What is a Flight Attendant?

Flight attendants are in charge of the cabin in an aircraft, and are responsible for the safety and comfort of the passengers. They spend more time with passengers than any other airline employee, and try to offer the most personalized service possible to each and every passenger for the duration of a flight.

Flight attendants can either work in first-class and provide elaborate service to a small number of passengers, or can work in economy class and provide less elaborate service to a large number of passengers. Service includes taking care of a wide variety of needs and requests, and flight attendants only have a certain time that is allotted to them during the flight in which to offer the most personalized service possible to each and every passenger.

What does a Flight Attendant do?

Almost all of a flight attendant's duties are safety-related, though customer service is also important.

A flight attendant speaking and smiling with a passenger on a flight.

Approximately one hour before each flight, attendants are briefed by their captain. Weather conditions, possible turbulence, flight duration, and other factors that may affect the upcoming flight are discussed in detail. They are also briefed on safety details and emergency equipment supplies relevant to the aircraft they will be flying. A list of passengers is verified and attendants are notified if any special needs passengers, small children, or VIPs will be boarding the flight.

Once passengers are called to board, flight attendants assist with the boarding process. They aid any special needs passengers, children, or VIPs to ensure they receive the proper care while boarding. Tickets and seating positions are verified, and attendants check for both accuracy and possible fraudulent or stolen tickets. In addition, they help passengers load carry-on baggage, checking that each adheres to aircraft or airline size and weight restrictions.

Flight attendants are also responsible for briefing the passengers on safety standards specific to the aircraft in a safety demonstration. Passengers are made aware of how to locate their nearest emergency exit, how to properly buckle their safety belts, what to do in the event of turbulence, how to operate safety vests or flotation devices, and how to use the drop-down oxygen masks. In some cases, passengers will watch a short video covering this information while the flight attendant monitors their behaviour.

After the safety demonstration, attendants secure the cabin, making sure electronic devices and cell phones are turned off, carry-ons are stowed correctly, seats are in an upright position, and tray tables are stowed. The entire procedure, from boarding to takeoff, is known as pre-take-off service.

After the plane is safely in the air, flight attendants check for passenger comfort. They deliver headphones or pillows to passengers who request them and serve food or drinks. In addition to serving the customers, flight attendants must conduct regular safety checks and listen for unusual noises. Once the plane begins its descent, attendants must ensure all trash has been removed from the cabin and seats are in their correct positions before performing a final safety check. After landing, attendants assist passengers in safely deplaning the aircraft.

Are you suited to be a flight attendant?

Flight attendants have distinct personalities. They tend to be enterprising individuals, which means they’re adventurous, ambitious, assertive, extroverted, energetic, enthusiastic, confident, and optimistic. They are dominant, persuasive, and motivational. Some of them are also social, meaning they’re kind, generous, cooperative, patient, caring, helpful, empathetic, tactful, and friendly.

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What is the workplace of a Flight Attendant like?

Since airlines operate day and night and year-round, flight attendants must have a flexible schedule. Generally, they work no more than 12 hours per day, but may in some cases (especially in the event of oversea international flights) work 14 hours or more. Attendants also work on holidays and weekends and typically fly for 65 to 90 hours per month, with another 50 hours spent on the ground preparing or waiting for flights.

A flight attendant's in-flight duties keep them on their feet most of the time. They stand, walk, push and pull equipment, kneel, bend, reach, stoop, and lift heavy objects from the floor to above shoulder-level heights. Flight attendants typically need to work quickly in order to finish all their tasks during the few hours in the air. They often serve meals and pour beverages under rough flying conditions. Passengers can be annoying and demanding at times, and it is the flight attendants responsibility to be patient, remain pleasant, and provide quality service.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should I become a Flight Attendant?

If you are contemplating becoming a flight attendant, but aren't 100% sure yet, here are some tidbits of information that may help you in making your decision.

PROS

Adventure - No two days are alike - the people, places, culture and food that flight attendants experience are sometimes life changing.

Discounts - Flight attendants get discounts at airport shops, restaurants, hotels, rental cars, city tours and cruises. Some airlines also offer additional discounts to shows, amusement parks, etc. This is on top of free or discounted standby flights.

Time Off - Depending on the schedule, flight attendants could have a couple of weeks off per month. This amounts to six months of work spread out over a calendar year.

Alone Time - On layovers, flight attendants can use their down time as mini-vacations by relaxing, reading a book, getting a massage, or getting some much needed sleep.

Visiting Friends & Family - Sometimes layovers happen to be in places where family or friends live. This gives flight attendants an opportunity to get caught up and enjoy time with loved ones.

Shopping - Flight attendants may be able to shop in New York, L.A., Shanghai, or Dubai depending on where they fly to next - the shopping destinations are endless.

Restaurants - Every city or country has its food specialty. The chance to eat authentic, local food is a big plus whether you are a foodie or just hungry after your flight.

Uniforms - Flight attendants save a lot of money on clothing and accessories, which is especially great when one is just starting out and on a tight budget.

CONS

Being Away From Home - This lifestyle is not everybody's cup of tea. Flight attendants may be on the road for two, three or four days or even an entire week. They live out of a suitcase so it's good to ask yourself if you are more of a homebody.

Restaurants - Eating in restaurants can be expensive. In order to save money, flight attendants have been known to survive for days on juice boxes, ramen noodles, and granola bars.

Jet Lag - Flight attendants eventually learn how to live with the sleep deprivation and dehydration that comes with flying in a pressurized cabin and through several time zones. If this is not something you think you can get used to, it might be better to work in the airport rather than on an airplane.

Enclosed Spaces - If you don’t like confined spaces or you are a smoker, this may not be the career for you.

Socializing - Flight attendants are automatic spokespersons for their airline, answering people's questions and directing them to the nearest gate, restaurant, or bathroom. They also act as sounding boards for people's concerns and complaints. It would be very difficult to do this job well if you secretly dislike people.

The Unexpected - No two days are alike, so if you prefer a routine type of job, the unscheduled landings, flight cancellations and unplanned layovers will not be to your liking.

Working on Holidays - Flight attendants that are just starting out typically work all holidays (Christmas, Hanukkah, Easter, New Year’s, and Thanksgiving). For the first few years of their career, they are usually not home for special holidays as most airlines run on a seniority-based system.

Children, The Elderly and the Infirm - Wheelchair passengers, unaccompanied minors, passengers traveling with service animals etc., all require patience and understanding on the part of the flight attendant. If having patience and empathy is difficult for you, this career may not be a fit. Also, if the idea of serving coffee, picking up someone’s garbage or cleaning a bathroom is distasteful, a less hands on career may be a better choice.

Repetition - Every flight attendant reads from a similar script - “please turn off your cell phone; buckle your seatbelt; stow your bags etc.” These reminders are repeated hundreds of times throughout a flight attendant's career so ask yourself if you can handle the broken record aspect of the job.

Make a list of what does or does not appeal to you about the flight attendant lifestyle, and after weighing the pros and cons you will be able to determine if this is a career you'd like to pursue. The more you know, the better equipped you will be to make an informed career decision.

How long does it take to become a Flight Attendant?

Once a flight attendant is hired, airlines provide their initial training that can last six weeks to three months, depending on the country in which you live. The training usually takes place at the airline’s flight training centre and must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

New flight attendants are then placed on call (or reserve status), and must be able to report to the airport on short notice to staff extra flights or fill in for absent crew members. Flight attendants usually remain on reserve status for at least one year, but in some cities it could be up to several years. After this stretch of time, flight attendants gain enough seniority to bid on monthly assignments.

Are Flight Attendants happy?

Flight attendants rank in the 68th percentile of careers for satisfaction scores. Please note that this number is derived from the data we have collected from our Sokanu members only.

In order to be a good flight attendant, one has to genuinely like people and want to make them feel comfortable and happy. Of course, it is impossible to make everyone happy. Not everyone on a flight will be in a good mood, and flight attendants do their best to be understanding and often try to turn negative situations around as best as they can.

For new flight attendants that are set in their ways, this lifestyle in the sky often helps them to let go of expectations and a need to control everything. Since flight attendants don’t get to pick their schedules, the spontaneous nature of the job often adds colour and interest to life. Delays are typical, long flights reach the destination eventually, difficult passengers have to exit at some point, and uncomfortable situations are not forever.

Flight attendants create friendships all over the world, and one can travel far away on a whim, which offers the opportunity to create unexpected relationships. At the same time, the ability to be in many places for a short amount of time diminishes the power to maintain these relationships as one would like.

This career beautifully blends hospitality with travel and tourism making it an excellent choice for individuals who want to provide service to people while seeing the world. However, it's important to weigh all the positives as well as the negatives and see if it would be a fit for your specific personality.

Flight Attendants are also known as:
In-Flight Crew Member Cabin Crew Member Stewardess Air Host Air Hostess Cabin Attendant Airline Stewardess Airline Steward