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

No comments