The truth about being an air hostess.


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Many people take it as being one of the most glamorous jobs in the world, travelling around the globe to almost every destination for free. Well, that’s what most people would think if you told them you were a flight attendant. Yes, flight attendants do look the part with their perfectly manicured image.

However, dig a little deeper and peel away a few layers and what unravels is a world away from your perceptions of a flight attendant. Putting aside all the glitz and glamour, flight attendants undergo a punishing and gruelling training regime with rigorous self-defence training to evacuation procedures to first aid and survival skills training. Today’s flight attendant is trained to save your life, hunt for food, build you a shelter in the jungle and find clean drinking water while at the same time serving you drinks at 50 000 feet. Long gone are the old days of the ‘trolley dolly’s’, today’s flight attendants are like navy seals with a welcoming smile.

And if you thought that flight attendants were nothing but college dropouts taking some time off to travel the world, nothing can be further from the truth. Many have double degrees and careers in many other fields. Most airlines require their flight attendants to be well versed in multiple languages, cultures and have an intimate knowledge of the aircraft they’re flying in. Meeting and engaging with different people and new crew members on every flight is a social skill that has to be mastered.

It’s an even tougher job when it comes to their family, friends and lovers because they’re always on the go and there’s no routine to their ever-changing schedule making it almost impossible to plan ahead. Flight attendants have to get used to missing out on birthdays, weddings, Christmas, New Year’s Eve parties or just being at home with the one they love.
All relationships automatically become long-distance and is truly tested over time. If you’re a souvenir hunter then a flight attendant in the family is surely welcomed.

The hours are crazy, long and irregular with variable shifts over public holidays and weekends. A typical flight shift could last between 12 -14 hours and that’s only the flight time which does not include the hours of preparation for the flight. Flight attendants also get paid from the time the door is shut for take-off to it being opened at landing. They will spend about 75 – 90 hours in the air a month and another 50 hours preparing the plane for take-off and doing some paperwork.

Generally, flight attendants have little choice on which flight they will be on next and must fly to where the airline is scheduled. On average they will spend 2-3 nights in a hotel per week which is paid for by the airline together with their meal allowances. Senior flight crews are able to choose their flights and often go for the shorter routes closer to their home.

There’s one thing that most passengers don’t know, is that flight attendant’s primary job is not to just bring you a drink but they are there to keep you safe as safety officers. Approximately one hour before the flight, the captain briefs them on all safety issues regarding the flight like weather conditions, possible turbulence or any other factors that might influence the flight. They inspect the entire aircraft checking all the safety equipment and if there’s any faulty equipment then it is replaced prior to take-off. Flight attendants assist with passengers with their seating and bags. Special needs passengers are assisted first with children and babies prioritised before others are allowed on-board. Attendants are trained to monitor passengers with suspicious behaviour to prevent any act of terrorism or hijacking. With this attention to detail and the responsibility, it is no surprise that the selection process for attendants is rigorous and intense were failure is not an option in any of the tests.

So, what does it take to become a flight attendant?
Be prepared to work at short notice as flights are cancelled and rescheduled, airports shut down for heavy weather and they are delays and changes to flight times. Keep your gym contract going as the work can exert both a physical and mental toll. It’s not easy pushing a heavy trolley in a pressurised cabin at 35 000 feet with a smile on your face for hours on end and still have enough energy to respond to any emergency. There’s always an aircraft in the sky with passengers and flight crew at any time. Be prepared for all night flight without sleep and long hours of between 12 – 14 hours.

Meeting the pilots and flight staff to discuss the details of the flight like weather and logistics. Attendants must check all safety equipment, galley equipment, overhead bins and security. To assist passengers at all times and demonstrate the correct usage of the seat belt, oxygen mask and life jacket. Flight attendants must be in a position to administer medical care to any ailing passenger and ensure that they are prepared for ground staff upon landing.

Becoming a flight attendant is one of the most in-demand jobs in the world and for every 100 000 applications, only 1000 will go through to qualify. Having a degree in marketing, hospitality or tourism greatly improves your chances and so too does speaking multiple languages and having customer service experience. Grooming and groom again for your interview as your presentation will represent the very essence of the company, it’s brand. The hiring process is very rigorous and it won’t be the glamorous lifestyle you expect upfront. Be prepared for red-eye flights, all-nighters and public holidays with very strict regulations during your first few months.

Yes, it’s true, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Although you are not required to look like a supermodel, you do need to be well-groomed and all cleaned up with no visible tattoos, facial piercings or earlobe plugs. They only physical requirements are that you are able to put heavy bags into the overhead bins, walk the aisle and fit into the jumpseat.

Are you up for the challenge of becoming a flight attendant? And if not, just think about the next time you’re on a flight of how much more your flight attendant is to you rather than just a ‘trolley dolly’.

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