Flight Attendant Education Requirements and Career Info

Flight attendants spend much of their time making airline passengers feel comfortable; however, their primary responsibility is ensuring the safety of everyone aboard the aircraft. To that end, they must prepare first-aid kits, check and stow equipment and review safety procedures and special issues with the crew and passengers.

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Flight Attendant Job Description

Flight attendants reassure passengers by assisting with in-flight safety procedures and making sure safety protocols are followed during flight. This includes checking that all seat belts are fastened, seats are upright and luggage is properly stored. In the event of an emergency, they may lead or monitor the evacuation and be called upon to perform first aid. During routine flights, flight attendants may help passengers board the aircraft, prepare the cabin for take-off and landing and answer questions about the flight. They may also provide beverage and food service, pass out pillows and blankets and attend to requests made by passengers to help make their flight as enjoyable as possible.

Flight attendants must be in moderate physical shape, as they should be able to reach and operate emergency exits and equipment. They also spend prolonged periods of time walking, standing, kneeling, twisting, bending and working in cramped spaces. Because airlines operate 24 hours a day year-round, flight attendants often work nights, weekends and holidays.

Career Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), flight attendants typically spend about 75-90 hours a month flying and another 50 hours a month on the ground waiting for planes, preparing plans for flights and writing post-flight reports. Flight attendants may work up to 12-hour days; however, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that they receive nine hours of rest following any shift.

During the time spent away from home, airlines provide meal allowances and hotel accommodations for all flight crewmembers. The Bureau reported that there were approximately 84,960 employed flight attendants in 2012, with a median annual wage of $37,240.

Education Requirements

Though a formal college education is not required to become a flight attendant, many airlines prefer to hire flight attendants with some college experience, particularly those with backgrounds in customer-service concentrations like communication, sociology or hospitality. Specific training occurs once the attendant is hired.

Flight attendant training programs usually last between three and eight weeks and cover the fundamentals of aviation, first aid, emergency procedures, customer service, food service safety and leadership skills. They also learn how to deal with disruptive passengers. For international flights, trainees study passport and customs regulations. In addition, flight attendants are taught how to handle extreme situations, such as hijacking and terrorist threats, and learn how to operate emergency systems and equipment during unplanned landings. Candidates who complete the training program receive the FAA's Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency and are certified as flight attendants.

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