Flight Attendant Job Description - Requirements, Duties, Skills and Career
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What Does a Flight Attendant Do?
Flight attendants are part of an aircraft’s cabin crew. They are also known as hostesses (if female), stewards (if male), or cabin attendants (either sex). The primary duty of a flight attendant is to ensure the well-being, safety and comfort of all passengers during an airline flight, from boarding through to landing and disembarkment.
The duties of a flight attendant begin with welcoming passengers on board, helping them to their seats and assisting them with stowing their carry-on luggage in the overhead compartments. One of the main responsibilities of a flight attendant is carrying out the pre-flight safety demonstration prior to take off, during which they illustrate to passengers the aircraft’s safety features and equipment (seat belts, emergency exits, inflatable life jackets and oxygen masks) and show them how they should be used in the event of an emergency. They also advise passengers of the restrictions on smoking on board and on the use of portable electronic devices.
Prior to a flight, flight attendants ready the aircraft for the next group of passengers, ensuring that the cabin is clean, safe and tidy. During the flight, they serve food, drinks and snacks to passengers and attend to any requests politely and with a smile, generally aiming to ensure that everybody has a safe and comfortable flight. In the event of turbulence, a flight attendant’s job is to reassure passengers and urge them to remain calm. In the event of an illness on board the aircraft, or some other kind of medical emergency, flight attendants are responsible for administering first aid. After the aircraft lands at the destination airport, flight attendants say goodbye to the disembarking passengers and remain on board the aircraft to prepare for the return flight.
Flight attendants always work in teams of between 4 to 6 people (known collectively as cabin crew) under the supervision of a purser. They wear a uniform provided by the airline which makes them immediately recognizable at all times.
Although a flight attendant’s real workplace is the aircraft cabin, work usually begins on the ground in the airport, where pre and post flight briefings are held. Usually, cabin crew work a number of consecutive days (including holidays) with hours outside of what are considered normal working hours. This is then followed by a rest period of 3 to 4 days. For medium and long haul flights, the effects of jet lag are factored into a flight attendant’s working hours and conditions.
Typically, flight attendants work out of a ‘home base’ airport and are assigned to flights on the basis of a rostering system. Flight attendants are often required to live close to their home base in order to to be able provide rapid availability in the event of an emergency (e.g. replacing sick or absent colleagues).
Flight Attendant Duties and Responsibilities
The aim of a flight attendant is to ensure the safety and comfort of all passengers. Accordingly, their duties and responsibilities include:
- Preparing the aircraft for flight
- Welcoming passengers on board and showing them to their seats
- Assisting passengers in stowing their carry-on luggage and removing it after landing
- Illustrating the correct use of the aircraft’s emergency equipment
- Opening and closing the aircraft doors
- Providing on board services, such as serving meals, drinks and snacks and selling duty free products
- Remaining in constant contact with passengers during the flight, with the aim of ensuring they remain calm at all times and attending to their needs
In the event of an emergency, flight attendants are responsible for operating the safety and emergency equipment to ensure the rapid and safe evacuation of all passengers.
Flight Attendant - Education and Requirements
Aspiring flight attendants first need to check they meet the requirements for cabin crew set by the recruiting airlines. Requirements may vary slightly from airline to airline, but generally relate to age, height, appearance, knowledge of foreign languages, swimming ability and vision, as well as the absence of any visible piercings or tattoos.
In terms of training and education, flight attendants are usually required to hold at least school-leaving qualifications, while some form of training in tourism and/or foreign languages (at school or university level) or prior experience in the tourist industry may be an advantage. Successful candidates are usually required to attend an initial introductory course or ground training organized by the airline, lasting a number of weeks. The courses, which generally consist of a mix of both theory and practical content, aim to ensure that newly recruited flight attendants are fully trained and ready for their first flight.
Some schools and private educational establishments also organize courses for aspiring flight attendants. These usually conclude with a final exam, following which successful attendees can begin right away to respond to job vacancies for flight attendant positions and take part in the “cabin crew recruitment days” organized periodically by the airlines.
In some countries, civil aviation personnel regulations may require flight attendants to have obtained some form of qualification or license before they can legally start working.
Flight Attendant Skills and Qualifications
Working as a flight attendant requires a number of skills, including:
- Ability to provide excellent customer service
- Knowledge of foreign languages
- Knowledge of and ability to use aircraft safety and emergency equipment
- Strong interpersonal skills; courteous and friendly manner
- Ability to remain calm in stressful situations and emergencies
- Communication skills, poise, tact and diplomacy
- Collaborative manner and ability to work as part of a team
- Flexibility, ability to adapt and willingness to travel
- Practical intelligence and common sense
Flight Attendant Career Path
Flight attendants who demonstrate strong organizational and interpersonal skills may earn the opportunity to advance their careers by progressing to the role of purser. This is a senior role, whose responsibilities include coordinating the rest of the cabin crew and welcoming passengers on board on behalf of the airline.
An alternative option for career advancement is to look for work with a more prestigious airline offering attractive salary packages for experienced and knowledgeable flight attendants.
Top Reasons to Work as a Flight Attendant
Working as a flight attendant for an airline is a popular career choice. Members of a cabin crew get the opportunity to travel the world and discover a variety of new destinations and cultures as part of their job, while for many, a further positive aspect of the role is the chance to constantly meet new people (i.e. both colleagues and passengers).
Finally, another major perk enjoyed by flight attendants is the chance to purchase discounted flights from the airline they work for.