Flight attendant

A flight attendant

Description

Flight attendants perform a variety of personal services conducive to the safety and comfort of airline passengers during flight. They greet passengers, verify tickets, and directs passengers to assigned seats. They prepare reports after landing describing how the flight went in terms of operations, procedures, and anomalities.

Flight attendants typically do the following:

  • Participate in preflight briefings with pilots to discuss cabin conditions and flight details
  • Conduct preflight inspections of emergency equipment
  • Demonstrate the location and use of safety equipment and emergency equipment
  • Ensure that passengers have their seatbelts fastened when required and that all other safety requirements are observed
  • Serve beverages and snacks
  • Sell and serve beverages and meals, if available
  • Take care of passengers, particularly those with special needs
  • Reassure passengers during the flight, such as when the aircraft hits turbulence
  • Administer and coordinate emergency medical care, if needed
  • Direct passengers, including for evacuating the aircraft in an emergency

Working conditions

Flight attendants work primarily in the cabins of passenger aircraft. Dealing directly with passengers and standing for long periods may be stressful and tiring. Occasionally, flights encounter air turbulence, which may make providing service more difficult and cause anxiety in some passengers. Handling emergencies and unruly customers also may be difficult and stressful.

Flight attendants may spend many nights away from home. Employers typically provide meal allowances and may arrange sleeping accommodations, such as in hotels or apartments shared by a group of flight attendants.

Injuries and Illnesses

Flight attendants have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Common injuries include sprains, strains, and bruises. To avoid injury, these workers must follow safety procedures. For example, they must ensure that overhead compartments are closed, especially during turbulence, so that carry-on items don’t fall and present a risk to everyone in the cabin. Attendants also ensure that carts are properly stowed and latched during emergencies to prevent injuries to passengers and themselves.

Work Schedules

Flight attendants may have variable schedules, and part-time work is common. They often work nights, weekends, and holidays because airlines operate every day and have overnight flights. They may spend several nights per week or per month away from home. In most cases, a contract between the airline and the flight attendant union determines the total daily and monthly workable hours.

On-duty shifts per day may vary from 4 to 18 hours or longer, such as for international flights. Many aviation authorities, such as the FAA or EASA, require specific hours of rest between duty periods based on the duration of a completed duty period. Each month, flight attendants may fly a specified number of hours and generally spend another specified number of hours on the ground preparing flights, writing reports, and waiting for aircraft to arrive.  

A flight attendant’s assignments of home base and route are based on seniority. New flight attendants must be flexible with their schedule and location. Almost all flight attendants start out working on call, also known as reserve status. Flight attendants on reserve usually live near their home airport, because they may have to report to work on short notice.

As they earn more seniority, flight attendants may have more control over their schedules. For example, some senior flight attendants may choose to live outside their home base and commute to work. Others may choose to work only on regional flights. On small corporate airlines, flight attendants may work on an as-needed basis.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to flight attendant:

inflight service attendant
cabin attendant
flight crew member
steward
stewardess
cabin crew member
aircraft attendant
air crew member

Minimum qualifications

A high school diploma is generally required to work as a flight attendant. Some airlines may prefer to hire applicants who have taken some college courses or who have a college. Those working on international flights may need fluency in a foreign language. Prospective attendants may enroll in flight attendant academies.

Flight attendants typically need 1 or 2 years of work experience in a service occupation before getting their first job as a flight attendant. This experience may include customer service positions in restaurants, hotels, or resorts. Experience in sales or in other positions that require close contact with the public and focus on service to customers also may help develop the skills needed to be a successful flight attendant.

All flight attendants must be certified by aviation authorities. To become certified, flight attendants must complete their employer’s initial training program and pass an exam. Flight attendants are certified for specific types of aircraft and must take new training for each type of aircraft on which they are to work. In addition, attendants receive recurrent training every year to maintain their certification.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Flight attendant is a Skill level 2 occupation.

Flight attendant career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to flight attendant.

cabin crew manager
steward/stewardess
ship steward/ship stewardess
train attendant
ground steward/ground stewardess

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of flight attendant. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of flight attendant with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

aviation data communications manager
air traffic controller
co-pilot
second officer
international forwarding operations coordinator

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of flight attendant.

  • Airport planning: Know airport planning for different types of aircrafts; use that information to mobilise resources and people in order to handle the aircrafts while they are in the airport.
  • Air transport law: Know air transport laws and regulations. Due to the nature of aviation, knowledge of air transport laws partially overlaps with knowledge of international law.
  • Common aviation safety regulations: The body of legislation and regulations that apply to the field of civil aviation at regional, national, European and International levels. Understand that regulations aimed at protecting citizens at all times in civil aviation; ensure that operators, citizens, and organisations comply with these rules.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of flight attendant.

  • Communicate verbal instructions: Communicate transparent instructions. Ensure that messages are understood and followed correctly.
  • Comply with food safety and hygiene: Respect optimal food safety and hygiene during preparation, manufacturing, processing, storage, distribution and delivery of food products.
  • Provide first aid: Administer cardiopulmonary resuscitation or first aid in order to provide help to a sick or injured person until they receive more complete medical treatment.
  • Give instructions to staff: Give instructions to subordinates by employing various communication techniques. Adjust communication style to the target audience in order to convey instructions as intended.
  • Maintain relationship with customers: Build a lasting and meaningful relationship with customers in order to ensure satisfaction and fidelity by providing accurate and friendly advice and support, by delivering quality products and services and by supplying after-sales information and service.
  • Greet guests: Welcome guests in a friendly manner in a certain place.
  • Handle customer complaints: Administer complaints and negative feedback from customers in order to address concerns and where applicable provide a quick service recovery.
  • Deal with challenging work conditions: Deal with challenging circumstances in which to perform work, such as night work, shift work, and atypical working conditions.
  • Upsell products: Persuade customers to buy additional or more expensive products.
  • Execute flight plans: Listen to the briefing given by the captain or the crew manager; understand service requirements and apply the commissioned tasks in an appropriate manner.
  • Serve food in table service: Provide food at the table whilst maintaining high level of customer service and food safety standards.
  • Manage the customer experience: Monitor, create and oversee customer experience and perception of brand and service. Ensure pleasant customer experience, treat customers in a cordial and courteous manner.
  • Maintain customer service: Keep the highest possible customer service and make sure that the customer service is at all times performed in a professional way. Help customers or participants feel at ease and support special requirements.
  • Deliver outstanding service: Provide outstanding customer service by exceeding customer expectations; establish reputation as an exceptional service provider.
  • Inspect cabin service equipment: Inspect cabin service equipment, such as trolleys and catering equipment, and safety equipment such as life jackets, inflatable life rafts, first-aid kits, skiff emergency packs, emergency flashlights, and hand-held radios. Record inspections in logbooks.
  • Conduct full-scale emergency plan exercises: Conduct and mobilise all efforts, support organisations, resources, and communications within the airport, to carry out prevention plan exercises in order to prepare and train airport personnel for real-life emergency situations.
  • Handle stressful situations: Deal with and manage highly stressful situations in the workplace by following adequate procedures, communicating in a quiet and effective manner, and remaining level-headed when taking decisions.
  • Sell souvenirs: Exchange souvenirs for money by displaying them in an attractive way and communicating with customers.
  • Prepare flight reports: Prepare reports showing flight departure and arrival locations, passenger ticket numbers, food and drink inventories, condition of cabin equipment, and potential problems encountered by passengers.
  • Handle veterinary emergencies: Handle unforeseen incidents concerning animals and circumstances which call for urgent action in an appropriate professional manner.
  • Carry out pre-flight duties: Check on-board safety equipment; ensure that the plane is clean; ensure that documents in the seat pockets are up to date; check if all meals and other required stock are on board.
  • Process customer orders: Handle orders placed by customers. Receive the customer order and define a list of requirements, a working process, and a time frame. Execute the work as planned.
  • Provide food and beverages: Provide people with food and drink during trip, a flight, an event, or any other occurrence.
  • Handle financial transactions: Administer currencies, financial exchange activities, deposits as well as company and voucher payments. Prepare and manage guest accounts and take payments by cash, credit card and debit card.
  • Perform routine flight operations checks: Perform checks before and during flight: conduct pre-flight and in-flight inspections of aircraft performance, route and fuel usage, runway availability, airspace restrictions, etc.
  • Follow verbal instructions: Have the ability to follow spoken instructions received from colleagues. Strive to understand and clarify what is being requested.
  • Analyse work-related written reports: Read and comprehend job-related reports, analyse the content of reports and apply findings to daily work operations.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of flight attendant. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

  • Act reliably: Proceed in a way that one can be relied on or depended on.
  • Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
  • Apply transportation management concepts: Apply transport industry management concepts in order to improve transportation processes, reduce waste, increase efficiency, and improve schedule preparation.
  • Provide information to passengers: Provide passengers with correct information in a polite and efficient manner; use proper etiquette to assist physically challenged travellers.
  • Have computer literacy: Utilise computers, IT equipment and modern day technology in an efficient way.
  • Tolerate stress: Maintain a temperate mental state and effective performance under pressure or adverse circumstances.
  • Be friendly to passengers: Engage with passengers according to the expectations of contemporary social behaviour, the specific situation, and the code of conduct of the organisation. Communicate in a polite and clear way.
  • Perform services in a flexible manner: Adapt service approach when circumstances change.

ISCO group and title

5111 – Travel attendants and travel stewards


References
  1. Flight attendant – ESCO
  2. Flight Attendants : Occupational Outlook Handbook – U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
  3. Featured image: Photo by RODNAE Productions from Pexels
Last updated on November 3, 2022

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