortunately, there are ways for job seekers to stand out and land the flight attendant job they have their sights set on. While the role of a flight attendant does not require a college degree, it doe not hurt to have one. Statistically and historically speaking, airline carriers often choose applicants with a college degree over those with only a high school diploma, especially if that degree is in communications, tourism, or hospitality. That aside, the basic requirements to become a flight attendant are as follows:
- Possess a high school diploma or general educational development (GED)
- Eligible to work in the U.S. and have a valid passport
- Must have at least 20/40 vision or better with correction
- Must pass a medical exam and background check
- Must be 5’2″ to 6’3″ without shoes, the height range necessary to reach the overhead compartment on most commercial planes
Additional Requirements Necessary to Become a Flight Attendant
Along with education, vision, height requirements, and so on, physical appearance can also dictate someone’s chance of being hired as a flight attendant. The same applies to their personality as well. For example, having too many visible piercings or tattoos can sometimes preclude an applicant from being hired even if they otherwise qualify for the role. Many airline carriers are also very candid in saying they look for neat and conservative makeup, grooming, and hairstyles when an applicant comes in for an in-person interview. Most airlines also prefer candidates who are height-weight proportionate, notes a U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics study.
On-The-Job Flight Attendant Training
After being hired, flight attendants must undergo 3 to 6 weeks of training at an airline training center. During this training, newly-hired flight attendants learn about their work duties, emergency procedures, and first aid, all of which are critical to their success once they begin working with passengers and other crew members. Other aspects of on-the-job flight attendant training may comprise of the following:
- Airport regulation
- Aviation terminology
- Freight and baggage handling
- General onboarding and deplaning
- History of flight
- Passenger handling
- Standard safety procedures
- Uniform policy
While in flight attendant training, students will have to go on practice flights. Once they have completed the necessary number of practice flights for their respective airline, they will have to take and pass the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency exam. If they pass, they will be officially certified as a flight attendant for their respective airline. Since we are on the topic, it is worth noting that if flight attendant decides to switch airlines, they will have to undergo additional flight attendant training. In addition, they must obtain a new certification from the FAA, so it certainly pays to do your due diligence and apply for a flight attendant position with an airline that you can see yourself with for the long haul.
A Day in the Life of a Flight Attendant: The Reality of Traveling for a Living
Once on the plane, the duties of a flight attendant will almost always begin with a flight briefing from the pilot, which typically includes information concerning the flight itself, weather conditions, and evacuation procedures. Following that, flight attendants will check emergency equipment and inspect food and beverage supplies and overall cabin cleanliness. After passengers have boarded the plane and are seated, flight attendants will do a presentation whereby they will provide instruction on securely fastening one’s seat belts and correctly using oxygen masks and other devices on the aircraft in case of an emergency. Lastly, attendants will serve food and beverages to passengers during the flight and check in on them from time to time to make sure they are comfortable.
In summary, being a flight attendant is an exciting job that allows you to travel while meeting new and fascinating people on every trip. What’s more, you earn a competitive salary while doing so. Best of all, you can land such a job without a college degree.