So You Want to Be a Flight Attendant

Do you dream of flying all over the world with a sassy scarf around your neck and your entire existence packed into a carryon bag? Is your goal to establish an exciting career in the aviation industry?  Do you want to explore the world? If your answer was "yes" to any of these, you're probably interested in becoming a Flight Attendant. But wait, you ask, how do I become a flight attendant?

When I graduated from training, we were told that our company only offered training spots to 2000 of the 200,000 people who applied for the job. Luckily, when I was applying I had no idea how competitive the process was. I was interested because I love to travel, I enjoy people, and I was excited by the prospect of all of the benefits- travel, dental insurance, and comprehensive health coverage.

In this wonderful internet age, there are a million resources available for aspiring Flight Attendants. I did research on YouTube, read blogs like this one, and asked a million questions of my pal who flies for another major airline.

I wanted to share some answers to questions I get asked ALL the time about how I became one of the lucky few who get to travel the world and get paid for it.

Q: How did you apply in the first place?
A: I went to the websites of airlines I knew I was interested in working for (specifically major airlines with international routes who also fly to BTV) and I checked out their career pages.You'll want to look under "Flight Service" or "Inflight" when you get to their job search pages. The listing might say "Flight Attendant" or "Trainee Flight Attendant" or something similar.

Q: Have you always wanted to be a Flight Attendant?
A: Nope. I joked about it while I was in high school, but I never seriously thought "I want to be a Flight Attendant" until I started feeling burned out on politics while working as a Field Organizer during the 2014 campaign. I didn't want to become jaded at 24 so I decided to take a break from that career path for a bit. Now I get to still be involved in Vermont politics, but it's not the only thing I do.

Q: Do you have to be a certain height and weight?
A: No. Many years ago there were requirements for those, but then the world realized that hiring based on those criteria is discriminatory and wrong. Today you have to be able to comfortably reach to a certain height (i.e. be able to reach into an overhead bin) and be able to sit comfortably in a jump seat. Nothing crazy, just requirements of the actual job.

Q: What is your schedule like? Do you always fly the same routes?
A: Our schedules are determined in large part by our seniority within the company. I'm a very new Flight Attendant, which means I am very junior. Since I'm junior, I'm on reserve. Essentially, being on reserve means that you're on call for flights that the company needs a Flight Attendant to go work. You might know 24 hours in advance that you'll be working a trip, or as little as 2 hours in advance. Some specific assignments require you to be on call in uniform at the airport, just waiting to be put on whatever plane needs you. I get 11 days off per month, and I know what those days will be by the middle of the previous month (I got my December schedule on November 18). As a result of my reserve status, I almost never fly the same routes. It can be Greece one week and then flying shuttle trips between Philadelphia, Boston, and New York the next week. For some people, this can be really stressful. There have been times when it's a challenge (try packing when you have no idea if you're going to Tampa or Minneapolis) but for the most part I find it exciting.
As I accrue more seniority, I'll be able to have more control over where and when I fly.

Q: What's the pay like?
A: I'll be honest, I took a pay cut to take this job. As with any career, when you first start out you aren't making as much as you will be five years down the road. For me, the difference in pay is made up for by the value of the benefits I receive- travel privileges, consistent and comprehensive health insurance, dental, and vision. I also just absolutely LOVE this job, so that alone makes it worthwhile for me. As a reserve FA, I'm guaranteed X number of paid flight hours a month. If I fly more than X, then I'm paid for more. If I fly less than X, I'm still paid for that minimum X number.

Q: What's training like?
A: Training varies from airline to airline. The FAA requires you to learn certain things and to spend a certain number of hours in training, but beyond that it's up to the company to determine what they want their training program to look like. I can really only speak to the training process of the airline I work for, since that's the only one I've gone through. We train at the company's HQ for a six week period, and it's incredibly intense. You'll learn the details of every aircraft you'll be qualified to work on, what to do in every possible emergency situation, and so much more. My personal favorites were self defense, fire fighting, CPR, and water evacuations. You take tests every few days, and anything below 90% is considered to be failing. You can retake a handful of tests (2-3), but if you mess up again you're removed from training. In our training we're housed and fed for those six weeks, which is great. Some programs have paid training, other don't.

Q: Do you have to live in the city you're based in?
A: Most companies allow you to commute from where you live to the place where you're based. I still live in Vermont, but for the times when I'm on call, I have an apartment where I stay in Philadelphia. That's a big part of why I work for the airline that I do- I wanted to be able to easily commute to work and I was THRILLED when I was assigned to Philly because it's such a short flight home to VT.

Q: Was it difficult to get used to working in a plane?
A; I grew up traveling and spent a LOT of time up in the air, so I have always been pretty used to flying. I recently realized just how comfortable I am on planes now- it really is just another day at the office.

Q: Does the airline pay for your accommodations while you're working?
A: Yes. The airline I work for provides a hotel and transportation from the airport and back. That's pretty standard. We all have our own rooms while we're on a layover.

Q: Do you like it? Is it worth it?
A: OH HECK YES. This is the most fun job I have ever had. It can be hard (you know, like when a passenger projectile vomits or you're working five legs a day or you have a plane full of cranky people), but for every rough moment there are ten wonderful moments. Getting to explore cities and countries I've never been to before, getting to meet WONDERFUL people (passengers and crew alike), and getting to see friends and family all over the country... it's wonderful and totally totally worth all of the hard parts.

Do you have other questions you're wondering about? Feel free to email me at

The Aisle is NOT Your Space

Ok, I'm about to get a little ranty here. 

When you are on an airplane and you have an aisle seat, it's your responsibility to keep your elbows, knees, shoulders, toes, arms, feet, head, blanket, backpack, and anything else you brought on board OUT. OF. THE. AISLE. 

"But why? I paid for this seat so I would have extra room. Have you seen how small these airplane seats are?" 

Dude. If you want extra legroom you'll have to spring for an exit seat or business class. And yes, believe it or not I'm actually quite familiar with airplane seats. I only spend about a hundred hours a month on airplanes, but thanks for the update. 

So why is it so important to keep the aisles clear?

1. Safety. When there's an emergency on a plane, your flight attendant needs to get to the situation as quickly as humanly possible to assist the passenger in distress. If you're blocking the aisle, you're endangering the safety of your fellow passengers AND the safety of your flight crew. I had a one flight where a passenger became very ill and projectile vomited all over her boyfriend sitting next to her (he handled it flawlessly. I was so impressed.) and when the call bells around her started dinging, I booked it down that aisle, tripping over the feet of oblivious passengers all the way. Frankly, it's a miracle I didn't fall and add to the medical emergency we were already dealing with. 

2. Speaking of injuries, did you know those beverage carts weigh 200-300 pounds? When they bump into your elbow or roll over your toes, it's going to smart. A lot. I do my best to warn you we're coming through, but if you have headphones in or you're asleep and you have limbs dangling in the aisle you could very well end up quite hurt if you don't move. Be careful. I'm trying to keep you safe. Work with me here. 

3. The aisle and the galleys on a plane are our workspace. How would you like it if I came to your office and sat on your desk, wouldn't stop talking to you during your lunch break, or blocked the path to and from your cubicle? Oh, you wouldn't like that? Ok, then please don't do it in my office space. If you desperately need a cup of ginger ale because your stomach is upset, that's fine. If you need some water, that's fine too. Come on back and see us! Then kindly leave so that we can continue to do our jobs. 

For my safety, for your safety, and just because it's polite- be a responsible passenger and please keep the aisles clear. Just do it. 

All of these comics are from the brilliant JetlaggedComic. I'm obsessed.

My Flight Attendant Purse

When I posted about the types of bags I recommend using, people started asking what I stash in my own travel bags. Here's a snapshot of what I keep in my purse while traveling. These are my go to items whether I'm on the road for work, heading home to Vermont, or non revving to somewhere else entirely.

The bag I'm using right now is an old favorite of mine, a Kate Spade tote I've had for about six years. It's actually a diaper bag, and I absolutely love it. It has a million pockets to keep everything organized, it's simple, and it's a real workhorse of a tote bag. Here's the closest current equivalent I could find.

The current contents of my purse.
1. My crisis kit (see below).
2. LL Bean Town and Field Clutch. I love that this comes with a detachable wristlet strap so I can carry it alone.
3. Moleskine Notebook.
4. Graphic Image Planner. I am obsessed with this. It has loads of useful charts, tips, and maps in the back along with my favorite feature- a list of memorable restaurants and hotels. Plus, you can get it monogrammed.
5. iPad Mini with Cath Kidson cover.
6. GlassU Sunglasses (c/o). I'm in love with these foldable, wearable, packable, delightful sunnies.
7. Tissues.
8. Cereal bar.
9. Dr. Bronner's Hand sanitizer
10. Narciso Rodriguez For Her Rollerball
11. Trader Joe's Lavender hand lotion in a Go-Gear squeeze tube.
12. Bite Beauty: Matte Crème Lip Crayon, High Pigment Pencil, and Luminous Crème Lipstick.
13. Warheads candies my boyfriend gave me because he knows they're my favorite.
14. Pens- at least one of which is a Sharpie.
15. Headphones.
16. My Crew ID
17. Herban Essentials Cleansing Towelettes.
18. Orbit Gum. Fun fact: the original Orbit Gum girl was Miss Vermont 1995. Look it up.
19. Emergen C Drink mix.
20. Peppermint Tea bags
21. Josie Maran Lip Stain
22. Badger Herbal Lip Balm
23. Car keys with my Smathers and Branson key fob.

The current contents of my crisis bag.

1. My Crisis Bag is a cosmetics bag. Currently it's in this one that has been discontinued, but I also love these.
2. Hollywood Fashion Tape. Buy it now, thank me later. Don't bother with another brand. Just don't.
3. Downy Wrinkle Releaser. This is a gift from the laundry gods.
4. Sunscreen.
5. Ginger tea for any digestion challenge.
6. Pain reliever.
7. Neosporin. Critical.
8. Altoids.
9. Clear nail polish to stop hose from running.
10. Collapsible hairbrush/mirror combo
11. Eyedrops.
12. Travel mascara.
13. Thermometer. In case you get sick while traveling you need to be able to give medical professionals the most complete assessment of your symptoms possible.
14. Extra strength lip stuff.
15. Extra hand cream.
16. Decongestant tablets.
17. Bandaids. 

Things I Love on the Aircraft

1. Running into people I know from Vermont on a flight. 

2. People who help their fellow passengers do things like stow bags, calm crying babies, or purchase a snack for a new friend. 

3. People who make new friends on the plane. 

4. People who are interested in what I do. 

5. People who follow the rules and instructions the first time. 

6. People who read the safety card. 

7. People who stop talking and pay attention (or pretend to pay attention) during the safety demo. 

8. People who let me hold their babies. (Tip: not all FAs love this, but I'm always willing to hold a cute baby, especially if you're a parent traveling alone and you need a few minutes of baby holding relief.)

9. People who bring us candy. 

10. Kiddos who give me hugs or high fives when they're deplaning

11. People who give up their first class seats to service members. 

12. People who give their upgrades to their spouses. 

13. Mature, awesomely behaved kids. 

14. When people are genuinely polite. 

15. Flawless carry on bag placement in the overhead bin. 

Travel Items I Like

Now that you all know about my slight obsession with Packing Cubes, I wanted to share with you a few more items that I love to travel with. 

I'm usually grossed out by reusable water bottles. I've owned your typical plastic ones in the past, but I've always secretly felt that I just couldn't ever get the taste of stale water (or worse, soap) out of the bottle, making the whole "reusable" piece pretty pointless. Then I found these bad boys. They keep your liquids hot (soup from home for layovers, thank you very much!), cold, and they seal completely so you don't have to worry about leaking. I own the large 25 oz bottle...which is advertised as being able to hold an entire bottle of wine... I'm looking forward to experimenting with that when picnic season returns. I sterilize mine using boiling water and vodka so I avoid the whole soap taste issue altogether. 

Are you one of those people who thinks planes are gross? Stock up on this stuff now. It kills the germs and smells amazing. I'm in love with it, and the tiny bottle lasts a surprisingly long time. 

These babies are useful for containing charger cords, small electronics, jewelry, and so much more. They keep your purse or "small personal item" nicely organized while in flight.

This bag is so useful, versatile, and inexpensive that I've actually purchased two. I snapped one up in training because I needed a black bag that was compliant with our uniform standards, and since then I've converted a slew of fellow FAs. It packs easily and is a FABULOUS layover bag with its multiple strap options. Well played, Old Navy. 

I purchased this bag specifically because it has credit card slots right in the bag, keeping my ID readily accessible when I want to breeze through security at the airport. It's a delightful and durable bag that comes in two sizes, I have the mini. It blends in regardless of your circumstances and I just adore it.

Packing Essentials

Before I had this job I spent a lot of time on the road. Whether it was road tripping between Vermont and the South (that 24 hour drive to Arkansas is no joke) or flying all over, I developed a packing system that has served me well as a Flight Attendant. My system has continued to evolve over the past six months of this new life, and I'm sure I'll refine it even more as the seasons change.

For now, here is my current packing advice:

1. Maximize your carry on situation.
     This means traveling with only a carryon sized rolling bag (unless you're LITERALLY moving somewhere), and your one personal item. Protip: I'd recommend that personal item be as large as is manageable in order to maximize your hauling capacity, and then stick a smaller purse with things you use inflight inside of it. Recommendations: The Lo & Sons OG with the Lo & Sons Pearl inside, or the more budget friendly option of the ebags Savvy Laptop Tote with the ebags Villa Cross Body inside.

2. Be smart about it.  
     When you're packing, make sure that you put everything that is absolutely essential (medications, identification documents, electronics, money) in your personal item- NOT in your rolling bag. Depending on the size of the aircraft, overhead bin space can be hard to come by and your rolling bag may very well need to be checked through to your final destination. Be a savvy traveler and have your 'must' items on your person. Don't be that annoying passenger who remembers they've checked their medication in the middle of the boarding process. I promise I'll do my best to help, but most of the time, there's nothing I can do once it's been tagged.
     Wear your bulkiest items. In winter, wear your heavy coat and over the knee boots while traveling. In the summer, wear your wedges. It saves you a ton of room in your bags so that you can fit plenty of packing cubes in there instead.
     Tag your bags. Put your name, phone number, town/state, and your applicable frequent flyer numbers on tags on and in your bag. Ideally make them bright enough that you can spot them from a distance and unique enough that they can help identify them if they get lost in the shuffle. I have two Luggage Tags by Lolo on my crew bags.

3. Organize within your bags - i.e. ORDER PACKING CUBES NOW.
     I am a Packing Cube evangelist, and I'm proud of it. Ever since I ordered these incredible tools five years ago, I've been spreading the word that they're absolute necessities when it comes to living out of a suitcase for any length of time, whether it's for a weekend or a month.
     Sometimes I pack individual outfits in each cube, sometimes a category of clothing (like shirts or dresses) into a cube, sometimes everything I'll need for the gym goes in one and everything for the pool (flip flips, bathing suit, sarong, sunscreen) goes in another. When I pack my mom and my little brother for one of their trips I use different colors to delineate whose clothes are whose so that they can share bags. You can sort them however it makes sense to you.
     Currently in my suitcase I have one for the gym, one for the pool, one for cold weather accessories, one for dresses, one for undergarments, one for tops, one for pants/skirts, and two shoe bags. When Crew Scheduling calls and tells me where I'm going, I might swap a bag or two out. For example, if they tell me I'm going to London I'll take out the pool and gym stuff and sub in extra socks and a blazer because I know I'll be walking all over a city instead of hitting the elliptical.
     In particular, I recommend the slim cubes, the small cubes, the shoe sleeves, and the Pack It Flat Toiletries Kit.

Flight Attendant Makeup

When I’m on the plane, I’m always slightly confused about how to reply when my coworkers or passengers tell me my skin looks great… Do I tell them it’s makeup? Tell them it’s because I drink a lot of water? Most of the time I just smile and say thank you. As a Vermonter, I’m more likely to be self deprecating than I am to be graciously thankful, but I’m working on it.
The only reason I have any idea what to put on face is entirely because I was Miss Vermont a few years ago. Between YouTube videos, working with a variety of makeup artists, and experimenting with products (I have WAY too many VIB points at Sephora) I’ve developed a pretty decent makeup system, if I do say so myself. The airline doesn’t necessarily require Flight Attendants to wear a full face of makeup every day. Specifically, they ask that we wear mascara and maybe a little blush, because the goal is natural and professional looking makeup. 
Here are my Top Ten products that I use on a daily basis to achieve my FA makeup look: 

Why I Became a Flight Attendant

When I was ten years old, I realized that my calling was to become an elected official so that I could help people. Ever since, I’ve done everything I can to work towards that goal- Student Government, studying Political Science and History, participating in training programs for aspiring female politicians, interning for elected officials, working on campaigns, and even running for the Vermont State Senate at 22. 
In 2014, I was in the throes of the election cycle when I fully realized just how completely I dislike campaigning. The part of the political process that I enjoy involves helping people to exercise their rights of citizenship by voting, helping a constituent with an issue they have or an answer they need, or teaching young people about the political process. I do not like lawn signs, palm cards, rumors, or personal attacks. I really don’t like the way campaigns so often expose a cruel competitive side of the very people who should be leading the way for the rest of us. 
In the middle of that campaign a friend suggested I apply to be a Flight Attendant, a job I’d never seriously considered. I gave it some thought because I love to travel (third culture kid, right here), I genuinely enjoy people, and I didn’t want to get burned out on politics when I was just 24. So I applied with two airlines and after five rounds of interviewing I was very fortunate to be offered a position with a major U.S. Airline, one currently in the middle of a merger. 😉
When I began my four plus weeks of training at our facility in Dallas I thought this was going to be just another job- one that I might do for a year or two before the 2016 election cycle kicked into high gear. By the end of training and the completion of my practice flights it had become clear that this was going to be so much more than just a job for me. I love practically everything about this way of living- even the things I dislike are better than the things I loved about office jobs I’ve had in the past. I get to travel our country and the world, keep people safe, and often I get to help our passengers to feel more comfortable in a situation that makes them nervous or anxious. Flying with different people all the time to new locations is exciting- you meet some incredible people and experience some wonderful things…and I’ve only been at this for six months! 
One of the best things about it is the flexibility that comes with this job. I’m able to continue living in Vermont, and as I attain more seniority I’ll be able to continue my involvement in politics because I’ll be able to arrange my schedule to accommodate both of my passions. Vermont has already had a Lieutenant Governor who was also a pilot- why not a State Legislator who’s also a Flight Attendant?
While all of these changes in my professional life were taking place, I was also dealing with an extremely difficult personal transition as well. About a month after I submitted my application to become a Flight Attendant, my husband of one year decided he no longer wanted to be married. The full story is long and painful, but the short and graceful version is we are now no longer married and my life has really and truly never been better. Silver linings are real, y'all.
Just days after arriving at my base in Philadelphia I went on what was supposed to be a casual date with a nice young teacher in this exciting new city- and we’ve been dating ever since because he’s absolutely wonderful. Granted, he foiled my plans of having a jetsetting personal life with a boyfriend in every city, but I’ve managed to forgive him for that. 
So why did I become a Flight Attendant? I like traveling and I like people. Why do I want to stay a Flight Attendant? All that and so much more. This new life has been incredible so far, and I can’t wait to see what’s next.