How to find a job as a flight attendant with Tim Kirkwood

Interview with Tim Kirkwood Author of the book Flight Attendant Job Finder & Career Guide

What are the minimum requirements for the job?

Many people believe you have to be young and beautiful to be an airline flight attendant. That type of employment discrimination is no longer allowed. This career is open to anyone, male or female, in good physical health between the age of 18 and 80. (Though some airlines will require you to be at least 19, 20 or 21).

Is prior schooling required?

The only required schooling is a High School Diploma or GED. All airlines will train the applicant as part of the hiring process, so any of the Flight Attendant 'schools' that are out there are not needed. A college education is a benefit, but not required.

How has the job changed through the years?

Originally, this was a career for young white women, who were required to quit when they became married, pregnant, or reached the ripe old age of 30. Now the job is open to men and women of all races and ages. Prior requirements for height and weight have also been relaxed, opening the career up to a larger cross-section of the population.

What is it then, which makes this job one of the most sought-after in America and Canada?

Flexibility, variety, and travel are the top three reasons.

Flexibility. Most people work all week, with perhaps one or two days off over the weekend. Most receive one to two weeks of vacation per year. As a flight attendant, you have the ability to group your flights together in a given month, and have 1-2 weeks off every month! And that is in addition to your regular vacation time. You can use this free time to utilize your travel benefits, continue your education, or run your own business.

Variety. Since you are able to move your schedule around to suit your personal life, you are also able to escape the nine-to-five, Monday through Friday drudgery. And each flight is to a different city, with different crews, and different passengers. It's very hard to get bored.

Travel. Most airline employees receive passes to fly on their own airline for free, or for a small fee. In addition, other airlines will offer you 50-75% discounts on their tickets. Hotels, rental cars, cruises, tour packages all have some discount schedule for airline employees also. Put it all together, and you have the flexibility to travel to a variety of places, at an extremely low cost.

How could anyone not want to be an airline flight attendant?

Well, to begin with, the hours can be long and irregular. The work can be tiring, the passengers demanding or even abusive. The atmosphere in the aircraft at altitude is extremely drying. Snowstorms, labor disputes, or mechanical breakdowns can disrupt schedules. Perhaps your plans to attend your friends' wedding will be spoiled by a storm that traps you in Des Moines. And there is the constant fear of a crash, although statistics say you have a better chance of being hit by lightening than experiencing a plane crash. This is more than a career choice. This is a lifestyle change to which you must give careful thought.

What's happened since 9/11?

Aviation hiring pretty much shut down after the terrorist attacks of September 11th. It's taken nearly 7 years for hiring to return to pre-9/11 levels. It started with the smaller charter, regional and commuter airlines, followed recently by the major airlines. Corporate flying in private executive jets has increased exponentially, as more and more execs wish to bypass the commercial aviation security regulations.

How do airline Flight Attendant interviews differ from other jobs?

The fact is, the interviewers already know your personal history - it's on your application, which has been pre-screened prior to your arrival. What the interviewers want to find out about you is your character:

How do you handle stress?

How do you conduct yourself when faced with a difficult passenger situation?

How well do you work as a team player?

How do you take direction?

Are your social graces sufficient to fulfill the requirements of the job?

These are the most important criteria toward which the focus of the interview will be shifted. Therefore, the interviewers are not necessarily going to ask you about your last job. They're going to put you in situations and see how you get yourself out of them. For instance, in your group of applicants, you may be asked to stand up on a stage and sing the company's slogan, or invent a new one. They may give you an object, perhaps a pen or paper clip, and instruct you to 'sell' it to the rest of the group. Many will give you in-flight problem situations, for role-playing, and evaluate how you handle them.

Many of these scenarios will have no 'right' or 'wrong' solution, and the interviewers do not expect you to know their specific corporate policies. They want to see how well you 'think on your feet' and apply common sense to your solutions.

What is involved in Flight Attendant Training?

The general flying public holds the belief that a flight attendant is only on board an aircraft to serve coffee and food. But as far as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is concerned, meal services and airline public relations are secondary duties for flight attendants. The FAA requires flight attendants to be on board for one reason only, and that is passenger safety. Flight attendants have been called upon to render first aid for cuts, bruises, burns, choking, and airsickness, as well as broken bones. There have been instances of flight attendants assisting with childbirth on some flights.

The U.S. Government requires you to be fully safety trained for each type of aircraft your company operates. You will be forbidden to work on an aircraft you haven't been trained and tested on. Every year you will be retested, and failure can mean loss of duty time, and/or your job. You will need to know the type, number, location and use of the fire fighting equipment on board, including the newly installed smoke hoods. Competence is also required in the operation of all emergency exits and evacuation techniques. Basic first aid, CPR and oxygen administration, and anti-hijacking training will be included as well.

How do you find the right airline to work for?

With over 80 airlines to choose from, it can be difficult to find the airline that is right for you. One of the major features of The Flight Attendant Job Finder & Career Guide is the listing of all the US and Canadian airlines, with their hiring requirements, salary rates, crew domiciles and application addresses. This information is continually updated for free to readers.

How do you start applying?

The first place to start, once you've chosen your target airlines, would be the employment page on the airlines' company website. There are also services available, such as, who will list job openings worldwide in one central location.

What are the benefits of the job?

Flight Attendants generally work 14-20 days a month, with a lot of flexibility in their work schedule. This give them greater flexibility to enjoy the free travel benefits offered to all airline personnel. In addition, medical, dental and life insurance is offered, as well as profit sharing or retirements plans.