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So You Want to Become a Flight Attendant!
So, you want to be a flight attendant. Or, more specifically, you think you want to be a flight attendant. Most aspiring flight attendants are eager to jump right into the application process without first researching the career thoroughly. see what happens.
past and present
In 1930, United Airlines became the first commercial airline to hire a female flight attendant; her name was Alan Church. She and seven other single women made up the “Original Eight” flight attendants. Their primary role is to provide comfort to the traveling public. Minimum eligibility requirements Applicants must be single registered nurses. Marriage, pregnancy or weight gain meant an immediate termination of the job, and most flight attendants were forced out of the profession by the age of 32 because they were “old”.
Thanks in large part to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, airlines can no longer discriminate on the basis of race, sex, age or marital status. The legislation helped transform the job from a short-term job — only for young, single women — into a long-term career option for just about anyone.
The influx of men into the industry in the 1970s and 80s required a non-gender-specific term to describe the position. Thus, the term stewardess was born.
Today, there are approximately 100,000 flight attendants in the US; 70% are women and 30% are men (however, this gender gap is closing and it is not uncommon to see an all-male cabin crew on some flights). The average age is between 25 and 35, and 50% are married. More than a third have a college degree (although only a high school diploma is required); common majors include communications, French, Spanish, and geography. The average first year salary is around $16,000 and can go up to $50,000 after 14 to 15 years. Turnover rates are high (especially among new hires), but job satisfaction is equally high among those who survive their first year. The average seniority is 10 years.
Successful flight attendants described themselves as friendly, outgoing, patient, flexible, reliable, and punctual (with absolutely zero tolerance for being late)—unsuccessful flight attendants were described as aggressive, moody, impatient, and rigid. Typical concerns include job security (“Will my airline lay off workers or go out of business?”), long hours and low wages.
perception and reality
How do you feel when you see a flight attendant walking through an airport terminal? Do you envision someone offering some drinks, chatting up friendly passengers and making frequent stops in exotic cities?
Historically, the public perception of careers has not matched the reality of work. Flight attendants today are very different from the stereotyped flight attendants in movies and TV. In part, some of these myths stem from the “olden days,” when flight attendants were elegant nurses working on spacious planes with relatively few passengers. In 1978, however, airline deregulation changed everything. The government no longer controls fares and route structures like it used to. That sparked a bidding war and turned the airline into a cost-cutting machine. Today, it’s little more than a numbers game, where more passengers equals more revenue. The result: planes are now overcrowded, creating crowded conditions and a culture of hostile passengers. This puts flight attendants in a rather unenviable position.
These are just a few of the less glamorous aspects of the job. As a flight attendant, you must:
- Endure 4 to 7 weeks of usually unpaid initial training, part of which is evenings and weekends.
- Buy a uniform at a cost of about $1,000 (automatic bimonthly payroll deductions can help ease this financial burden).
- Endure a 6-12 month trial period during which you will be vetted and
- Need to report work immediately.
- Demonstrates extraordinary strength and agility (for example, pushing a 200-plus-pound beverage cart through a narrow aisle, or lifting a heavy suitcase over a passenger’s head into a compact overhead compartment).
- Remain polite and professional despite sometimes abusive behavior to passengers.
- Quickly respond to stressful in-flight medical emergencies.
- Put up with occasional severe air turbulence (sometimes without seat belts if assisting passengers).
- Experiencing short periods away from home (usually 1 to 3 nights at a time).
- Long hours of work (up to 16 hours per day; no more than 8 hours of flight time).
- During your professional life, many weekends and holidays are spent at work while most of your friends and family take time off.
- Attend mandatory annual refresher training.
- Occasionally worked in the presence of prisoners transported by armed guards to court trials or prisons in other cities.
For friendly, outgoing and patient people who can tolerate these negative aspects of the job, a career as a flight attendant can be very rewarding. Flight attendants have a tough job, but they also enjoy many extraordinary perks. For example, as a flight attendant, you will receive:
- Take a lot of vacation (13 to 17 days off per month; about 6 months off per year!), up to 10 days at a time.
- Free or low-cost travel benefits for yourself and immediate family, including air travel, lodging, car rental and cruises.
- Generous benefits package, often including health and life insurance, credit union membership, employee stock options and 401(k) retirement plans.
- Unparalleled Variety – Forget the predictability of 9 to 5 cube lifespans!
- Maximum Scheduling Flexibility – You’re not limited to weekend breaks like the rest of the world!
- Chance to see the world.
- Opportunity to meet new people, including many famous people.
- A sense of pride and accomplishment (especially when you help unaccompanied minors or passengers with disabilities reach their destination safely).
First priority: Passenger safety
Many people overlook one of the main reasons flight attendants are on a plane: passenger safety. Did you know that every American flight attendant can complete an entire passenger evacuation in less than 90 seconds? (Every new hire must accomplish this feat during initial training).Additionally, flight attendants are required by law to receive comprehensive safety training for each type of aircraft in the airline’s fleet
In fact, flight attendants are much more than just waitresses in the air. Flight attendants know how to manage and prepare for hundreds of passengers and crew in the event of catastrophic events such as hijackings and land/sea disasters. They know how to fight fires, operate and troubleshoot oxygen systems, open emergency exits, attend to the sick, apprehend unruly passengers – even administer first aid and perform CPR.
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