Flight attendants are responsible for the overall safety and comfort of an aircraft’s passengers, whether commercial or private. The job of a flight attendant is multifaceted, combining customer service with emergency care, food service, hospitality and sales.
- Take part in preflight briefings, which involve discussing the flight and its schedule
- Check emergency and safety equipment before each flight
- Ensure all necessary equipment and supplies are available on board before each flight
- Greet passengers as they board the aircraft
- Direct passengers to their seats and stow their luggage in the overhead bins
- Demonstrate emergency equipment and procedures
- Serve and clear food and drinks, and sell duty-free items
- Provide information, guidance and assistance to passengers, ensuring their safety and comfort
- Calm passengers who are anxious or upset, such as during turbulence
- Reassure passengers in the event of an emergency, guiding them to safety
- Administer first aid as needed
- Ensure passengers leave the aircraft safely at the end of a flight
Skills and qualities
Flight attendants generally progress from working on short-haul or domestic flights to long-haul or international flights.
With experience, you can advance to a senior flight attendant position, where you’ll be overseeing a team of flight attendants and have more control over your schedule. You can also move to a training role or another ground-based role such as in recruitment, marketing or sales.
Work schedules vary depending on the airline you work for and the specific routes you fly, but you can expect to work long hours on a regular basis – sometimes 12- to 14-hour shifts – on nights, weekends and holidays. As a new flight attendant, you will have to be on call and ready to work on short notice. That said, the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) requires that all flight attendants receive a minimum of nine consecutive hours of rest between duty periods.
As the job requires extensive travel, you can expect to spend long periods of time away from home, especially if you serve on international flights.
The work can be physically demanding, as you have to spend a lot of time on your feet, and extremely stressful, especially when dealing with difficult passengers. Spending long periods of time in a confined space adds a higher risk of illness, while injuries are not uncommon (such as due to falling objects, like luggage, during turbulence). Many flight attendants also report problems with diet and sleep.
Annual salary estimates are based on percentile wage data collected through the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey of US workers.
Qualifications and training
No formal education is required to become a flight attendant, though you will need to complete extensive training and meet stringent physical requirements set by the airline that employs you.
Training typically lasts between three and six weeks, and includes instruction on flight regulations, emergency procedures and company operations. Physical requirements vary from airline to airline, but they usually include minimum 20/40 vision, no visible tattoos and an overall professional appearance. You will also need to pass a background check, a drug test and a comprehensive medical evaluation.
You must also be certified by the FAA. To maintain certification, you will need to meet annual training requirements.
SourcesBureau of Labor Statistics Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) O*NET OnLine Oxford Martin School
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 2, 2022