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Airline Flight Attendant Position Description
The flight attendant is the most highly visible employee to passengers of an aircraft. Flight attendants spend more time with passengers than any other airline employee, and tend to a wide variety of needs and requests. The flight attendant must offer the most personalized service possible to each and every passenger for the duration of flights.
While the flight crew in the cockpit is responsible for getting the passengers to their destination safely and comfortably, the flight attendants are in charge of the cabin, and they too, are responsible for the safety and comfort of the passengers.
A flight attendants primary objective is the safety of the aircraft cabin and the comfort of its passengers in-flight. Flight attendants spend most of their time in the passenger cabin of an airliner. In addition to passenger safety, flight attendants provide either elaborate service to a small number of first-class passengers or, less elaborate service to a large number of passengers. Service includes tending to a wide variety of needs and requests. The flight attendant must offer the most personalized service possible to each and every passenger in the time allotted.
In-flight service to passengers and the operation of cabin equipment requires the flight attendant to stand, walk, kneel, bend, stoop, reach, lift heavy objects from the floor to above shoulder-level heights, and push and pull equipment. In-flight duties keep flight attendants on their feet most of the time. To accomplish all tasks during the few hours in the air, flight attendants frequently must work at top speed. At times, they must serve meals and pour beverages under rough and uncomfortable flying conditions. (No hot beverages are served in turbulent air.) While passengers can be annoying and demanding, it is the flight attendants responsibility to remain pleasant, and provide quality service.
Most flight attendant duties are performed onboard an aircraft, although you may be asked to assist station agents during boarding, or assist passengers to connecting flights. All of these duties are very important since passengers commonly choose their airline based on the quality of service and comfort throughout the duration of their flight.
Flight attendants are required to buy uniforms and wear them while on duty. Most airlines require a flight attendant to purchase the first uniform which can run between $600 and $800. Deductions are generally taken out of pay in installments. Replacement uniforms and items are often paid for by the airline. The uniform is made to measure and is designed by top names in the fashion world to look like a coordinated high-style ensemble rather than a workday uniform. Airlines may provide flight attendants a small monthly allowance to cover cleaning and mending.
Schedules/Hours: Schedules and hours vary greatly since most airlines operate 24 hours. Hours are irregular, determined by the flight assignment and vary per day. Flight attendants may be away from home for several days in a row including weekends and holidays and therefore must be flexible. The maximum number of flying hours per day is set by union agreement, and on-duty time is usually limited to 12 hours per day, with a daily maximum of 14 hours. Generally, flight attendants fly from 65 to 85 hours per month. Some days you may fly as few as one leg, although it is not uncommon to fly between 7-8 legs in one day. In most cases, agreements between the airline and the union determine the total monthly working time.
Flight attendants must be present for check-in to crew scheduling and briefing at least one hour before flight time. If the flight leaves at 5 A.M., the flight attendant is expected to report to the captain by 4 A.M.
In addition to flight time, about 35-50 hours a month duty time between flights are required.
When flight assignments require overnight stays in cities away from home base, hotel accommodations and travel allowances for meal expenses and transportation are provided. This expense money is paid in the form of per diem (Latin for, "by the day"). Per diem is tax free, and can amount to $200-400 per month. Flight attendants receive an amount set by the airline for each hour they are away from their home domicile.
New flight attendants have to clock up time, filling in for other flight attendants who are ill or on vacation. This means working less popular routes and working on short notice.
Flight attendants frequently have between 12 and 18 days off per month and over a years time, average about 156 days off. (The average office worker has 96 days off and, works eight-hour days.) Of course, days off are not necessarily at home, buy many flight attendants use these days as mini vacations.
Depending upon seniority, the flight attendant may be directed by a senior flight attendant or may direct the work of a junior flight attendant. You may bid for flights, but the final assignment is determined by seniority. The longer the flight attendant has been employed, the more likely he or she is to work on chosen flights. Domiciles and routes worked are bid for on a seniority basis, and almost all flight attendants work on a reserve status (on call) at one point in their career.
In addition to performing flight duties, flight attendants sometimes make public relations appearances for the airlines during career days at high schools, fund raising campaigns, sales meetings, open house and interview sessions, conventions, and other goodwill occasions.
Reserve After finishing initial training, flight attendants are assigned to a base or domicile of the airlines choice. New flight attendants are placed on reserve status and are called on either to staff extra flights or fill in for attendants who are sick or on vacation. Reserve flight attendants on duty must be able to report for flight on short notice. Flight attendants usually remain on reserve for at least one year; at some cities it may take five years or longer to advance from reserve to permanent status. Domiciles and routes worked are bid for on a seniority basis, and almost all flight attendants work on a reserve status (on call) at one point in their career. Reserve means that you are on call. New hire flight attendants are put on reserve for up to one year.
Ready Reserve: Ready reserve means that you are required to work standby at the airport. If operational and staffing needs require, an airport ready reserve’s standby time may be extended to ten (10) hours or until the last flight departs, whichever is earlier. Other names or slang terms for ready reserve include Airport Alert and Flying the Couch.
Routine Duties Are as Follows
Pre-flight Duties Take part in a pre-flight briefing by the captain with the entire flight crew to learn about expected weather conditions, special passenger problems, etc. Check seat belts, seat backs and tray tables Screening passengers for carry-on limitations Verify destination and direct passengers to seat assignments Ensure that carry-on luggage is stored in accordance with compliance regulations Ensure passengers are fully compliant with all Federal Aviation Regulations Check supplies, safety equipment and the public address system Assist the handicapped, elderly and children pre-board planes Check passenger cabin and galleys before passengers board to see that all supplies, safety equipment, and food are on board and in place Greet passengers Help passengers stow carry-on luggage and coats Check that passenger seat belts are fastened Ensure that passengers are in observance of "No Smoking" signs Make announcements over public address system regarding weather, altitude, estimated flight time, etc. Demonstrate use of safety equipment In-flight Duties In-flight duties keep flight attendants on their feet most of the time.
The chief responsibility of a flight attendant is to ensure safety of passengers and their evacuation in case of emergency Abide by and ensure all passengers abide by all Federal Aviation Regulations Perform emergency and evacuation procedures when necessary Ensure passengers are seated properly Maintain cabin safety under severe turbulence Communicate with the captain Explain and demonstrate safety features Distribute reading materials, pillows, and blankets to passengers who request them Serve refreshments and meals to passengers and crew during flight Give first aid assistance and help uncomfortable, ill or nervous passengers Answer passenger questions and reassure apprehensive travelers Take special care of unaccompanied children Safety demonstration and announcements Assist passengers with disabilities Operate mechanical and safety equipment Monitor cabin lighting and temperature Answer a wide variety of questions Distribute customs forms Maintain a friendly and helpful service during flights Make landing announcements Check that cabin is secure for landing Thank passengers for choosing your airline at the end of flights
Post-flight Duties Write reports on minor medication given to passengers, lost and found articles, cabin and equipment needing attention and numerous other matters that may need to be reported. If required by the airline, perform tidying chores such as folding blankets, wiping off the buffets, straightening curtains/shades etc.
Typical Requirements and/or Experience
These are typical requirements and may vary per airline. Requirements are set high to maintain a high quality of service.
Age: Typically, applicants must be at least 18 to 21 years of age. Some carriers may have higher minimum age requirements.
Physical: Flight attendants must maintain excellent health including an attractive, well groomed, conservative appearance, weight in proportion to height (Refer to the General Height / Weight Requirements chart below.), and good personal hygiene. Minimum heights are required to reach overhead bins and vary per airline. Vision correctable to 20/30 or better (uncorrected no worse than 20/200). Vision may be corrected with eyeglasses or contact lenses. Men must have their hair cut above the collar and be clean shaven. Women can have short or long hair. If hair is long, it is usually required that it is pulled back off of the face. Both men and women should have well manicured hands. Airlines generally will not hire, or allow any applicants and employees to have visible tattoos, bizarre hairstyles or makeup, or body piercings. Every airline administers a pre-employment physical by an appointed physician to verify that you are an acceptable candidate and that you meet their physical requirements. The physical will include a drug screening.
Language: Excellent language and communication skills are essential. Applicants must use good grammar and speak clearly with a pleasant voice. Often during the interview process, applicants are asked to demonstrate basic abilities. Languages spoken will vary depending on the airline. US airlines require that you speak English fluently. Languages include but are not limited to: English, French, German, Spanish, Cantonese, Hindi, Chinese, and Japanese. Applicants who desire to fly internationally generally must be fluent in a foreign language such as French, Spanish, German or Japanese. Bilingual applicants are desired and, may help increase chances of initial employment with domestic carriers, and may be required by some airlines.
Citizenship: All United States airlines require that you are a US Citizen or registered alien with legal right to obtain employment in the United States. Also, you will be required to have a social security card.
Personality: Applicants must be poised, mature, emotionally stable, confident, outgoing and good conversationalists. Interpersonal skills and professionalism are very important.
Experience: Applicants should have previous experience in a position with public contact, customer service or in the hospitality industry. Some airlines will overlook a lack of customer service experience if you have a college education.
Relocation: Applicants must be willing to relocate to the base the airline is hiring for. After a certain period of service, flight attendants may have an opportunity to request a transfer.
Work Hours: Flexibility and reliability are usually the most paramount qualities of all applicants. Once hired, flight attendants must be able to work flexible hours. Flight schedules and flying assignments may include nights, weekends, holidays, extended hours, overnights and layovers.
Miscellaneous: Must successfully complete a 10 year security background check as required by the FAA. Other employment must be scheduled around reserve or flying assignments. Applicants are sometime asked to show and maintain a valid passport and have the right to travel freely in and out of the US without restriction. Employment with another airline is prohibited. Must be able to work in confined spaces of the aircraft and galley. Must be able to stand for long periods of time in order to cater to the needs of passengers.
Background Check: Airlines conduct a thorough background check required by the FAA which goes back as many as ten years. Virtually everything about you is investigated including your date of birth, place of birth, criminal records, school records, previous employment and gaps in employment. Employment is absolutely contingent upon a successful background check. You will not be offered a position or, you will be immediately dismissed if your background check shows any discrepancies.
General Height / Weight Requirements: Figures may vary depending on individual airline & company requirements.
5'0" 107 lbs 5'0" 121 lbs
5'1" 111 lbs 5'1" 126 lbs
5'2" 115 lbs 5'2" 131 lbs
5'3" 119 lbs 5'3" 136 lbs
5'4" 123 lbs 5'4" 141 lbs
5'5" 127 lbs 5'5" 146 lbs
5'6" 131 lbs 5'6" 151 lbs
5'7" 135 lbs 5'7" 156 lbs
5'8" 140 lbs 5'8" 161 lbs
5'9" 145 lbs 5'9" 166 lbs
5'10" 149 lbs 5'10" 171 lbs
5'11" 153 lbs 5'11" 176 lbs
6'0" 157 lbs 6'0" 181 lbs
6'1" 161 lbs 6'1" 186 lbs
6'2" 165 lbs 6'2" 191 lbs
Education: Applicants must hold a high school diploma or equivalent. Today, many airlines prefer a college degree. Advanced degrees are often helpful when pursuing a management or supervisory position. Some schools and colleges offer flight attendant training that may give a candidate some advantage over other applicants. However, these graduates are usually required to complete an airlines own training program. Therefore, it is advisable for the candidate to check with the airlines for their policies regarding prior training.
Married and unmarried men and women, with or without children are eligible. Persons who are widowed or divorced, also are eligible.
It is the policy of most aviation companies to provide equal employment opportunity to all individuals regardless of their race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status, or any other characteristic protected by state or federal law. Most aviation companies are strongly committed to this policy, and believe in the concept and spirit of the United States law.
Most aviation companies are committed to assuring that:
All recruiting, hiring, training, promotion, compensation, and other employment related programs are provided fairly to all persons on an equal opportunity basis without regard to race, creed, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status or any other characteristic protected by law;
Employment decisions are based on the principles of equal opportunity and affirmative action;
All personnel actions such as compensation, benefits, transfers, training, and participation in social and recreational programs are administered without regard to race, creed, color, sex, age, national origin, disability, military and veteran status, sexual orientation, marital status or any other characteristic protected by law, and;
Employees and applicants will not be subjected to harassment, intimidation, threats, coercion or discrimination because they have exercised any right protected by law.
Most aviation companies believe in and practice equal opportunity and affirmative action. All employees are responsible for supporting the concept of equal opportunity and affirmative action and assisting the company in meeting its objectives.
Most aviation companies maintain Affirmative Action Plans for minorities, women, disabled persons and veterans.
EEOC has jurisdiction of the prohibitions against employment discrimination codified in Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Equal Pay Act of 1963, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967, Sections 501 and 505 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, Titles I and V of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 and the Civil Rights Act of 1991. These laws prohibit discrimination based on race, color, sex, religion, national origin, age and disability.
The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the Merit Systems Protection Board (MSPB) enforce the prohibitions against federal employment discrimination codified in the CSRA. The OSC will defer those bases of discrimination under EEOC's jurisdiction to the respective federal agency and its EEO process. The CSRA also prohibits employment discrimination in the federal government based on marital status, political affiliation and conduct which does not adversely affect the performance of the employee, none of which are within EEOC's jurisdiction. Moreover, the law defines ten other prohibited personnel practices in the federal government, all of which fall under the jurisdiction of the OSC and the MSPB. See Prohibited Personnel Practices at http://www.osc.gov/ppp.htm.
Additional information may also be found on the the EEOC web site located at http://www.eeoc.gov/
Wages and Benefits
Generally, all flight attendants begin at the same pay rate, and receive pay increases at the same time, regardless of performance. Depending upon union agreements, usually a guaranteed monthly salary is paid for a minimum number of hours ranging from 65 to 85. For example, a base salary is paid for a certain number of minimum hours per month. This salary is paid regardless if you actually work or not. Any hours worked above your minimum hours are paid at an hourly rate.
According to data from the Association of Flight Attendants, beginning flight attendants earned about $14,847 per year in 2000. However, beginning pay scales for flight attendants vary by carrier. The Occupational Outlook Handbook says median annual earnings of flight attendants were $38,820 in 2000. The middle 50 percent earned between $28,200 and $56,610. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $18,090, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $83,630. Flight attendants on international flights or over water flights customarily earn higher salaries than those that fly domestic.
For every hour flown above the minimum guarantee, extra incentive compensation is provided for overtime, and international flights. Attendants generally work 80 hours of scheduled flying time and an additional 35-50 hours duty time on the ground each month.
Although flight attendant salaries start out low, airlines usually offer excellent benefits packages. Free or discounted travel privileges are extended to spouses, dependant children, and parents. Some airlines require that you have been with the company for three to six months before you can take advantage of this. With the time and low air fares at their disposal, flight attendants can afford to vacation almost anywhere in the world. Other benefits may include, medical, dental and life insurance, Flexible Benefits Account, 401K or other retirement plan, credit union membership, paid holidays, stock options, pension plan, paid vacation, tuition reimbursement, paid uniforms and sick leave. Over a years time, flight attendants can average about 156 days off, not counting partial days off before and after trips. Another great benefit is the fun people you get to work with and the friendships you develop.
The majority of flight attendants are represented by one of the following unions: Association of Flight Attendants, Teamsters (IBT), or Air Transport Division of the Transport Workers Union of America. Several airlines have company unions such as the Association of Professional Flight Attendants. Most, if not all of the major airlines are members of the Air Transport Association.
Salaries and benefits can vary. For an updated look at salaries in the aviation industry, view the Avjobs.com Salary Report.
Where the jobs are and who hires
Flight attendant positions are some of the most coveted positions in the aviation and travel industry. Flight attendants are employed by regional, major, or national airlines.
Flight attendants are based, or domiciled at major cities along the airlines routes and at the airlines headquarters city. In general, flight attendants work out of major cities such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, San Francisco, Denver, Atlanta, Boston, Kansas City, Detroit, Seattle, Dallas/Fort Worth, and Washington, D.C.
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Opportunities for Advancement
Upon successful completion of the training course, new flight attendants begin work on a probation basis for approximately six months. During this time, flight attendants are on call to work extra flights or as replacements for flight attendants who are ill or on vacation. During probation, work is periodically observed by the airlines management staff. If the probation period review is favorable, the new flight attendant can advance in time to become a senior flight attendant, supervising flight attendant, or an instructor.
Flight attendants also may be considered for positions with the airline including reservations or ticket sales, public relations, or personnel recruiting depending upon qualifications for such positions. Experience qualifies flight attendants for numerous jobs involving contact with the public. However, once hired, very few flight attendants leave or change jobs. The average tenure is now more than seven years and increasing. Today, flight attendant jobs are viewed as a profession for career-minded individuals.
Outlook for the Future
FAA regulations require one flight attendant for every 50 seats on board an aircraft.
Competition for flight attendant positions will forever remain strong. The perceived glamour of the airline industry and the opportunity to travel will continue to attract job applicants.
Deregulation of the airline industry, which began in the mid-1970's, resulted in the expansion of many carriers, particularly the regional airlines. A side effect, however, has been a certain amount of instability. Some airlines have prospered while others have failed or merged with other carriers. This has caused some dislocation of airline flight attendants.
Individuals considering a career as a flight attendant should consider the possibility of downturns in the economy. When fewer people travel, flight attendants with low seniority could be put on part-time schedules or laid off.
Job growth through the year 2006 is expected to grow faster than average, or increase by 21 to 35 percent.
Just because you have been selected for training does not guarantee you a position with the airline. Training must be completed successfully before a position is offered to you. Training is intense and conducted in a way to "weed out" candidates that are not cut out for the position. Airlines operate flight attendant training programs on a continuing basis or as needed. Training classes are usually made up of 25-100 trainees. Airlines often invite more candidates to training to compensate for typical failure rates.
Large airlines have schools with campus-like facilities for training flight attendants. Training periods typically range from three to eight weeks and training hours vary. Methods of instruction differ from airline to airline, however, much of the training is provided in a classroom with some homework.
Successful completion of training is essential for employment. Trainees typically learn about the following subjects: Federal Aviation Regulations, (FAR's), the theory of flight, components of an airliner and their functions, airline terminology, air traffic control, airport codes, first aid and CPR, evacuation drills and commands, airline routes and regulations, serving methods, time calculations-adding and subtracting hours and minutes using the 24 hour clock, cabin service, meal and beverage service procedures, company history, policy and procedures, Federal Aviation Administration safety, emergency, and evacuation procedures, aircraft equipment familiarization, personal grooming, oral presentations and announcements. Training is provided on the various types of aircraft the airline operates. Customer service experience is generally required, and therefore, briefly touched on in training. Today, airlines also focus on security and bomb threat procedures.
Grooming regulations will be provided at training and must be strictly adhered to while employed. Trainees are often evaluated on appearance reliability throughout the training course.
Trainees that will fly international routes receive additional instruction in passport and customs regulations, as well as methods of dealing with terrorism. Progress is often observed by written and practical evaluation.
Trainees are drilled on all aspects of future duties including emergency evacuation procedures, first aid, CPR, hijackings, FAA regulations, food and beverage service, assisting unaccompanied minors and handicapped passengers, company policies etc. Trainees must perform many drills and duties alone, in front of the training staff. Tests are given throughout training to weed out any unsuccessful applicants. Scoring standards are usually 90% and are kept high to allow only the best candidates to continue with training. At the end of training, students must pass an FAA emergency procedures test successfully. Trainees may be allowed to retake one test, with the exception of the final exam. Some airlines allow retakes, some do not. Airlines want only the best candidates.
Each year flight attendants are also required to go through recurrent training and pass an FAA safety examination in order to continue flying.
Training is often not paid. Room and board, room and school supplies are provided free, as well as air transportation from the trainees' homes to the school. The value of the airlines' flight attendant training program amounts to several thousand dollars per student.
After finishing initial training, flight attendants are assigned to a base chosen by the airline. New attendants are placed in reserve status and are called on either to staff extra flights or fill in for attendants who are sick or on vacation. Reserve attendants on duty must be available on short notice. Attendants usually remain on reserve for at least one year; at some cities it may take five years or longer to advance from reserve to permanent status.
To locate educational facilities with programs related to this position, search Avjobs Aviation School Directory. The Avjobs Aviation School Directory makes researching and finding an aviation college, university, flight school or professional training facility simple.
Everything in the aviation industry is based on seniority including bidding for schedules, vacations, length of reserve, and transfers. Depending upon seniority, the flight attendant may be directed by a senior flight attendant or may direct the work of a junior flight attendant. Flight attendants frequently work nights, weekends and holidays. They may bid for flights, but the final assignment is determined by seniority. The longer the flight attendant has been employed, the more likely he or she is to work on chosen flights.
Marianne Moore is a flight attendant with US Air. She has had more than 16 years of service as a flight attendant.
"Very intensive training is necessary to become a flight attendant. First of all, over the years, it's become a lot more popular job, and the airline companies go through a big screening process in selecting the applicants who will go through training school.
"Different airlines have different educational requirements. Their physical requirements are not as strict as they used to be, mostly due to legal battles and union representation. We now have mothers who can fly, and weight restrictions are much more lenient.
"The training schools are run by the airlines according to FAA requirements. You spend most of your time studying, learning the Federal Aviation Regulations inside and out. You must know the aircraft that you're going to be flying. You have to know how to evacuate an airplane under many different conditions, and you go through all the scenarios that might be countered in an emergency. We are taught first aid.
"Once a year we have to go through recurrent training and learn anything new that's come out. It's sad to say, but every time an airplane crashes we learn a lot from it. Also, we have to practice emergency procedures, including a mock exercise in evacuating an airplane. You get into the simulator and go to your exit and sometimes the exit will be blocked by fire and you have to know what to do in that situation.
"After the TWA incident in Beirut, we were required to go through eight hours of hijack training because the government and the airlines felt the crews needed more background in that area.
"In order to make an informed choice as to an airline career, I would most definitely research the airline that I was giving my application to. The airlines can be selective, but you can be selective, too. Contact the FAA or the Department of Transportation and try to find out if the airline of your choice is financially stable and has a good operating record.
"Apply to several airlines; don't put all your eggs into one basket. I think it's very important to realize that it's a transient job, especially with mergers and acquisitions and the way that the airline industry is growing. But you have to be flexible. That's the name of the game. You might be told one day-or you might just pick up a newspaper and find out-that your airline was bought by somebody else, which more than likely means you'll have a move on your hands. You have to go to where the flying is.
"You have to realize that it's not all a glamour job. You do get to work with the public and you can get a lot of fulfillment by the things you do for your passengers, but it's hard and tedious work, and it's very uncertain these days."