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Flight Attendant


Can you imagine a flight without flight attendants? No one would help people locate their seats, no one would explain and assist in times of emergency. No one would heat and serve meals, no one would come on the speaker to announce that the shaking is only turbulence, the rattling noises nothing out of the ordinary. No one would be there as a reassuring, calming, and efficient presence to make air travel comfortable, safe, and fun.

Flight attendants are trained professionals employed by both large and small airlines. They attend to the needs, comfort, and safety of passengers during flights. Some times they work one-on-one with children traveling alone or with elderly, disabled, or other people who have trouble negotiating small spaces. They accompany passengers around the world, ensuring that everyone arrives unharmed, rested, and happy.

Airline pursers are supervisory flight attendants, who complete reports, document incidents, and ensure all the attendants are working well. They are responsible for managing any financial transactions that take place on board, and ensuring that passengers are ready with customs papers. As well, they are often the attendants responsible for ensuring the proper procedures are being followed, the appropriate supplies are on board, and the flight is ready and safe for take-off.

Flight attendants sometimes have to deal with dangerous or disturbed passengers. Usually, these are people who have trouble being in small spaces, have consumed too much alcohol, or are unused to traveling for long periods of time. Flight attendants must be more than just pleasant people - they must be ready and willing to take action, calm the disturbed passenger down, and maintain order within the airplane. The same is true during a mechanical emergency - often during a crash or sudden landing it is the flight attendant whose skills, knowledge, and abilities manage to protect and save the lives of many.

Obviously, flight attendants do more than hand out peanuts and start up the in-flight film. While they do keep us comfortable and entertained, they are also responsible for the safety and security of thousands of passengers every year. Though they rarely have to do more than ensure we are all wearing our seatbelts, on the odd occasion when they have to do more, flight attendants are truly heroes.
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  Interests and Skills  
Flight attendants must be poised, patient, efficient, adaptable and well-groomed. They should be accepting of all people from varying backgrounds and cultures, and be able to work within a team, yet be self-sufficient enough to work on their own. They should feel confident in your abilities, work calmly under pressure, and enjoy helping and serving people. They must be good communicators.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Ensure all safety equipment is on board and working
  • Find out weather conditions, flight time, meal selection, and entertainment schedule
  • Assist passengers who require help boarding
  • Greet and say goodbye to passengers as they arrive and disembark from the plane
  • Help passengers locate their seats and store their carry-on luggage
  • Demonstrate safety procedures and the use of life-saving equipment
  • Tour the plane, looking for fastened seatbelts and upright trays and seats
  • Provide magazines, headphones, blankets, pillows, meals, snacks, etc.
  • Make announcements (regarding turbulence, descent preparations, etc.)
  • Assist during emergency landings
  • Tidy up airplane prior to and following flight
  • A typical day for a flight attendant can involve three or four shorter flights across a state or one long, extended flight around to world. On each flight, the procedures are the same. The flight attendant greets passengers, helps them get settled, and monitors their safety during the flight. They spend most of the flight seeing to the safety and comfort of the passengers.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Flight attendants are employed by airlines. They work for hours in cramped, noisy spaces, miles above the Earth. They travel around the world, but don't always get to see much of the places they fly to. The hours can be long, and irregular, as some flights last more than 10 hours. They lift and maneuver heavy equipment, are exposed to the dangers of air travel, and must live with jet lag, absences from their families, and long periods of time on their feet.
  • Some flight attendants work for smaller airlines, and only fly on shorter domestic trips. This type of work could mean more regular hours, however, all flight attendants are subject to weekend, holiday, and overnight work. All flight attendants work with a team of attendants, pilots, and a supervisor (purser).

  Long Term Career Potential  
As new flight attendants gather more experience, their schedules become more stable - they go from on-call work to month-by-month schedules, and eventually can choose their home base, request superior vacation time, and can advance to supervisory positions or become training instructors. Flight attendants can also move into different occupations within the flight industry or the hospitality and tourism industry, such as ticket agents, hotel and restaurant managers, travel agents, tour guides or cruise directors.

  Educational Paths  
Each airline has different hiring requirements when looking for flight attendants. In general, they must be US citizens or have landed immigrant status, have a high school diploma or equivalent education, be fluent in English, and have had some previous experience working with people or have some postsecondary education. Many airlines have height requirements, and many only hire applicants with more than one language.

Once they are hired by an airline, flight attendants go through a four- to six-week intensive training program, which covers everything from safety procedures to public interaction. Then, the flight attendants are relocated to one of the airline's bases, and complete a three- to six-month on-the-job training period.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002, http://www.bls.gov/oes/2002/oes_nat.htm

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