Understand the jobCandyBoxImages/Shutterstock
Air travel used to be glamorous, and flight attendant jobs were highly coveted. During the golden age of air travel (the 1950s through the 1980s), flight attendants (or “stewardesses,” as they were called back then) held a certain mystique because they were almost uniformly young, pretty, and female. Today, they possess a different mystique because they know things the rest of us don’t, like these secrets of air travel. They’re able to suss out their passengers with a single glance, and they’re uniquely adept at hacking our most vexing problems, such as dealing with smelly bathrooms. “So why do people continue to presume they’re nothing more than waitresses?” wonders Farida Boland, a flight attendant (FA) with more than ten years of experience and co-founder with her pilot husband, Dan Boland, of HolidayPromoCode.com, an online service helping travelers find the best possible vacations for the least amount of money. “Yes we serve meals and make your drinks,” Farida says, “but for everyone’s safety, we also have to know everything about the aircraft you’re flying in on, we have to continually pass exams to stay proficient, and we’re trained for all kinds of emergencies you probably can’t even imagine.” We talked to Farida, Dan, and Bob Seidel, who is the CEO of Alerion Aviation, which charters and manages private planes, including staffing them with crew. Between the three, it became clear that being an FA requires one to be a customer service magician, because you’re working in a small, enclosed space to keep people who are often quite anxious and stressed out, both happy and safe. That, plus the schedule, the required training and the fact that everything you do gets undone and redone ad nauseum, requires a hefty dose of tenacity, a sense of non-attachment and at-times super-human physical and mental endurance. “People who excel at the job are the sort of people who like to build sandcastles,” says Seidel. “The waves are going to come in, and what you’ve built isn’t going to last. If you cry over it, the job’s not right for you.”
You’ll need a degree from the school of lifeWayne0216/Shutterstock
Some FA schools such as The Travel Academy, require that you have at least a high school education. Others, such as Beyond and Above, don’t have such a requirement. According to Seidel, when applying for flight attendant jobs, it’s helpful to have a high school education or GED; about half of those hired by Alerion have college degrees. However, what’s more important is “life experience and personality type.” (Did you know that the way you pack a suitcase says a lot about your personality?) In fact, some airlines have their potential hirees complete a personality assessment. Ideal qualities include being organized and flexible. All FAs should be fluent in English (reading, writing, listening, and speaking). Being bilingual can be helpful, especially if you are looking to work for a private aviation company such as Alerion. “There are times when certain of our clientele wish to have an FA who speaks their language,” says Seidel. This is especially true with Chinese and Russian clients. Non-native speakers agree that these are the hardest English words to pronounce.