Despite all the drawbacks, flight attendant is an incredibly in-demand job. You get to travel the world, meet lots of new people, and make air travel a little more tolerable for passengers. People are so intrigued about the lives of flight attendants that Delta is producing a web series about the process. But it’s not as easy as putting on a uniform and a friendly face and then striding down the jetway. Here are the things you need to know before becoming a flight attendant and some of the perks you can expect once you take to the skies.
1. You’re probably not getting the job on the first try
So you’ve decided you want to be a flight attendant. Congratulations. The back of the line is around the corner. Travel + Leisure writes that for every 100,000 applicants, only 1,000 will actually become flight attendants. For the non-math majors out there, that’s just 1%. Harvard has a higher acceptance rate than that.
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2. Brush up on another language
Do you habla? Or parlez-vous? Or sprechen-Sie? You won’t need any kind of advanced degree to land the job, but it definitely helps if you can speak a second or third language. That’s according to longtime flight attendant Heather Poole, writing for Mental Floss. “Being able to speak a second language greatly improves your chances. So does having customer service experience,” she says.
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3. Be ready to be put under the microscope
We’ve already discussed the long odds when it comes to actually donning a flight uniform. If you get past the application process and you’re lucky enough to be called in for an interview, know your every move is being watched. If you’re interviewing in person with Delta, you’ll be serenaded by current flight staff, who will have a huge say in deciding whether you move on to the next phase of the hiring process.
Like many jobs nowadays, prospective candidates will probably start the hiring process with a video interview. It might seem casual, but it’s far from it. You should treat it as you would an in-person interview. The Runway Journal blog says you should be fully groomed and neatly dressed. And you’ll likely need to pass an extensive background check.
If you make it over every hurdle and are invited to training school, you’re still not out of the woods. The Points Guy notes the training session (which can last several weeks) is essentially another phase of the interview process. Falter there, and you’ll likely be back at square one.
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4. Make sure you’re prepared for the realities of the job
It might seem obvious, but because we haven’t mentioned it yet we will now: Make sure you’re up for actually becoming a flight attendant. The hiring process is rigorous enough, and if you get the job you won’t be living a life of glamour right away. New hires are subject to strict regulations during their probationary period, including every last detail of the uniform. As the newbie, The Runway Journal blog says you’ll most likely be working red-eye flights, nights, weekends, and holidays until you move up the totem pole.
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5. Looks aren’t everything, but they are important
You might have heard flight attendants back in the day had to fit a certain physical mold, and that’s true. These days, you don’t have to be a slim and slender supermodel to land the gig, but you do need to be presentable. For both Delta and United, that means no visible tattoos while in uniform. For Delta, being presentable also means no facial piercings or earlobe plugs.
About the only physical requirements are that you can reach the overhead bins, bend, stoop, kneel, and stand for extended periods of time, and you can fit in the flight jumpseats.
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6. You might have to make a lifestyle change
Let’s say you made it through every stage of the hiring process, and you’re starting life as a flight attendant. Congratulations! Hope you’re ready for some drastic lifestyle changes.
For one, you might be forced to locate to a new city as a home base or figure out a way to commute there on your own. Second, you’ll likely be sharing communal living space with a host of other flight crew members in between flights. They’re called crashpads, and they’re a big part of the lifestyle. Also, don’t think about spending time in the airport bar before a flight. That’s a no-no. Finally, you can absolutely forget about accidentally oversleeping and being late to work. Being on time is such a crucial part of the job that flight attendants can be fined if they don’t wear a watch while working.
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7. You can make a lot of money if you stick with it
We’ve already covered some of the drawbacks of being a flight attendant. Luckily, there are also some big benefits. You won’t be raking in the dough at the beginning — the starting salary is a little over $20,000, according to PayScale. Stay on the job, however, and you can enjoy a median salary of $48,500 and close to $80,000 at the high end, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
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8. Flights are free to a degree
It’s true, flight attendants get to fly for free, but it’s not as simple as packing a bag and hopping a plane to Paris. The blogger behind The Runway Journal says flight attendants fly standby, so they only get a seat if there is a seat to be had. Otherwise, they have to occupy the jumpseats reserved for the crew, and if there are several off-duty flight attendants jostling for a seat on a flight there’s no guarantee all of them will have a spot.
However, the free flights aren’t just for flight attendants. Their, families, significant others, and children also get free flights, and the travel benefits can extend to other airlines and cruise lines, reports the website Flight Attendant Career.
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