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How to Become a Flight Attendant: Steps to Take From High School

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Do you dream of seeing the world? As a flight attendant, you can experience the jetsetter lifestyle without breaking your budget. Along with free flights to exotic locales, people in this profession enjoy perks like flexible schedules and the opportunity to meet new people on a daily basis.


While you don’t have to know what exactly your future holds as a high schooler, aspiring flight attendants can take steps now to achieve their goals down the line. Keep reading to learn more about what this career entails, and how to become a flight attendant.


What Does a Flight Attendant Do?


Flight attendants do a lot more than serve coffee and soft drinks. Part of a plane’s cabin crew, flight attendants help keep passengers safe and comfortable on commercial, business, and military aircraft. If you pursue a career in this field, expect to spend your shifts inspecting plane parts and equipment, educating passengers about safety standards, and delivering food and other supplies. Additionally, flight attendants conduct safety assessments and keep an eye out for passengers who may pose a threat to others. 


Despite the high level of responsibility involved in this position, flight attendants earn a modest salary. The average individual in this field makes about $56,000 a year. Still, the health benefits and travel perks may make up for the more modest income. Along with free airline miles, most flight attendants receive health and life insurance, long-term disability insurance, and 401(k) plans.


How to Become a Flight Attendant 


One of the best reasons to consider a career as a flight attendant is that you don’t have to pay a lot for your education. While other professions require individuals to spend tens of thousands of dollars on bachelor’s and master’s degrees, flight attendants receive a majority of their instruction on the job. Still, there are steps you can take now to increase your odds of succeeding in this field. Below are some tips for how to become a flight attendant.


What to Do in High School


You’ll need to graduate from high school or earn your GED before you can apply for a job as a flight attendant. However, having a diploma isn’t enough to guarantee you a position. You can beat out other candidates by taking a part-time job in a hotel, resort, restaurant, or other setting that requires you to interact with guests. Some airlines even insist that flight attendants have a minimum of two years of experience in customer service, sales, or hospitality. 


Having expertise in a foreign language is also very desirable, especially if you plan to work internationally. Taking foreign language classes in high school and beyond will help you acquire mastery, so you can communicate with passengers who don’t speak English.


You may also want to consider an informational interview with a current flight attendant, pilot, or airline worker, who can give you a sense of what to expect from the role/industry.


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What to Do After High School


Not all employers require prospective flight attendants to have a college degree. However, some airlines do prefer candidates with associate’s or bachelor’s degrees. Boost your odds of landing the role by majoring in hospitality, communications, or public relations. Additionally, you can brush up on your communication skills by taking courses in writing, public speaking, and foreign languages.


Remember that some airlines also recommend work experience, especially in roles like customer service or patient care. Delta Airlines, for instance, states that the best candidates will have 1+ years of experience in ensuring the safety or care of others.


Applying for the Job


Aspiring flight attendants must meet a variety of physical criteria to get hired. Most airlines require flight attendants to be at least 18, or sometimes a few years older. Candidates must also be healthy enough to remain on their feet for long periods, strong enough to lift heavy items, and tall enough to reach the luggage bins. 


They must also have at least 20/40 vision, either naturally, or with corrective lenses. Most airlines also insist that flight attendants be a “healthy” weight for their height, based on BMI. 


Additionally, airlines may have specific requirements regarding a flight attendant’s appearance. If you have facial tattoos or multiple piercings, it could impact your odds of landing the job. 


If you meet the physical standards for the job and pass the requisite background and drug tests, an employer may choose to admit you into their training program. This is when a flight attendant’s true training begins. After you’re hired, expect to spend 3-6 weeks at a flight training center learning about job duties and company operations. Classroom instruction includes the following topics:


  • Flight regulations
  • Evacuation procedures
  • Emergency protocol
  • Equipment operation
  • Boarding and deplaning


Additionally, flight attendants will go on practice flights to ensure they’re up to the task. 


As of 2003, flight attendants are required to hold a Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency issued by the FAA in order to work on an aircraft. If you opt to work in this field, you’ll be responsible for keeping your certification up to date and attending annual training courses as needed.


As a working flight attendant, you can expect to spend spend 50 hours a month working on the ground and another 75 to 100 hours in the air. Typically, assignments are based on seniority, so you might not receive the most desirable routes as a newbie. However, as time goes on, you can expect to have more say in where and when you fly. 


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Short Bio
A graduate of the Master of Professional Writing program at USC, April Maguire taught freshman composition while earning her degree. Over the years, she has worked as a writer, editor, tutor, and content manager. Currently, she operates a freelance writing business and lives in Los Angeles with her husband and their three rowdy cats.