How to become a flight attendant

You may have heard that there are all sorts of crazy flight attendant requirements. But are airlines really being that ridiculous when recruiting for flight attendants? We don’t think so. Keep reading and you’ll realize that airlines clearly define their requirements for good reason.

In this post, we cover what’s required of you personally in order to become a flight attendant.

In addition to these personal requirements, all airlines expect applicants to pass their high-level training programs (which we cover in this post).

Check out The Fastest And Easiest Way To Prepare For a Flight Attendant Training

What are the Requirements to become a Flight Attendant?

While good appearances are one of the flight attendant requirements - but looks aren't everything, says Barbie the flight attendant. Photo credit: Mauren Veras.

Looks aren’t everything, says Barbie the flight attendant. Photo credit: Mauren Veras.

Airlines are looking at the following when they’re recruiting flight attendants:

1. Figure out what’s motivating this pursuit for a lifestyle change.

If you want to become a flight attendant, you’ll want to make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons.

  • Money should not be one of those reasons. You won’t earn a lot as a flight attendant. If you can, it’s best to have solid savings before going into this career for what might be weeks of unpaid training on top of a low starting pay.
  • The desire to travel is going to be a major force in this quest, but don’t let that be the only factor. You will get to travel, but you’ll also spend a lot of time enduring those not-so-favorite sides of travel: hours upon hours on a stuffy plane, being away from loved ones for several days at a time, short layovers, late nights and early mornings, delays and cancellations, and a constant cycle of getting sick and worn down.
  • You simply must also get some sort of kick out of interacting with folks in a customer service environment. You’ll deal with the good, the bad, and the ugly in the service industry — and if you’re not exactly a people person, it’s going to become a lot to take. A desire to help and serve people should be among your reasoning for pursuing this goal. Being a flight attendant gives you the ability to have a positive impact on someone’s day through authentic interactions.

So, if you love travel, people, and an ever-changing work environment, this might just be the gig for you. And even if you try it and find out it’s not for you, you’ll still have lasting memories of a unique point in your life when you tried something completely different.

2. Do your own research to find out which airline best suits you.

There are the huge legacy carriers that have been around forever, mainlines and regionals. Then there are the fancy private jets. There’s a wealth of information online through Glassdoor and Indeed that will help you decide which route is best for you through information about company mindset/goals, employee morale, salary, benefits, work environment, etc. There’s no answer to the question, “Which airline is the best to work for?” It’s very subjective.

Here are some things you should keep in mind when doing your research:

  • Age

    For most airlines, you must be 21 to apply. That does exclude some regionals that will hire at 18 — a good option to keep in mind if you just graduated high school and aren’t keen on throwing yourself immediately into some student loan debt.

  • Education

    You need to at least have a high school diploma or GED, but more education, especially safety- or communication-related, is looked highly upon. The same goes for any experience in the medical field. If you’re proficient in another language, that opens even more doors!

  • Crew base

    A major factor to take into consideration is where these airlines have crew bases. If you plan to keep your home during this transition, do they have a crew base in your city? Are you willing to relocate? If so, take a look at which airlines have bases where you could potentially see yourself living.

    Of course, you don’t absolutely have to move — there’s always commuting (living away from your base and flying there to start your shifts). If this is your plan, be sure to check if the airline you’re looking at encourages this way of life — specifically if their contract has a commuter clause that protects you in case you can’t get to work. It is also a good idea to check into flights from your home airport to that airline’s bases. Are there direct flights, or would you have to connect?

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3. Understand that it’s not all a fairytale.

Flight attendant jobs are some of the most glamorized positions out there. It is a very cool gig that will pay you in amazing life experiences, but it’s not all perfectly painted lips and long layovers on the beach — it’s also a lot of slinging Diet Cokes to grumpy passengers, getting the bare minimum of rest before flying out again, testing your relationships, and squeezing by financially. Also, when you start out at most airlines, you’ll likely be on reserve (on call) for at least a year — or 15-20 with some legacy carriers. While it’s exciting in certain ways to be flying by the seat of your pants, not knowing which city you’re headed to next or who your co-workers will be, it can be stressful and tiresome.

If you want it bad enough, however, all of these things can be worked through with a little creativity and elbow grease. Still, it’s very important to think through every struggle that might be coming your way after making this switch.

Here are the comforts you’ll have to give up on:

  • A steady, predictable paycheck. Flight attendant pay can vary greatly depending on how much you fly per month, whether that’s with a regular schedule or on reserve. But do keep in mind that it only gets better with time — raises come and picking up extra shifts gets a lot easier.
  • Weekends, nights, holidays and birthdays off. If you’re someone who values specific days off — let’s say Christmas — you might struggle when you start off in this career. Seniority is everything in the airline industry. The longer you stick with one airline, the better chances you’ll have of getting certain days off. Looking at things from the other side, though, to have Monday-Friday off before a six-day stretch of work is a pretty sweet perk not many other professions could give you. Once you become a flight attendant, it’s hard to imagine going back to only having two days off at a time.
  • A sense of routine. If you’re someone who thrives on having a set schedule to follow, flight attendant life could very well drive you mad. But on the flip side, varying hours and schedules can be a welcomed change. And as your seniority gets better and better, you can tweak, drop and swap days off to your liking, creating a lot more flexibility than you could ever imagine in your typical 9-to-5.

6. Flight attendant training

Once you’ve been invited to training and are sent your study materials, don’t stall on digging into them! The sooner you get to work learning the basics, the better off you’ll be.

Remember why you’re there. Don’t get caught up in petty drama with other trainees or go out partying every night. Try your absolute best to get along with your roommate. You are there to achieve what you worked so hard for, so don’t let anything get in your way. Buckle down, study, and focus.

Training is not easy and can range anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks. You’ll have written and oral exams on your flight routine, security, emergency procedures and equipment, First Aid, and other topics. You’ll also take part in drills where you’ll demonstrate CPR and land and water evacuation commands.

After you pass your cumulative final exam, all that’s left is your Operational Experience. You’ll get on a real, live flight and prove yourself. Once you pass this, you’re a certified flight attendant ready to report for duty — congratulations!

More like this: How to pack like a flight attendant

Requirement No. 2: Physical Attributes

As you’ll see below, all of the physical attributes airlines are looking for are purely for safety reasons. Be aware that the specific physical flight attendant requirements do vary from airline to airline.

  1. Height: The most common height range is between 4ft 11in and 6ft 3in, or between 150cm and 190cm tall. Note: This value is debatable, see the “Reach requirement” below.
  2. Reach: Even though your reach is closely related to your height, the height you can reach to is a more accurate and is increasingly becoming “the measurement” for determining your suitability to work inside a cabin. Cathay Pacific have stated they require a reach of 208cm. It’s been said some airlines will allow you to stand on the balls of your feet!
  3. Weight: Breathe a sigh of relief, there are no specific numbers regarding the weight flight attendant requirements. The definition is simply this: your weight must be proportional to your height.How do you know if you meet this requirement? A great starting place is to use this calculator to work out your BMI, and if you’re within “normal weight”, you clearly have nothing to worry about.
  4. Vision: You must have at least 20/30 vision. This means you don’t even need to have “normal” 20/20 vision, and with the use of glasses or contact lenses – you’ll likely to pass this requirement without even batting an eyelid! You can read more about 20/30 vision here.
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While you can’t necessarily do much to change your height and reach, there are definitely things you can do to get your BMI into the “normal range” and you can definitely do things to correct your vision.

Check out The Fastest And Easiest Way To Prepare For a Flight Attendant Training

Requirement No. 3: Your Appearance

Contrary to popular belief, looking like a supermodel is not one of the flight attendant requirements. You can thank television and movies for this stereotype. But, you do need to be well-groomed. This means having a neat, unassuming appearance that won’t ever offend anyone!

No matter which airline you work for – you must truly “look the part”. It’s very much one of the basic flight attendant requirements.

It’s worth noting that for most airlines, there are strict grooming regulations you must adhere to in order to maintain the branding of the airline and their company standards. It’s very much one of the basic flight attendant requirements – you really must “look like part of the furniture”. For example: always polished shoes, always the entire company uniform, always having your shirt tucked in and never having an outrageous hair color.

Appearances are everything (seriously):

    • Hairstyle: Avoid the latest radical style cut and stick with conservative, professional styles.
    • Hair color: No unnatural hair color. I.e. Pinks, purples or electric blue.
    • Hair length: Above shoulder length, or at the collar. Do keep your fringe above your eyebrows.
    • Jewellry: Minimal and petite. No big dangling necklaces, no trinkets with bells. One ring on each hand.
    • Wrist watches: Accepted, so long as they’re conservative. Don’t try for the latest pop-princess hyper-white watch with an enormous band.
    • Makeup: Minimal eyeliner, blushes, other highlighting and natural tones only.
    • Piercings: Not allowed. Perhaps with the exception of fine studs in the ears.
    • Tattoos: Always covered by clothing. Neck or face tattoo? Not a chance!

Specifics for Men:

  • Facial hair: Be clean shaven. No goatees or beards.
  • Tom Selleck?: Moustaches not below the corners of your mouth. Keep it trimmed very neatly.
  • Austin Powers?: Sideburns no lower than halfway down your ear. Keep them trimmed very neatly.

During the interview process, you’ll do well before you even start if you can assimilate a flight attendant in appearance. This is a topic unto its own, and we cover how to look like a flight attendant in this post.Check out The Fastest And Easiest Way To Prepare For a Flight Attendant Training

Service with a smile. Photo credit: Peter Burge.

Service with a smile. Photo credit: Peter Burge.

Requirement No. 4: Personal Qualities/Characteristics

What makes someone a great flight attendant? The personal qualities you’ll need to meet the basic requirements for a flight attendant position are really just things your parents tried to instill in you throughout your youth or things you learned at school.

Communication Skills:

You must be able to communicate effectively in the English language. You are constantly engaging with passengers, and in an emergency situation, flight attendants are relied upon to give instruction to passengers. We’d say this is one of the most highly regarded flight attendant requirements. Airlines are looking for people with:

  • Excellent verbal skills: Listening, comprehending and giving instructions.
  • Excellent literacy skills: Reading and writing.

Personality Traits:

You’re blessed with your own personality, it’s what makes you, you! And your personality traits will dictate your actions, attitudes and behaviors. These traits help airlines determine whether or not you’re the right person for the job and is one of the most important flight attendant requirements. Flight attendants should:

  • Be able to work well under pressure, or in stressful situations: Can you act quickly, and be relied upon when it matters most?
  • Work well in a team: Team work means efficiency.
  • Be flexible: You should be the one who bends to “make it work”.
  • Be patient: You have the joy of dealing with people, the most complex beings on earth.
  • Be focused on customer service and customer satisfaction: The passenger is the most important person on the flight.
  • Be caring and conscientious: Put yourself in your passengers shoes. How can you make their flight better?
  • Be a problem solver: On many flights, you’ll need to put out a fire or two (metaphorically speaking).
  • Be able to multitask effectively: How many things can you do at once?
  • Have a positive attitude: Positive attitudes are synonymous with positive outcomes. Believe it. Do it!
  • Be confident within themselves, and portray confidence. Confidence breeds success, for you and the company.
  • Be observant and always aware of their surroundings: Do you notice the little things? Little things make a big difference at 35,000ft.
  • Have a professional manner: You personally represent the brand and the company, act accordingly.
  • Be punctual: Be on time, and help passengers promptly.
  • Be safety conscious: You will be working in tight spaces, and in a dangerous environment.
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Check out The Fastest And Easiest Way To Prepare For a Flight Attendant Training

Requirement No. 5: Physical Ability

Being a flight attendant is actually a very physically demanding job, especially when you’ll be doing it back to back for days on end without a break. Here’s just a sample of the day-to-day requirements of flight attendants:

  1. Lifting heavy baggage into overhead lockers
  2. Pushing a 200lb service cart up and down the isle
  3. Keeping your balance during the flight, while serving passengers food and drink, and through turbulence (t’s not as easy as it sounds when you have your hands full!).
  4. Walking for miles through the airports, and not getting lost on your way!
  5. Working in tight spaces
  6. Managing to work in a pressurized cabin, with recycled air for extended periods
  7. Managing jet lag/sleep deprivation
  8. Working extended shifts, in excess of 12 hours

One of the flight attendant requirements: hard work! Two flight attendants walking between terminals. Photo credit: MIKI Yoshihoto

Two flight attendants walking between terminals. Photo credit: M. Yoshihito

Summary:

The role of a flight attendant is a critical component of flight and passenger safety. You are the front line of the company, and you are the person who will be making the difference to the experience of the passenger – which is the priority for every company: customer satisfaction. As such, you need to be the best and to ensure they have the best of the best.

Airlines are setting the bar high. With all of these flight attendant requirements, plus their extensive training program – you can tell they’re very particular about who they bring onto the team.

Check out The Fastest And Easiest Way To Prepare For a Flight Attendant Training

We’re sure some people could find this list a little overwhelming, or make them wonder if it’s even worth it. If you don’t know why you should become a flight attendant – read this post which discusses the perks of being a flight attendant.

Here’s a summary of the flight attendant requirements:

  • Minimum age: 18 to 21 years, depending on the airline
  • Height: 4ft 11in and 6ft 3in, or 150cm and 190cm, tall. This is debatable (see Reach)
  • Weight: Just be a “healthy weight” for your height!
  • Reach: 208cm (on tippy-toes if you have to!)
  • Vision: 20/30, with or without corrective measures
  • Appearance: Clean, neat, conservative
  • Posess excellent communication skills
  • Be a professional team leader who works well under pressure, is patient and flexible, and is able to engage with people from all walks of life (among others!)
  • Be willing and able to persevere, handle discomfort and put your body to the test

How can we better help you land your dream job?

Your next step shpuld be Preparing Yourself For A Cabin Crew Interview. Check out his guide:Cabin Crew Interview GuideDid this post on the flight attendant requirements help you? Is there anything we can do to improve it? Please leave your comment below.

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