Students in flight attendant training learn to play a multitude of roles,
such as instructor, host, server, librarian and emergency medical technician.
"Primarily, a flight attendant's job is to ensure the safety of the
passengers," says Aileen McBrearty, a tourism and travel instructor at
a community college. "Everything else is incidental."
McBrearty, once a flight attendant herself, says there was a time when
one of the requirements was to be a registered nurse. "In those days, the
flights took 14 hours, and people could live, die and have babies," she says.
Today, the RN requirement is no longer an issue, although flight attendants
must know emergency procedures.
A high school diploma is the minimum requirement, but a couple years of
post-secondary education is an asset.
If you speak more than one language, it'll weigh heavily in your
Height requirements vary from a minimum of 5'2" to a maximum of
6'2", and your weight must be proportionate to your height. "You can't help
but judge people by their looks when they walk into a room," says McBrearty.
Airlines will not admit to having beauty stipulations, but it certainly
helps to be pleasant in appearance.
A two-year diploma in tourism and travel will generally teach you everything
you need to know in this career, McBrearty says. "What we're looking for are
people with customer service awareness -- people who can sell, people with
personality, a willingness to learn and a good geography background."
Math is important as well. Flight attendants need to tally up bar
bills. "You need to be able to balance what you sell!"
Other important factors are an authoritative demeanor and the ability
to place the lives of others above your own.
"You have to ooze confidence in the event of a crash landing," says McBrearty.
"In case of any mishaps, you have to remember you're taking care of these
people -- you're not taking care of yourself first."
Once you've been hired by an airline company, you'll be put through very
rigorous training. These sessions last anywhere from four to eight weeks and
will teach you safety protocol, such as CPR and other life-saving techniques.
You must be able to swim like a fish -- you never know when you'll
be forced to use that ability.
Other parts of the training sessions include mandatory physical exams
and drug and alcohol testing. During lengthy flights, you will be required
to remain on your feet for many hours.
Most flight attendants are required to purchase their own uniforms
through the company. However, a deal can usually be worked out where the employees
will be deducted a small amount -- usually about $20 -- from each paycheck
until the bill is paid in full.
Occupational Outlook Handbook
For more information related to this field of study, see: Flight
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A little something to share with your passengers
Italian for Flight Attendants
A class to attend during stopovers