5 Simple (but not easy) Steps to Becoming a Flight Attendant

Flying the Friendly Skies
Flying the Friendly Skies
4 years from a reduction in force lay-off from one the cushiest high-profile job of a lifetime. 3 years from launching a then struggling communication business.  2 years from publishing my first novel that was creeping its way up amazon’s bestseller’s list – last check it was hovering around the 2,000,000 mark.   1 year from heartbreak and I was down for the count.

I could’ve threw in the towel and stayed face down on the mat in defeat.  Or I could pull myself up.

I flipped the bird to the former and did the latter.

I wasn’t going to quit my life; I decided to take a break from it.   Unlike the Gwyneth Paltrow film “View from the Top” or maybe it was just like the film, I needed to escape my present and 35,000 feet in the air seemed like a great hiding place.

The next thing I knew, it was 2009 and I was standing in a lobby of a decades-old hotel in Narita, Japan waiting for the rest of the crew.  Why I was in the land of the rising sun, more than 5,000 miles away from my home in Naperville, Illinois was simple.

“Opportunity doesn’t knock, it answers.”

Maybe you, too, want to take a break –  read on.

I’m familiar with the hiring practices of two airlines and currently both, United and Delta Airlines are recruiting.  Give or take a few changes, their interview process is broken down into five parts too.

  • (1) Interview

After applying with a customer-service focused resume, expect a call from a recruiter.

Know Why
Know why
S/he will ask about 5 Behavioral/ Situational questions that look for leadership, conflict management, customer services, personal, time and workload management.

Once you pass this Q & A, it’s established that you’re already delightful and professional.  Continue.  The next interview, video, may come before or after the call. The dress code is business professional with light facial makeup and makeup to cover any tattoos.

Once you pass this mark, expect an invitation for a group interview at the airline’s headquarters from anywhere in the world.  Here’s where you must shine bright like a diamond.  Recruiters, inflight senior management are taking notes. Smile, have fun, be a leader who’s interested in the concerns and needs of those around you and you’ll make it through.

You’ll have one more interview; possibly with the CEO. Then a final interview with the hiring manager who will set you up for a few appointments for fingerprints and drug testing.  Then it’s more poking and prodding when you take an eye & ear exam.   Clear all those hurdles including a background check and you’ll receive provisional employment letter.  Also, your soon-to-be employer will invite you to Initial Flight Attendant training also known as “Barbie Bootcamp”

  • (2) Initial Flight Attendant training

Premium Service 757
Premium Service 757
The all-expense Initial Flight Attendant training is paid by the airline and is usually held on the airline carrier’s campus between the hours of 8–6 pm weekdays with alternate weekends off during the 6-to 8-week program.  When you report for IFA training, they will take your photo; assign you a file number and give you a badge. This is your lifeline. Guard it well.   The trainees either stay in a dormitory or a hotel. Spoiler: There’s a psychological component to your new living arrangements.

The Initial Flight Attendant training program for U.S. commercial carriers includes learning Federal Aviation Regulations; safety; security; first-responder techniques for emergencies such as land evacuation, ditching, fighting fires, AED, CPR & First Aid; airline culture & brand, business of the airline including economics; customer service and dining service including serving, presentation such as SAFTing (using a spoons or spoon and fork to serve rolls) wine opening ; pouring; cocktail mixing.

Side note: During my training, I learned how to open wine bottles and how to pop champagne with or without the fountain.

Trainees test in all subjects via computers and the passing grade is 80%. FAA requires all FAs to carry manuals on every flight. Therefore, majority of tests are open-book as the trainee must get used to consulting his/her manual.

  • (3) Technical Training

ORD Hangar
ORD Hangar
During the program, there is a 1-2-week technical portion of the program where FA trainees work in aircraft mock-ups and simulations of all the planes in the fleet. There they practice evacuations complete with passenger commands and maneuvers required to empty a plane within 90 seconds or less. They are required to test (sometimes blindfolded) and pass with 100% proficiency.

The technical part of training concludes with the trainee climbing several steep stories to the top of stairs to slide down the evacuation slide.

Side note: That was the worst part of the training for me.

  • (4) Final Destination

Training concludes with the observation & evaluation passenger flight. Every trainee is required to work a passenger flight while an instructor looks on and grades performance.

  • (5) Wing Ceremony

New Hire Flight Attendants
New Hire Flight Attendants
Finally, if successful, the trainee attends a graduation ceremony gets her/his wings and is assigned to a base. The new Flight Attendant has 7 days to relocate and settle in before working the first flight.

I no longer fly the friendly skies as a Flight Attendant. I’m, however, back on the ground with a new perspective.  There’s nothing like seeing life from 35,000 feet to see clearly.

If you need a change of view; remember it’s always sunny above the clouds.