Nature of the work
- At least one hour before each flight, 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 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 blankets.
- As passengers board the plane, flight attendants greet them, check their tickets, and tell them where to store coats and carry-on items.
- Before the plane takes off, flight attendants instruct all passengers in the use of emergency equipment and check to see that seat belts are fastened, seat backs are in upright positions, and all carry-on items are properly stowed.
- In the air, helping passengers in the event of an emergency is the most important responsibility of a flight attendant.
- Flight attendants also answer questions about the flight; distribute reading material, pillows, and blankets, and food and beverage items; and help small children, elderly or disabled persons, and any others needing assistance.
- Prior to landing, flight attendants take inventory of headsets, alcoholic beverages, and moneys collected.
- Lead, or first, flight attendants, sometimes known as pursers, oversee the work of the other attendants aboard the aircraft, while performing most of the same duties. Major airlines are required by law to provide flight attendants for the safety of the traveling public.
- Because airlines operate around-the-clock, year-round, flight attendants may work nights, holidays, and weekends.
- In most cases, agreements between the airline and the employees' union determine the total daily and monthly working time.
- On-duty time is usually limited to 12 hours per day, with a daily maximum of 14 hours.
- Attendants usually fly 65 to 85 hours a month and, in addition, generally spend about 50 hours a month on the ground preparing planes for flights, writing reports following completed flights, and waiting for planes to arrive.
- They 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, reliable, and willing to relocate.
- Almost all flight attendants start out working on reserve status or on call.
- The combination of free time and discount airfares provides flight attendants the opportunity to travel and see new places. 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 disruptive passengers. Flight attendants are susceptible to injuries because of the job demands in a moving aircraft. 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.
Training, other qualifications and advancement
- Airlines prefer to hire poised, tactful, and resourceful people who can interact comfortably with strangers and remain calm under duress.
- Applicants usually must be at least 18 to 21 years old.
- Flight attendants must have excellent health and the ability to speak clearly.
- Applicants must be high school graduates, and those with several years of college and experience in dealing with the public are preferred.
- Flight attendants for international airlines generally must speak one or more foreign languages fluently.
- Once hired, all candidates must undergo a period of formal training which can last between 3 to 8 weeks, depending on the size and type of carrier. Training takes place at the airline's flight training center.
- In addition, airlines usually have physical and appearance requirements. There are height requirements for the purposes of reaching overhead bins, and most airlines want candidates with weight proportionate to height. Vision is required to be correctable to 20/30 or better with glasses or contact lenses (uncorrected no worse than 20/200). Men must have their hair cut above the collar and be clean shaven. Airlines prefer applicants with no visible tattoos, body piercing, or unusual hairstyles or makeup.
- Some flight attendants become supervisors or take on additional duties such as recruiting and instructing. Their experience also may qualify them for numerous airline-related jobs involving contact with the public, such as reservation ticket agent or public-relations specialist.