Everyone talks about the glitz and the glam of being a flight attendant and although my crew life is grand, it wasn’t simple to get here nor is it all roses and rainbows to maintain it. I receive a ton of emails from aspiring flight attendants asking for the 411 on being a flight attendant so I figured I’d make a post dedicated to them. Here are 5 undiscovered truths to consider before becoming a flight attendant.
01. Passing Training
I’ve done a survey covering the top US airline and upon completion, I uncovered that every airline is different in terms of FA training. For starters, some airline training lasts for a duration of 3 to 4 weeks while some training lasts 8 weeks. That is mainly dependent on the material covered. During training, trainees will be tested and tried on several safety threats. These threats include: how to prevent security threats and what to do when a threat arises.
Trainees will be trained to provide the most common and uncommon medical attention necessary should an unfortunate event occur while in the air. They will further be taught how to survive different emergency landings and how to guide passengers to safety upon landing. Serving customers peanuts and pretzels are the least of flight attendants worries, although, in addition to what I’ve mentioned they will be taught how to provide that exceptional airline hospitality.
Easy enough right?! WRONG! In training, trainees will not only be prepared on the required element but they also have to pass written tests on the required materials. As mentioned previously, every airline is different. My experience in training was intense and nerve-wracking. I was trained on all of the above mention, plus more while having to maintain a 90% average. Let’s say, I did not meet that requirement during my examinations. I would then be sent home, with my tail between my legs, without a job or residence to go back to. FA training is NO JOKE! My advice would be to prepare yourself mentally and physically prior to your arrival.
02. Time Away From Loved Ones
New hires will most likely be based wherever the airline’s business need is. Sure, they may get lucky like me and have the option to preference a base and actually get the preference. But the odds may not be in favor. What will one do when they live in Indiana and based in New York? Well, you move to New York. However, I realize not everyone has the luxury to do that so maybe the only option a new hire is to commute. Which I’m not a big fan of because it takes away more time from being home with loved ones.
New hires will work weekends and be away on holidays. Crew scheduling has placed a trip on every single weekend that I’ve been flying, thus far. However, being a new hire myself, I don’t mind much. I took this career on as an adventure and flying to exciting places on the weekend is cool.
Nevertheless, new hires will also miss birthdays, weddings, bridal and/or baby showers, and several other special events. That’s just the way “being junior” works. Thank God for employee perks that allow me to ship with FedEx for 75% off. I’ve utilized these services to ship gifts and other things. It comes in handy. Everything else, flight attendants get use to it.
03. Being Junior
Seniority is everything in the flight attendant world. If a new hire comes in this job thinking they are the “ish” and can fly any route they want, whenever they want to – then – them senior mamas will get you together faster than you can say, “pretzels, peanuts or cookies.” And believe me, I can say that pretty quick when I’m tired and ready to get out of the aisle.
This topic goes hand in hand with number 2 on my list, mainly because most junior flight attendants have no control of their schedule. Which will pull them away from family and friends also. Depending on the airline, newbies will either be on reserve month-in and month-out for 5 plus years straight. Sometimes even longer. Some airlines are on reserve every other month, while other airlines can afford to place their FAs on reserve only 6 days out of the month. If you ask me, the latter is the best option. Just saying! #NoShade though.
Scheduling, in general, can suck for a few years. Who knows what a new hire’s story will be. Just know that the more time you put in, the better your FA life will get.
04. Flight Attendant Pay
“I became a flight attendant because it has amazing pay.” <- Said no flight attendant ever! Seriously, that’s definitely not why I started this journey. Being a junior flight attendant, the pay is … #CRAP! I’m the lowest on the pay scale and although some airlines are the highest paid in the business, the pay is still pretty low compared to the senior mamas.
Understanding the pay structure, a flight attendant is paid in flight hours. Let’s say an airline pays $28.89 per flight hour, and an FA flies 80 hours that month – what does that equate to? And that’s before taxes! In addition to flight hours, I believe most airline pays the attendants “per diem” which is the time away from base pay. For example: if an FA is away on a 3-day trip and the trip totals 58 hours – the airline pays the FA a “per diem” for that time away from their base. Per diem can range from $1.00 to up to $3.00. Multiply that by 58 hours or however many hours they were away from their base.
Keep in mind that depending on which airline one flies for, the pay rate increases every year, and the longer you stay in the game, the more coin one gets. There are senior flight attendants bringing in $100k a year with their pay scale and the number of hours they fly per month. So for the most part, earning is dependant on the flight attendant.
One very important thing to consider in regards to pay is the training pay. There are only a few airlines that offer some kind of training allowance. Looking at it from their perspective, the job is not guaranteed until a trainee actually pass training. I mean it makes, some kind of sense, but I come from an airline who actually pays an hourly rate for training. It’s a small rate but it is something. Some airlines pay a little, daily stipend for food, and some airlines pay you one minor lump sum after you complete training. But unfortunately, most airlines do not pay. Fortunately, most airlines do however provide housing which basically consists of a hotel for the duration of your training.
05. Physical Demand on Your Body
The last and final consideration is the physical demands being a flight attendant has on the body. Keeping my body nourished and active is essential, although I have yet to master it. FA’s will be working every muscle, joint, and limb continually, whether they realize it or not. Staying active should be very important because … because it just should. I find that when I have worked out and eaten healthy consistently, I am less physically drained during and after a flight.
Which brings me to my next point. Being tired and wanting to sleep any and everywhere, will become common. During my first 4 months of flying, I was sooooo tired, ALL. THE. TIME. I never realized that blood oxygen drops every time one flies which in return causes lethargy. And considering I would fly almost every single day and most of the time, 3 times a day, I was pretty darn exhausted. My body is steadily swelling, due to the blood not flowing the way it should and I always have gas. TMI? Well, it’s true. I’m holding one in as I type because I’m in the crew lounge. Wouldn’t want to wake anyone up with whatever comes out. My mother says, “better out than in” and it’s true however, I’m not that kind of “public farter” girl. But hey, whatever floats your boat. I do find that taking my vitamins has helped major with the gas issue. I just have to remember to take them.
All in all, being a flight attendant is not for everyone. I know some FAs who always knew they’d be a flight attendant, get in and realize it wasn’t for them. I know some FAs who thought they’d only fly for a few years then a few years turned into 20. Me, well, I’ve wanted to be a FA for quite a few years. There is only 1 thing I see myself doing in lieu of this and I’m actually doing it now – to an extent. Being a flight attendant is an avenue into that #1 dream career for me. So it works. And that’s what you have to do once you enter this lifestyle. Do what works for YOU!
I highly recommend before getting in, do your research. Read blogs, websites, and talk to other flight attendants. I was obsessed with researching, reading, and watching other FA vloggers. I even think I enjoyed watching vlogs much more than I’d watch TV.
Imagine your life as a flight attendant with all of its pros and cons. Would it be worth it? For me, it was and still is, for now. And that’s all I can ask for. If you’re still convinced on being a flight attendant then I’ve created an amazing video on how to ace a flight attendant interview. I’ve also created a free interview guide to help you along the way.