How To Become A Flight Attendant

If you've always wanted to learn how to become a flight attendant, you'll need to find ways to stay ahead of the competition. Follow these guidelines on your journey to flying the friendly skies.
07/26/2016 07:26 pm ET Updated Jul 27, 2017
Airplane in close-up landing isolated Moving Up and High Angle side View
Airplane in close-up landing isolated Moving Up and High Angle side View

On some days -- the really good days -- being a flight attendant is exactly what it's cracked up to be, and sometimes even better. Fancy hotels, exotic countries, discounted travel perks, regular days off -- it's all true, especially for flight attendants who have been on the job for several years and achieved some level of seniority.

And on top of the tangible perks you'll receive, there's no doubt that there is a certain prestige and glamour about being a flight attendant. How many people can say they started their workday in Los Angeles and finished in Paris? As a flight attendant, this becomes your reality.

Are there bad days? Like any other job, of course there are. Jet lag, turbulent flights, days away from home, jet lag, noisy hotel rooms, airport food, jet lag. (Did I mention jet lag?) Make no mistake: being a flight attendant comes with its challenges. And yet, year after year, hundreds of thousands of men and women go through the long and fiercely competitive flight attendant application process. And guess what? The demand is only increasing.

If you've always wanted to learn how to become a flight attendant, you'll need to find ways to stay ahead of the competition. Follow these guidelines on your journey to flying the friendly skies.

Boarding: Study the Industry

This may be the most important step of all. Before fully committing yourself to becoming a flight attendant, it's important to be absolutely sure that this career is a good fit for you. While most flight attendants are happy with their jobs, this line of work isn't cut out for everyone. The best step you can take right now is to learn as much as you can about being a flight attendant.

Do you have any friends in the travel industry? Pick their brain and ask them what their perception is of a flight attendant's job. What insider information can they share? You can even do your own personal research. Next time you're on a plane, pay special attention to what your flight attendants are doing throughout the whole flight. Do their in-flight duties align with your expectations?

If you're looking for the most comprehensive introduction to becoming a flight attendant, the most popular and respected book on the market is Airborne, written by flight attendant Lauren Porter. It's a fascinating insight on what being a flight attendant is really like, and is full of interview prep and resume guidance that will help you land your first job.

Take Off: Apply For the Job

Once you've decided that becoming a flight attendant is the right decision for you, you've got another big decision to make. What airline do I want to fly with?

While they often go hand in hand, the airlines you prefer to fly with as a passenger won't always be the same airlines that fit you best as an employee. There is no "perfect" airline, as each airline offers different advantages and drawbacks. Salaries will differ among airlines, as well as perks like travel benefits and medical benefits. Some airlines frequent colder locations while others visit warmer ones. Some airlines offer greater work flexibility than others, so if balancing work and family is a priority for you, this is a factor to consider. You need to narrow your application list to the airlines that you feel fit your career goals best.

As you prepare your resume, remember that airlines want to hire applicants whose personal characteristics align with the airline's core brand. If you're fluent in four languages or spent a summer teaching in Spain, these are the kinds of traits that an airline will want to see. Be sure to mention any and all personal interests that align with the airline's culture.

Another important factor to take into account: being a flight attendant is a social job. Not only that, but the people you'll be interacting with will come from all corners of the world. It's important to come across as someone who is comfortable dealing with all kinds of people and has experience handling common customer service challenges in a professional manner. Make sure to highlight elements of your prior work experience that showcase your people skills.

Ascent: The Interview

To give you an idea of how fierce your competition is to become a flight attendant, consider that Delta Airlines recently reported receiving 22,000 applications for 300 open flight attendant positions. So if you submit your application and don't get called back for an interview, don't be discouraged! There are plenty of airlines to apply to and you never know which one is going to appreciate the unique benefits you offer.

If you're one of the chosen few who has been offered an interview, congratulations! You're one big step closer to landing your dream job.

In preparation for your interview, pay special attention to your personal appearance. Your dress, demeanor, body language, and personal hygiene will all be critiqued by passengers while you're walking up and down the cabin, and recruiters will be doing the same.

Having that said, if you want to ace your flight attendant interview, there is no one particular persona that you should take on or any specific kind of person that airline recruiters are looking for. The person they are looking for is you. If you're going to survive as a flight attendant, it shouldn't be because you were good at pretending to be personable and pleasant for 15 years; it should be because you actually are personable and pleasant. It's exhausting enough to fulfill all the duties of being a flight attendant, so don't make it harder on yourself by pretending to be someone else while you're doing all of it.

Simply put, your best chance of impressing recruiters is to be genuine.

Landing: You're Hired!

Congratulations, you've landed your first flight attendant job. Now the fun (and hard work!) begins.

It's true for most jobs that those employees with the greatest seniority get preferential treatment and better job-related perks than those who are freshly hired or new employees of the company. As a flight attendant, this is especially true. Every passing year as a flight attendant for the same airline, you'll get paid more and more money to take better and more favorable routes (which means greater per diems and exotic locations).

So, what does this mean for you, a budding flight attendant who is still trying to earn her wings? It means that you should work toward building a long and valuable track record with your airline. And since you'll want to stay with the same airline throughout your career to take advantage of your seniority, you should be looking for your ideal airline from Day 1. Don't get stuck working with an airline you don't like just because they're the only company that hired you. The best part about being a new flight attendant is that you have nothing to lose in changing airlines. Once you've built up five years and beyond in seniority, it won't be as easy to give that up.

As you read these words right now, there are tens of thousands of flight attendants flying above your head, en route to thousands of destinations around the world. For the right kind of personality, being a flight attendant the perfect balance of professionalism and adventure. Perks of the job are in a class of their own and there is no other job quite like it.

As many applicants before you have come to realize, becoming a flight attendant won't be easy. With patience and the right amount of preparation, however, you can gain the edge over your competition. Reading as much as you can about the application process and life in the air is the perfect first step.

Good luck and safe travels!