FLIGHT ATTENDANTS (also called stewardesses and stewards) help make flights
safe, comfortable, and enjoyable for airline passengers. A Flight Attendant's work begins when the plane's crew meets for a preflight
briefing covering route, weather, type of food and beverage services to be
offered, and passengers with medical problems or special requests.
Each Flight Attendant is assigned a work station and specific inflight
duties. On board the plane, Flight Attendants check to see that first-aid
kits and other emergency equipment are aboard and that supplies, such as
food, beverages, blankets, and, reading material are adequate. As passengers
board the plane, Attendants greet them, check their tickets, and assist
passengers by hanging up coats and stowing small pieces of luggageunder the
seats or in overhead compartments.
Flight attendants are responsible for passenger safety. They explain safety
regulations and emergency procedures, check to see that seat belts are
fastened during takeoff and landing, and assure that other Federal Aviation
Administration (FAA) safety standards are followed. Flight Attendants are
also concerned with their passengers' comfort. Depending on the length of
the flight, they may operate movie and audio systems, sell and serve
cocktails, and heat and distribute precooked meals. Before and after meals,
Attendants make periodic trips through the cabin to ensure passenger
comfort. For example, they might offer to help care for infants, bring
magazines, or adjust seats. In the event of an illness or emergency, Flight
Attendants may distribute medicine to alleviate symptoms or administer first
aid or operate emergency equipment such as chutes to quickly evacuate
passengers. At the end of the flight they see the passengers off the plane,
inspect and clean the cabin, and fill out any flight attendant reports
required by the airline.
A Flight Attendant's job is both physically and emotionally demanding.
Flight Attendants are on their feet during most of the flight and under
pressure to complete their tasks within the scheduled flight time. At times
they have to serve meals and pour drinks under turbulent flying conditions.
Despite stress or fatigue, they are expected to deal pleasantly with
passengers of all personality types, including those who are difficult or
rude. Although Flight Attendants enjoy the benefits of travel, they also
may have to live out of suitcases for weeks at a time. They may be
scheduled to fly at any hour, weekends and holidays. Attendants are usually
required to purchase their first uniforms. Payment can be made through
Most Flight Attendants belong to a union representing all flight attendants
within their airline. Among the unions representing these workers are the
Association of Flight Attendants, the Independent Federation of Flight
Attendants, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.
WAGES, HOURS, AND FRINGE BENEFITS
Flight Attendant wages start at a range of $12,000 to $18,400 annually.
With several years of experience, Flight Attendants can expect to earn from
$14,100 to $20,100 per annum. Top senior wages can reach from $20,100 to
$42,000 a year. The hourly wage paid to Flight Attendants is quite high,
but they are customarily contracted to work only from 50 to 75 hours per
month. If the need arises for them to fly more often, they are compensated
at a rate of time and one half.
Many airlines offer extra compensation on international flights to Flight
Attendants are fluent in a foreign language. The pay differential for
multilingual Flight Attendants can range from 50 to 75 cents per hour.
Fringe benefits can include health and life insurance, retirement plan, paid
vacation, lodging and food costs on "layovers", uniform replacement, and
free or discount air travel for Attendants and immediate family members.
ENTRANCE REQUIREMENTS AND TRAINING
Hiring requirements are similar among all the airlines. Flight Attendants
must be at least 19 to 21 years old. Height may be between 5' 2" and 6' 0",
with weight in proportion to height and bone structure. Depending on the
airline, natural vision must be at least 20/50 to 20/200; corrected vision
(glasses or contacts) must be 20/20 to 20/50. General health must be
excellent; all airlines give pre-employment physicals.
A high school education is usually required. In addition, most airlines
prefer two or more years of college and/or work experience involving contact
with the public. Nursing experience or training is advantageous.
International air carriers require or prefer fluency in a foreign language,
such as Spanish, German, Chinese, or French.
Personal characteristics, as revealed in interviews and tests, are extremely
important. When interviewing prospective Flight Attendants, employers look
for maturity and adaptability, a pleasant voice and good vocabulary, good
grooming, and tasteful dress. Applicants are also evaluated on their poise,
tact, and enthusiasm for the job.
Flight Attendant courses, offered by some community colleges and trade
schools, may provide helpful background information on the job and its
requirements. However, airline officials emphasize that such instruction is
not necessary and has little or no influence on their selection decisions.
In any event, all airlines conduct their own training programs for new hires,
regardless of their backgrounds. While in training, which lasts from four to
six weeks, candidates usually receive either a small salary or free housing
and meals. They are expected to bring sufficient money to cover personal
expenses during training, plus moving expenses to their first home base.
Depending on the circumstances, the amount required may range from $200 to
As seniority increases, Flight Attendants receive higher pay, better flying
assignments, and greater job security. Some advance to management positions
such as flight attendant supervisor, instructor, or inflight services
manager. A few transfer to other departments such as customer services,
personnel, or sales.
FINDING THE JOB
One should apply directly to the airline. Candidates who meet the minimum
requirements may be invited to local group interviews by a team of
recruiters. Those who pass this screening are scheduled for individual
interviews. Free air transportation may be provided to the interview location if in another city.