How to Become a Flight Attendant: Your Guide to Getting Paid to Travel

A graphic shows an airplane traveling over a world map. The contrail from the airplane looks like a $100.
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In most jobs, you go in expecting to learn lots of new things. This is true of flight attendants as well, except the old travel adage is especially apt here: The more I see, the less I know.

Travel broadens the mind. And if you’d like to open up your mind to experiences all around the world, becoming a flight attendant is one of the best ways to actually make money while traveling.

It’s still work, but the people who do it tend to love what they do. So what does it take to both lead and serve passengers as you fly around the world? We’ve got a comprehensive look  on how to become a flight attendant, what to expect and how to use job boards like ZipRecruiter to find open positions.

What Is a Flight Attendant?

Flight attendants are tasked with maintaining passenger safety and comfort on commercial flights, as well as some private and government flights. They help passengers find their seats, stow luggage, distribute refreshments, assist during emergencies and maintain order.

What Do Flight Attendants Do All Day?

If you’ve taken a long flight somewhere, you probably already have a good idea of what the life of a flight attendant is like. But there’s a lot that goes on behind the curtain.

Flight attendants certainly work hard, from the staging that goes on before people file in and take their seats to the curtain call when it’s time to disembark the plane.

Flight attendants work up to 12 hours a day, not just on international flights, and they do so while working mostly on their feet. Here’s a look at a typical shift for flight attendants.

Pre-Flight Briefing

How confident would you be in a flight during which the cabin crew looked confused or concerned?

Meetings are a must for any cabin crew, and they’re mandatory before each flight in many countries. And at the heart of those meetings is safety.

Flight attendant crews are often dynamic. You may get to work with familiar faces fairly regularly. But on any given flight, you can expect to work with new faces or faces you haven’t seen in a while.

Pre-flight meetings help crew members establish rapport and give them time to get comfortable with each other.

Flight crews and pilots will also meet with the cabin crew to eliminate confusion and address concerns. They discuss the flight, weather conditions, tasks, roles, questions and supply levels long before the passengers file in.

Pre-Flight Prep

While meetings are essential, they aren’t the only means for making sure cabin crew stay on task and on the same page.

The pursuer, the head flight attendant, manages the cabin crew and makes sure everyone follows flight regulations set by the Federal Aviation Administration. They delegate tasks and liaison with the flight crew on the cabin crew’s behalf.

Here’s a look at some of the tasks flight attendants perform ahead of a flight:

  • Tidy up the cabin
  • Stock the cabin with goods for passenger service
  • Check the pressure of oxygen tanks
  • Ensure first-aid kits are ready
  • Test communications equipment
  • Ensure fire extinguishers are present
  • Check jump seats
  • Check emergency lighting, including flashlights
  • Ensure life vests and rafts are available
  • Ensure emergency slide is stowed
  • Ensure information cards are stocked for passengers

In-Flight Service

Showtime begins with boarding. During boarding, flight attendants welcome passengers aboard, help them find their seats, assist them with stowing their carry-on baggage and ensure every passenger is buckled in properly before lift-off.

While preparing to hit the runway, the cabin crew will go over safety instructions.. As much as you may hate it as a passenger, it’s a necessary part of a flight attendant’s job and keeps everyone safe.

Once passengers are free to unbuckle their seatbelts, flight attendants on longer flights begin serving refreshments.

They work in teams to serve each passenger complimentary drinks and snacks, while fulfilling orders for those who wish to purchase premium food and drink.

Before the descent, flight attendants will work their way back down the aisles to collect trash.

As the plane approaches its next stop and prepares to descend, the cabin crew will make sure everyone is buckled in and ready to land — and there may also be seatbelt checks any time there’s strong turbulence during the flight.

Post-Flight Wrap

After landing, flight attendants help usher all of the passengers off the plane. They’ll sweep the cabin to discard any trash left behind and make sure all of the emergency equipment in the cabin is stowed away.

They’ll report to the pilots when they’re done, and all of the staff will turn the plane over to the mechanics to prepare it for its next flight.

After all of this, flight attendants sign off and head home or to the hotel they’ve made their temporary home.

What Is the Average Salary for a Flight Attendant?

Flight attendants earned a median salary of $61,640, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Washington had the highest state average salary for flight attendants at about $82k annually, while North Carolina cabin crew members earned the least with an average of about $54k annually. Here’s the full list of flight attendant salaries by state.

What Education and Training Do I Need to Become a Flight Attendant?

You don’t need to be at the top of your class to make it as a flight attendant. You don’t even need a college degree. But as is the case with most any other job, education will only boost your prospects and position you to go further in your career.

For most airlines, you just need to secure a high school diploma or a GED in order to travel the world as an ambassador for their brand. However, there are some things you can do to improve your chances of joining a cabin crew as a flight attendant.

1. Learn a Second or Third Language

Safety is paramount aboard any aircraft, and good communication is key in facilitating it. The ability to speak multiple languages could ensure that everyone aboard understands the safety procedures, even basics like securely tightening their seatbelts and properly stowing baggage.

Along with safety, being able to communicate with non-English speaking passengers could also help things flow more smoothly during your shift — and it’ll also make you more popular with passengers.

The work of a flight attendant is essentially hospitality. Speaking multiple languages ties into another important skill to have as a flight attendant: customer service.

2. Gain Customer Service Experience

Passengers are often anxious, irritable — or even occasionally irate. To deal with all of this while crammed together inside of a metal tube for hours, you’ll need people skills to keep everyone calm and adhering to the rules.

You could possibly talk yourself into a flight attendant job with no customer service skills on your resume, but spending just a year or two working with the public could go a long way in helping you land your dream job and launch your career in the airline industry.

If you’ve already been applying for flight attendant jobs and haven’t had any luck as of yet, consider taking a job in retail sales or customer support to make yourself a stronger candidate.

3. Learn How to Save a Life

Airlines will typically pay for your training in CPR and first aid. But if you want to give yourself an edge and evidence your hunger for landing a flight attendant gig, consider taking these classes on your own.

On-the-Job Training

Once hired, you’ll be required to complete standardized training. The FAA requires flight attendants to spend time earning their Flight Attendant Certification before serving on a plane carrying 20 or more people.

Flight attendants typically need a demonstrated proficiency in both operational and emergency procedures before they can move on from practice flights and into the real world.

How Can I Find A Job as a Flight Attendant?

It’s time to freshen up your resume because right now, government projections foresee a massive 30% increase in flight attendant jobs between now and 2030.

With your resume updated and ready, popular job search sites like ZipRecruiter make it easy to apply to flight attendant jobs — and this job board in particular can even lead employers to you.

You’ll find airline jobs scattered across various job posting sites, from names you’ve probably heard to more obscure job boards that focus on a specialty. But with ZipRecruiter, you can search for flight attendant jobs on their job board and discover more opportunities on the 100+ job sites they partner with.

A Smarter Job Search

Maybe you don’t want to unearth all of the available flight attendant jobs — you just want to find the most relevant opportunities for you. And that’s where an artificial intelligence named “Phil” makes all the difference.

Phil uses machine learning to get smarter and better at his job with time. This virtual recruiter can give you the scoop on flight attendant jobs and have his findings delivered to your email inbox. So you can apply sooner and avoid getting lost in the shuffle later.

This AI analyzes your resume, job-search history, career goals, preference and much more data to provide you with the most relevant flight attendant jobs. If it likes your chances, it’ll encourage you to apply.

Just as Phil pitches relevant jobs to you, he’ll also promote you to employers, if you’re qualified. So even when you take a break from looking for flight attendant jobs, Phil might still be out there helping you get your foot in the door.

Get to know Phil and explore flight attendant jobs today. There are over 9 million jobs on ZipRecruiter, many of which you can apply to with just one tap on your mobile device.

Frequently Asked Questions

Not quite ready to upload your resume? These are some answers to commonly asked questions on how to become a flight attendant.

How long does it take to become a flight attendant?

The hiring process can take a few months. After that, new flight attendants receive on-the-job training during practice flights and simulations at an airline’s training facility. Flight attendant training could take another month of work, give or take a week or two, from the initial hire date.

What qualifications do I need to be a flight attendant?

You’ll at least need a high school diploma or GED. You’ll also need to learn CPR and first aid, though many airlines will provide this training if you’re hired to serve as a flight attendant.

Is it hard to become a flight attendant?

It’s relatively easy to become a flight attendant, since there are no advanced qualifications or training required.

However, your height could make you a less desirable candidate. Because cabins are often cramped, taller individuals may be overlooked sometimes.

Do flight attendants make good money?

It’s not an especially lucrative job, but many flight attendants are compensated well. The median pay for flight attendants is $59,050 annually, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The bottom 10% of flight attendants earn under $30,930 annually, while the top 10% make more than $84,790.

Bottom Line:

It’s not your typical 9-to-5 job. As a flight attendant, your office doesn’t have a physical address. Your office will be miles off the ground at times and many miles away from home.

Few careers offer you the opportunity to see and experience as much as serving as a flight attendant. And thanks to popular job boards like ZipRecruiter, it’s never been easier to find and apply to job postings for flight attendants.

Upload your resume to ZipRecruiter today and set up your profile to pursue a job in the airline industry today. Even if working as a flight attendant ultimately isn’t for you, your dream job is out there among the millions of career opportunities active on the site.