How to become a flight attendant
So… you think you have what it takes to work 35,000 feet in the air, not spill coke, tell the rebels to buckle up and successfully evacuate an aircraft in 90 seconds? Excellent, welcome! This is a generic guide to help you get started on your (long) journey in the application process of becoming a flight attendant. Please keep in mind, this is not official and solely based on my own experience, opinions and thoughts, none of which are affiliated with my airline. Also note, this is the general hiring process for U.S. Airlines, I am not experienced with international carriers. Let’s get to work!
Step One DO YOUR RESEARCH:
Take a deep breath. Maybe two. This is just the beginning of a very long, rigorous BUT rewarding process. Nothing about this is easy, but I assure you, it is very much doable. You will be exerting a lot of time and energy into your airline, so it is important that you choose one that works for you. If you haven’t already, you should make a list of whichever airlines interest you.
Are you a regional gal or mainline man? Regional carriers are smaller airlines that only service a specific part of the country where the demand is lower. Their fleet usually consists of smaller aircrafts (under 100 passengers per flight). Mainline carriers actually sub-contract regional carriers to service some of their shorter or lower demand routes. For example: If you buy a ticket from Dallas, Texas to Monroe, Louisiana with United Airlines, you may fly from Dallas to Atlanta with a United operated flight, transfer in Atlanta and then be flown on a smaller aircraft from Atlanta to Monroe, operated by a regional carrier. However, your ticket will still say United, as it is still considered their flight.
You may be wondering, why would I want to work for a regional vs a mainline? Every airline offers different bases (your home airport where you begin your rotations/trips), perhaps not going far from home is a priority for you, this may be a wise choice to pursue your dream job with less fear of being based far away from home. Also, all of us have preferences, and to be fair we don’t really know them until we try. If you know for a fact you prefer multiple short domestic legs (a leg is aviation lingo for a single flight) vs. one long international leg, a regional airline may be just what you’re looking for. I do suggest, going into this job you should be open-minded about being based anywhere, and working any type of trip until you really find what works for you. I’m a California native, moved to Atlanta, Georgia for university and stayed. When I applied with my airline, I thought I had a shot at being based in Atlanta, NOPE. Third day of training and I was told my career would be starting in New York City. I started out commuting from Atlanta, but it wasn’t for me. I decided to move a couple months later and LOVED living in base. Now, I've since moved again and gone back to commuting. Was this my original plan? Not at all. I was open to immersing myself in the job, and I’ve never regretted it once.
Getting back on track, I cannot emphasis enough, DO YOUR RESEARCH. Yes, the benefits are fun, posting pictures in different countries and captioning it, “Working,” is a definite thrill. However, this is the company you will be representing, you want to be proud of it. You want to choose a company that you’re still happy to work for on the worst days. So again, do your research. Don’t just look at who has training pay and who doesn’t. Look at longevity, growth opportunities, what the CEOs have planned for the companies, expansions, unions vs non-unions etc. CLICK HERE for a list of US Regional and Mainline carriers.
Step two THE APPLICATION:
So at this point you’ve narrowed down your favorite airlines, figured out who is hiring and you’re ready to make initial contact with your potential employer. It’s funny because this step gives people a lot of anxiety, but don’t worry, this is the easiest part! I’m assuming some airlines are still asking for resumes, though many of them have shied away from them. Either way, I’ve got you covered. You’re probably asking, how do I tailor my resume efficiently? What are they looking for? How do I make my past experience sound applicable to jumping out of planes and being a hero?
Totally kidding – the likelihood of you ever jumping out of a plane is slim to none, outside of training (kidding again, it’s in a pool, you will survive, and the seats really do float, see picture for proof). For starters, never forget that this is a SERVICE BASED JOB. Read that again. Flight attendants are the face of the company, we determine 90% of customer loyalty. So best believe, companies will be looking for people with reputable backgrounds in customer service. Do not sell yourself short and think just because you waited tables in your friend’s local family restaurant that you are not qualified. Dealing with people on a daily base takes a special type of person. Dealing with people on a daily basis 35,000 ft in the air takes an extraordinary person.
Second emphasis is on safety (although it is an airline top priority). As a flight attendant, you are the guardian of the doors, the babysitters, the doctors and onboard warriors. I like the sound of onboard warrior, they should really consider changing our occupation title. It sounds far more glamorous than it is. Any experience you have in any sort of safety or emergency field, please emphasize it, trust me they want to know and it will benefit you on the job. Whether you are a decorated army vet, or a voluntary high school lifeguard, your experience matters and should be highlighted. While customer service is what sells to our customers, safety will always be every airline’s number one concern (and the FAA makes sure of that!)
Now for all the rest of you schmegular regular folks with no safety or customer service experience, don’t worry hope is not lost. Airlines hire people with all different backgrounds, it’s time to get creative in marketing yourself. Showcase your talents and know that this is part of the application process you need to get through, but upon passing you will have a fair opportunity to present yourself more personally to your employer. If you still need help with your resume, I do offer a resume revamp service (whether you're applying to an airline or anything else), reach out to me to discuss further.
If the airline does not require a resume, simply complete the application carefully and thoroughly. Be prepared to list previous employer information and educational background. You got this!
Step Three ASSESSMENTS:
Here’s the truth, every year they switch up the application process to keep you on your toes. I can’t tell you what’s going to be on any of these, even if I did I am not allowed to tell you. The good news, I can share my personal experience and tell you what helped me prepare to pass all of the assessments. Cool? Great, let’s get to it.
The first assessment has historically been a sort of talent/personality test. It is a generic test to approximate what type of employee you’d potentially be, and if the way you handle scenarios/situations, are able to solve things, and overall morals that align with what the company is looking for. Don’t over-stress yourself, answer honestly and of course do your best.
Step Four VIDEO INTERVIEW:
As I said before, things change every year, so these assessments may come in different orders or not at all. Typically, next you will be sent an e-mail where you will be asked to complete a video interview. This is a big deal! If you’ve gotten to this step, give yourself a pat on the back, the company has given you an opportunity to show who YOU are. Leave the app, resume and talent questions behind and focus on how you are going to present your greatest contribution to the company, you.
Aside from the actual in-person interview, this is probably where you will do the most prep-work. If you prepare well for your video interview, it will definitely help you with your face-to-face interview as well. You’re probably thinking, well where do I even start? Again, I got you. The first thing you should do is become best friends with the STAR method. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, ask Siri or do a quick Google search. It is an interview style that is extremely helpful in keeping your responses concise, organized and on task. Even if you’re familiar with it, I suggest reviewing it again just to be safe. Moving forward, any sort of interview practice use this method when giving responses, just to get in the habit of using it. And, if aviation is not your thing, this method is useful for any job interview.
The internet has tons of resources, it’s actually overwhelming. There are a number of flight attendant YouTube stars who provide practice questions. I also suggest checking out Glassdoor.com. Many people find doing mock interviews with friends and family helpful, especially if you’re a nervous speaker. I came out the womb chatting, so I focused more on making sure my responses didn’t turn into rants, and that I knew how to end them. First, I looked over some of the sample questions online. I then printed out my resume and looked over all of my highlighted experiences. From each bit of work history, I jotted down a couple sentences about different scenarios I had encountered while employed there, that also answered some of the questions I had read.
Be prepared for scenario-based questions, “How would you handle an outraged passenger? If you saw a coworker stealing, how would you respond? If you spilled coffee on a passenger, how would you turn an unfortunate situation into a positive?” It is okay to be creative with your answers, in fact I encourage it. Remember, interviewers will be watching thousands of hopeful flight attendants answer the same questions, an interesting response will go a long way.
When you are preparing to submit your video responses, make sure you are dressed the part. It is perfectly okay to get dressed up and feel confident in your appearance. The company will send you some guidelines on what they expect, it’s usually business attire. Throw on that red lipstick, watch some tutorials on how to get the perfect bun, and get the show started.
An important fact, in the past the initial video interviews have been a recorded interview, in other words you are not actually speaking to a live person. You are sent a link with an expiration time, and from there you will be asked questions, given a short amount of time (like 30 seconds or so), to re-read or prepare your answer, and then you will provide a video response that will be recorded. Sometimes they allow you to redo responses, but don’t bank on it. You also never know if a recruiter will still watch the original video before redoing it. At times they will allow you to review your video before submission. I chose to not review or redo any of my videos, I felt that I would be too critical of myself and never be satisfied. ALSO, if you are choosing to risk it all and not wear business attire bottoms, please do not forget to STAY SEATED throughout the duration of your video interview. Do not be THAT interviewee that kills it, and then stands up to give the interviewers a full display of your Mickey Mouse boxers.
Step Five PHONE/LIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW:
Over the past couple years, airlines have been interchanging whether they include a phone interview or not. My colleagues have told me they were asked to schedule a time where a recruiter would call and do a quick interview over the phone. I was scheduled for a “Skype” interview with a current flight attendant. It took about 30 minutes and asked similar questions to the first video interview. It’s a chance for your potential co-workers to gauge whether you would be someone they’d like to have as a part of their crew. While being a flight attendant is fun and social, you have to keep in mind that the company is vetting you to see if you would be someone they’d want onboard in an emergency.
Step Five And A Half LANGUAGE ASSESSMENT:
If you applied as a language speaker, there’s a high chance you will be asked to complete a language assessment prior to continuing with your application process. I received my invite to participate shortly after my live interview. The language test is done by a 3rd party service, and tests your ability to read, write, speak and translate in your given language. I found this test to be incredibly difficult and finished thinking I hadn’t passed (even though I’m a native speaker). Good news, I passed. I later found out that majority of my colleagues that are language speakers also felt the same way about the test. Depending on how you scored, determines how long your language qualifications are valid until you are required to re-test. My personal take on the test, I believe they make it difficult but leave a reasonable margin of error. As a language applicant, this is the only requirement I had and the only difference from both my application process and training that differed from my monolingual colleagues. In the initial video interview, there were two-three extra questions at the end to be answered in your language. Don’t stress too much about it, if you speak the language you will succeed!
Step Six FACE TO FACE (F2F) INTERVIEW:
This is it. You made it. All of the stresses, waiting, anticipation and practice has paid off and now you are officially in the running. If you made it this far, know that most people who applied did not, you are truly something special and the company WANTS to get to know you. The stage is yours, you have a clean slate and it’s an equal playing field. What you do in this interview determines your next career step. No pressure.
The best advice I can give you is to go into this interview and have fun. I’ve been to this interview twice with my airlines (and once with another), the first one I was overwhelmed and nervous, the second time I was relaxed and WAY more lighthearted. It’s hard not to be nervous, but focus on your excitement. It’s perfect practice for being a flight attendant. Sometimes we experience bad turbulence or unforeseen delays. The flight attendants who remain calm but cheerful have a positive and IMPRESSIONABLE impact on passengers. Flight attendants that express or show their concerns and fears (we have them too, we don’t all love turbulence), make customers worry and uncomfortable. The airline knows what they’re looking for. Mistakes happen, but how you recover from them is key.
Usually you’ll start your day mingling with the other applicants. Please know this, from the time you walk into the building you are being watched. It is important how you interact with the other applicants, do you make a friend and stick with them, or do you make it a point to introduce to various groups? Without directly telling you what to do, keep in mind that you are applying for a position where you will be interacting and servicing people from all over the world who look different from you. If you have a bag full of biases and discomforts when around different cultures, don’t even bother, you’ll hate it here.
Every airline hosts their F2F’s differently, but they all include some sort of an information session where you have the opportunities to ask all your questions (What bases will be open? When does the training class begin? How many FA are they hiring? Just some ideas). They’ll also usually include some sort of activity to test how you interact with your fellow crew. As a mainline FA, you don’t frequently work with the same people, so you have to be flexible in working with new people everyday, and the airline needs to know that you’re up for this. Lastly, as expected, there will be an interview segment. An interview that you’ll come in well prepared for.
There is this crazy myth that if you don’t receive a job offer on the spot you didn’t get the job. FALSE. Fake news. I know plenty of people who received job offers weeks (even months) after their interview date. Don’t try to anticipate or figure out how airlines operate in the hiring process, you’ll lose your mind. Remember that it’s not a, “no” until they tell you they’re not continuing with your application. The first time I applied with my airline, it took them six months to tell me no. The second time, I received a job offer on the spot. There is no algorithm to figuring it out, you have to just do your best and let the rest fall into place. It can be testing and frustrating, but if this career is meant for you, you will get there!
In 2017 I took a spontaneous solo road trip to New York, during my trip I found out I wasn’t being considered for the job. I was pretty heartbroken, but I felt like it wasn’t the right time and it wasn’t meant to be. Today, I’m finishing this guide in my apartment in Brooklyn, employed as a flight attendant for the same airline that told me no. Life works in mysterious ways. Don’t despair, if you want them bad enough, you will earn your wings! I hope this has helped prepare you, answer some questions or just give you an overall taste of how to get started on your journey. Feel free to pass this along to anyone thinking about this industry.
If you want to read more about life as a flight attendant, feel free to check out my SoulSchwester’s page www.FlyWithCarla.com (Schwester means sister in German, we’re German, we’re the same. We even named our blog’s the same, it’s all fine lol). She is not paying me to say this, I just genuinely love her.
Best of luck in your journey, feel free to reach out to me personally if you have any questions I didn’t cover. See you in the friendly skies soon!