Becoming A Flight Attendant

Name: Sherri Blaise
Job Title: Flight Attendant
Where: Detroit, MI
Employer: Mesaba Airlines
Years of Experience: 5+
Education: B.S. in Journalism, Florida A&M University
Salary: See the PayScale Research Center for the median flight attendant salary.

Becoming A Flight Attendant

For readers interested in becoming a flight attendant, or who want to know more about a flight attendant career, this Salary Story has the answers. We recently spoke to flight attendant Sherri Blaise about her steps toward becoming a flight attendant, what to expect from a flight attendant career and the average flight attendant salary.

Working as a flight attendant means traveling to numerous destinations. That may sound fun, but Sherri gave us the inside scoop on what it takes to be a flight attendant. As Sherri explains, if you are flexible and have a winning attitude, you might be the perfect candidate for a flight attendant career. So fasten your seat belts as we prepare for takeoff, and learn more about becoming a flight attendant.

Flight Attendant Job Description:

We are there for passenger safety. We are in the business of customer satisfaction, making sure passengers feel comfortable. We interact for long periods of time in a positive way with passengers ensuring their safety in a courteous, professional and polite manner.

We also make sure passengers and crew are in compliance with Company and Federal Aviation Regulations. We maintain the cabin and galley for inventory and cleanliness. Flight attendants have the most important PR role in the company as passengers see us the most during their flying experience.

Can you recall the steps of your flight attendant career?

Becoming a flight attendant was a passing thought for me when I was in my sophomore year of college. Upon graduation, I was diagnosed with Lupus and I had one of those “if tomorrow was never promised, what would you do today” moments. That was on a Wednesday. My airline was having an Open House the very next day and I went and was offered the job that following Wednesday. Either I’m just that good or they were just that desperate. I like to believe it’s the former.

What info can you give us about becoming a flight attendant?

Once you graduate high school, you are eligible to become a flight attendant. You don’t need any formal training. After you have interviewed with your dream airline, they will train you. Training usually lasts anywhere from six to eight weeks.

A lot of folks think that flight attending is all about service, service, service, but it’s not. We watched a lot of films that documented plane crashes and spoke about safety. There was also a lot of information about hazardous wastes and chemicals. Our instructors were very adamant about us not blowing the aircraft up from the inside.

Since I applied for my job not even a year after 9/11, it was all about safety and survival and of course, how to thwart the bad guys. They did everything short of teaching us kung-fu. There were tests about every three days or so and you could only score below an 80 percent once. I do remember there was a lot of crying because a lot of folks just get stressed out and lose focus when the word “test” is mentioned.

A lot of people also decided the lifestyle wasn’t for them and dropped out voluntarily. The turnover, at least at my airline, is pretty high. My graduating class from five years ago was about 35. There may be 10 of us left. A lot pf people can’t handle being on call and being gone from their families all the time. That is totally understandable.

Do you recall any humorous moments from your flight attendant career?

There was an unaccompanied minor on one of my flights. He disappeared into the restroom with a thick mane of brown hair. When he came out, he had an orange mohawk! Good Grief. And to top it off, when he came out of the restroom he yelled, “Miss Sherri, you like my hair?” in front of all the passengers. I almost died.

What advice would you give to those interested in a flight attendant career?

Go for it! Patience is essential. And so is a winning attitude. Be prepared to be on reserve which is the equivalent of being on call. Being on call can be quite the challenge. Flexibility is key.

Being on call means that whatever you are doing, you have to stop, find a phone booth and change a la Superman and get yourself to the airport. If you are on a picnic with your honey, too bad. You had better bag those Spam sandwiches up and get to the airport.

The best way to deal with being on call is to always be optimistic and flexible. Flexibility is the most important word in flight attendant land because there will be times when scheduling tells you to be at the airport at 6:30 am and then call and say, “Never mind, the original flight attendant has shown up. Thanks and remain contactable.”

Now keep in mind you have been woken up out of your good sleep, showered with your eyes closed, got dressed in the dark and drove a half hour to the airport in the rain only to be told to remain contactable.

Then you get in your car and make it back home and settle in your bed and your cell phone rings. “It’s Crew Scheduling … good morning (again), we need you to be at the airport at 10:00. We have a flight for you to Toledo.” Toledo is only a 45 minute car ride from Detroit. You mean to tell me Greyhound isn’t available?

Are airlines currently hiring flight attendants? What is the job outlook?

Oh goodness, everyone is hiring. Apply, apply, apply. You really have to stand out though. When you go to the open-house – the initial introduction to the airline – dress the part. Dress in blues and blacks and shiny shoes. Always smile and look confident and approachable. Eye contact is essential. You never know who you are sitting next to at the open house so always keep side conversations positive.

What factors can affect a flight attendant salary?

Every time flight attendants are disgruntled with the contract, we go to the union and they work on our behalf for better wages, working conditions, etc. All flight attendants make the same thing at a particular airline. One airline may start at $14.40 an hour and the other airline may start at $17 with yearly increases thereafter.

Also, at least at my airline, there are quarterly bonuses where a flight attendant may get an additional $100. There is no additional pay if you are college degreed. All flight attendants are not in the union but even if you are not in the union, union dues are still deducted from your paycheck. Go figure.

Keep in mind that a full-time flight attendant works 75 hours PER MONTH whereas a person with a nine to five job will work 75 hours in a little under two weeks. Many flight attendants are either married, have roommates or have picked up second jobs to maintain whatever lifestyle they have.

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