How To Become a Flight Attendant

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Flight attendants receive training from their employer and must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Flight attendants need a high school diploma or the equivalent and work experience in customer service.

Applicants must be at least 18 years old, be eligible to work in the United States, have a valid passport, and pass a background check and drug test. They must have vision that is correctable to at least 20/40 and often need to conform to height requirements set by the airline. Flight attendants also may have to pass a medical evaluation.

Flight attendants should present a professional appearance and not have visible tattoos, body piercings, or an unusual hairstyle or makeup.

Education

A high school diploma is typically required to become a flight attendant. Some airlines may prefer to hire applicants who have taken some college courses.

Those who work on international flights may have to be fluent in a foreign language. Some enroll in flight attendant academies.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Flight attendants typically need 1 or 2 years of work experience in a service occupation before getting their first job as a flight attendant. This experience may include customer service positions in restaurants, hotels, or resorts. Experience in sales or in other positions that require close contact with the public and focus on service to customers also may help develop the skills needed to be a successful flight attendant.

Training

Once a flight attendant is hired, airlines provide their initial training, ranging from 3 to 6 weeks. The training usually takes place at the airline’s flight training center and is required for FAA certification.

Trainees learn emergency procedures such as evacuating aircraft, operating emergency equipment, and administering first aid. They also receive specific instruction on flight regulations, company operations, and job duties.

Toward the end of the training, students go on practice flights. They must complete the training to keep a job with the airline. Once they have passed initial training, new flight attendants receive the FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency and continue to receive additional on the job training as required by their employer.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All flight attendants must be certified by the FAA. To become certified, flight attendants must complete their employer’s initial training program and pass an exam. Flight attendants are certified for specific types of aircraft and must take new training for each type of aircraft on which they are to work. In addition, attendants receive recurrent training every year to maintain their certification.

Advancement

Career advancement is based on seniority. On international flights, senior attendants frequently oversee the work of other attendants. Senior attendants may be promoted to management positions in which they are responsible for recruiting, instructing, and scheduling.

Important Qualities

Attentiveness. Flight attendants must be aware of any security or safety risks during the flight. They also must be attentive to passengers’ needs in order to ensure a pleasant travel experience.

Communication skills. Flight attendants should speak clearly, listen attentively, and interact effectively with passengers and other crewmembers.

Customer-service skills. Flight attendants should have poise, tact, and resourcefulness to handle stressful situations and address passengers’ needs.

Decisionmaking skills. Flight attendants must be able to act decisively in emergencies.

Physical stamina. Flight attendants push, pull, and carry service items, open and close overhead buns, and stand and walk for long periods.