Flight attendants have the responsibility of ensuring the safety of passengers on board commercial airline flights. They also attempt to make sure passengers have a comfortable and enjoyable flight experience. Before each flight, attendants are briefed by the pilot on such matters as emergency evacuation procedures, coordination of the crew, the length of the flight, expected weather conditions, and any special passenger needs. They then check the passenger cabins and other parts of the plane to make sure all safety equipment is on board and in working order. They check the supplies of food, beverages, pillows, earphones, and blankets. They check passengers in and greet them when they board the plane.
After the passengers have boarded the plane, flight attendants instruct passengers in regarding emergency procedures and equipment. Once the plane is in the air, they are available to assist passengers in the event of an emergency. This is actually their primary responsibility, and tasks associated with this responsibility may range from asking passengers to remain seated while the plane goes through air turbulence to overseeing the evacuation of the plane after an emergency landing. They may administer first aid to passengers who require it. They may hand out food and beverages, including precooked meals.
Flight attendants must be in excellent health. They must be tall enough to reach overhead bins, and usually must be weight/height proportional. Their vision must be 20/30 or better. Men are required to have hair that is shorter than their collar and must be clean shaven. Both men and women are usually required to be free of visible tattoos, body piercings, or unusual hairstyles. They must have excellent communication skills and the ability to remain calm during stressful situations.
In 2002, flight attendants eared a median annual income of $43,140. Earnings ranged from the lowest 10%, who earned less than $20,890, to the highest 10%, who earned more than $91,050.
Training and Education
Most employers require applicants to be high school graduates. Several years of college can be a major advantage, as can experience in jobs dealing with the public. An increasing number of newly hired flight attendants are college graduates. College study in psychology or education can be very desirable to employers. Some applicants receive training from schools or colleges specifically in flight attendant preparation, and employers look favorably upon this. Those who apply to work for foreign airlines usually are required to speak a foreign language. Some require applicants to speak two foreign languages fluently. Newly hired flight attendants receive on-the-job training that usually lasts 3 to 8 weeks and are not considered official employees until they complete this training. Students go along on practice flights at the end of their training period. After their completion of this training and official hire, they are also required to undergo periodic training and pass an FAA safety examination in order to continue working.
Between 2002 and 2012, employment of flight attendants is expected to increase about as fast as the average. An expanding economy and a growing population will account for much of this increase. More planes will be added to airlines' fleets, creating demand for more flight attendants. As the airlines continue to recover from the devastating effects of September 11th, more opportunities will arise for flight attendants. Because the jobs are desirable and attract so many qualified candidates, competition is expected to remain keen.
To learn more about hospitality, retail, and travel related careers, please visit our section on Hospitality Schools for more information.