What do you do for a living?
How would you describe what you do?
My primary job is to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers.
What does your work entail?
Checking the airplanes emergency equipment prior to passenger boarding. Attending a crew briefing prior to passenger boarding led by the captain emergency evacuation procedures, flight time, weather conditions, and any special issues pertaining to the flight or passengers. Preparing your galley or work station before flight or if aisle attendant monitoring bags and assisting passengers during the boarding process. Ensuring all passengers adhere to FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations, i.e., wearing seat belt when seat belt sign is illuminated, ensuring tray tables and seat backs are in the upright position for take off and landing and luggage is properly stowed.
I’ve been able to travel around the whole world and provide that benefit to my family. I love that my four year old daughter’s passport is filled with stamps.
Conduct service during the flight. Depends on time of day and/or airline as to whether it will be a meal, beverage or snack service. Assisting passengers in the event of a medical emergency. And dealing with anything unexpected such as security issues that may come up. There is always something new being added to the job description these days!
What’s a typical work week like?
There really isn’t a typical week for a flight attendant. As a flight attendant you almost always start off on reserve status. A reserve flight attendant is given a certain amount of days off a month, the rest of the time they are on call to fill in for sick calls, illegal crews etc. Once you become what is known as a line holder you bid for a schedule. Your schedule is awarded in seniority order so the more time you have in the better your schedule is likely to be. Days off for flight attendants are anywhere from 8 days off a month to 21 days off a month depending on seniority and desire to work.
How did you get started?
I answered an ad in my cities local paper and attended what the airlines refer to as a cattle call interview. It’s an informational session where the recruiters explain the job. From there I was asked to stay and had a one on one interview, a two on one interview and a written exam. After jumping through those hoops I was invited to flight attendant training. I believe most airlines do their screening process on line these days.
What do you like about what you do?
I love the flexibility of my job. Once you are off reserve there is a lot of freedom to move your schedule around to fit your life.
What do you dislike?
Ironically, what has been difficult is the lack of routine. I find I have to be disciplined with myself more than someone who has set hours.
How do you make money/or how are you compensated?
Flight Attendants are paid by the flight hour. As reserve you are paid a guaranteed amount of hours per month whether you fly that many or not. As a line holder flight attendant you are paid what flight hours you actually fly. There are other compensations like night pay, galley pay, lead flight attendant pay etc.
How much money do you make as a flight attendant?
I am topped out at my airline and make over $50 per flight hour. All airlines have different pay scales, but US airlines typically top out at around $38 to $60 per flight hour. I can work anywhere from 0 hours per month to as many as I can fly while still having eight days off a month. An average schedule is 80 hours a month.
How much money do you make starting out as a flight attendant?
Most airlines start in the low $20s per hour with a guarantee of around 80 flight hours per month.
What education or skills are needed to do this?
Most airlines prefer although do not require a college degree, an out going personality and customer service experience is what most airlines are looking for.
What is most challenging about what you do?
Not knowing what to expect every time I go to work. Everything from working with new people to unexpected delays or other issues.
What is most rewarding?
Being able to experience things I probably never would have experienced without being a flight attendant. I’ve been able to travel around the whole world and provide that benefit to my family. I love that my four year old daughter’s passport is filled with stamps.
What advice would you offer someone considering this career?
Have an open mind, be flexible and enjoy the ride!
How much time off do you get/take?
It really depends on where you are in your career as a flight attendant. After eighteen years of flying I am now able to fly part time which is about eight days per month. A new hire will probably only have eight days off a month.
What is a common misconception people have about what you do?
That flight attendants don’t like people. We love people. That is why most of us became flight attendants.
What are your goals/dreams for the future?
My goal for the future is to continue helping people understand the world of air travel through my blog and other media outlets. I would like to do for air travel what Nanny 911 has done for parenting. I believe air travel can be a lot less stressful for people with a little knowledge and planning.
What else would you like people to know about what you do?
I would love people to know that a flight attendant career is a great way to see the world, and have a flexible lifestyle once you have some seniority. It’s almost like working for myself at this point in my career. I bid a monthly schedule that works for me and my family, and I work unsupervised on the airplane. I love that I am able to fly more if I need the extra money or take time off if I want to.
The interviewee, Sara Pinto Keagle of www.theflyingpinto.com, was kind enough to share her thoughts on her career in this interview.