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Flight Attendant

Job Outlook: 10% (Faster than average)

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What Flight Attendants Do About this section

Flight attendants
Flight attendants demonstrate the use of safety equipment and emergency equipment.

Flight attendants provide routine services and respond to emergencies to ensure the safety and comfort of airline passengers.

Duties

Flight attendants typically do the following:

  • Participate in preflight briefings with pilots to discuss cabin conditions and flight details
  • Conduct preflight inspections of emergency equipment
  • Demonstrate the location and use of safety equipment and emergency equipment
  • Ensure that passengers have their seatbelts fastened when required and that all other safety requirements are observed
  • Serve beverages and snacks
  • Sell and serve beverages and meals, if available
  • Take care of passengers, particularly those with special needs
  • Reassure passengers during the flight, such as when the aircraft hits turbulence
  • Administer and coordinate emergency medical care, if needed
  • Direct passengers, including for evacuating the aircraft in an emergency

Airlines are required by law to have flight attendants aboard aircraft for the safety and security of passengers. The primary job of flight attendants is to keep passengers safe, ensuring that everyone follows security regulations and that the flight deck is secure. Flight attendants also try to make flights comfortable for passengers. At times, they may deal with passengers who display disruptive behavior.

Before takeoff, the captain (pilot) may conduct a preflight briefing with flight attendants about relevant flight information. Details include the number of hours the flight will take, the route the plane will travel, and weather conditions. Flight attendants check that emergency equipment is working, the cabin is clean, and there is an adequate supply of food and beverages on board. Flight attendants greet passengers as they board the aircraft, direct them to their seats, and help as needed.

Flight attendants demonstrate the location and proper use of safety equipment to all passengers, either in person or through a video recording before the plane takes off. They also check that seatbelts are fastened, seats are locked in the upright position, and all carry-on items are properly stowed in accordance with federal law and company policy. They answer questions about the flight and generally assist all passengers, including those with special needs.

A flight attendant’s most important responsibility, however, is to help passengers in the event of an emergency. This responsibility ranges from dealing with unruly passengers to directing evacuations. Flight attendants also are trained to perform first aid, extinguish fires, and protect the flight deck.

Before the plane lands, flight attendants once again ensure that seatbelts are fastened, seats are locked in the upright position, and all carry-on and galley items are properly stowed.

After passengers deplane, flight attendants survey the condition of the cabin. They submit reports on any medical, safety, or security issues that may have occurred during the flight.

Work Environment About this section

Flight attendants
Flight attendants make sure all overhead luggage is properly stored.

Flight attendants held about 106,300 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of flight attendants were as follows:

Scheduled air transportation 96%
Nonscheduled air transportation 1

Flight attendants work primarily in the cabins of passenger aircraft. Dealing directly with passengers and standing for long periods may be stressful and tiring. Occasionally, flights encounter air turbulence, which may make providing service more difficult and cause anxiety in some passengers. Handling emergencies and unruly customers also may be difficult and stressful.

Flight attendants may spend many nights away from home. Employers typically provide meal allowances and may arrange sleeping accommodations, such as in hotels or apartments shared by a group of flight attendants.

Injuries and Illnesses

Flight attendants have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Common injuries include sprains, strains, and bruises. To avoid injury, these workers must follow safety procedures. For example, they must ensure that overhead compartments are closed, especially during turbulence, so that carry-on items don’t fall and present a risk to everyone in the cabin. Attendants also ensure that carts are properly stowed and latched during emergencies to prevent injuries to passengers and themselves.

Work Schedules

Flight attendants may have variable schedules, and part-time work is common. They often work nights, weekends, and holidays because airlines operate every day and have overnight flights. They may spend several nights per week or per month away from home. In most cases, a contract between the airline and the flight attendant union determines the total daily and monthly workable hours.

On-duty shifts per day may vary from 4 to 18 hours or longer, such as for international flights. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires specific hours of rest between duty periods based on the duration of a completed duty period. Each month, flight attendants may fly a specified number of hours and generally spend another specified number of hours on the ground preparing flights, writing reports, and waiting for aircraft to arrive.  

A flight attendant’s assignments of home base and route are based on seniority. New flight attendants must be flexible with their schedule and location. Almost all flight attendants start out working on call, also known as reserve status. Flight attendants on reserve usually live near their home airport, because they may have to report to work on short notice.

As they earn more seniority, flight attendants may have more control over their schedules. For example, some senior flight attendants may choose to live outside their home base and commute to work. Others may choose to work only on regional flights. On small corporate airlines, flight attendants may work on an as-needed basis.

How to Become a Flight Attendant About this section

Flight attendants
Flight attendants take care of passenger needs.

Flight attendants receive training from their employer and must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Flight attendants typically need a high school diploma or the equivalent and work experience in customer service.

Applicants must meet minimum age requirements, typically 18 or 21; be eligible to work in the United States; have a valid passport; and pass a background check and drug test. They must have vision that is correctable to at least 20/40 and often need to conform to height requirements set by the airline. Flight attendants also may have to pass a medical evaluation.

Flight attendants should present a professional appearance, which may be defined by the employer.

Education

A high school diploma is typically required to become a flight attendant. Some airlines may prefer to hire applicants who have taken some college courses or who have a college degree.

Those working on international flights may need fluency in a foreign language.

Prospective attendants may enroll in flight attendant academies.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Flight attendants typically need 1 or 2 years of work experience in a service occupation before getting their first job as a flight attendant. This experience may include customer service positions in restaurants, hotels, or resorts. Experience in sales or in other positions that require close contact with the public and focus on service to customers also may help develop the skills needed to be a successful flight attendant.

Training

After a flight attendant is hired, airlines provide initial training that typically lasts for several weeks or a few months. The training usually takes place at the airline’s flight training center and is required for FAA certification.

Trainees learn emergency procedures such as evacuating aircraft, operating emergency equipment, and administering first aid. They also receive specific instruction on flight regulations, company operations, and job duties.

Toward the end of the training, students go on practice flights. They must complete the training to keep a job with the airline. Once they have passed initial training, new flight attendants receive the FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency and continue to receive additional on-the-job training as required by their employer.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

All flight attendants must be certified by the FAA. To become certified, flight attendants must complete their employer’s initial training program and pass an exam. Flight attendants are certified for specific types of aircraft and must take new training for each type of aircraft on which they are to work. In addition, attendants receive recurrent training every year to maintain their certification.

Advancement

Career advancement is based on seniority. On international flights, senior attendants frequently oversee the work of other attendants. Senior attendants may be promoted to management positions in which they are responsible for recruiting, instructing, and scheduling.

Important Qualities

Attentiveness. Flight attendants must be aware of security or safety risks during the flight. They also must be attentive to passengers’ needs in order to ensure a pleasant travel experience.

Communication skills. Flight attendants should speak clearly and interact effectively with passengers and other crewmembers. They also must be able to write concisely when documenting in-flight issues.

Customer-service skills. Flight attendants need poise, tact, and resourcefulness to handle stressful situations and to address passengers’ needs.

Decision-making skills. Flight attendants must be able to act decisively, especially in emergencies.

Physical stamina. Flight attendants push, pull, and carry service items; open and close overhead bins; lift heavy objects; and stand and walk for long periods.

Pay About this section

Flight Attendants

Median annual wages, May 2021

Air transportation workers

$82,170

Flight attendants

$61,640

Total, all occupations

$45,760

 

The median annual wage for flight attendants was $61,640 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,400.

In May 2021, the median annual wages for flight attendants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:

Scheduled air transportation $61,870
Nonscheduled air transportation 61,830

Flight attendants receive an allowance for meals and accommodations while working away from home. Although attendants may be required to purchase an initial set of uniforms and luggage, their employer usually pays for replacements and upkeep. Flight attendants generally are eligible for discounted airfare or free standby seats through their airline.

Flight attendants may have variable schedules, and part-time work is common.

Job Outlook About this section

Flight Attendants

Percent change in employment, projected 2021-31

Flight attendants

21%

Air transportation workers

11%

Total, all occupations

5%

 

Employment of flight attendants is projected to grow 21 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.

About 18,100 openings for flight attendants are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.

Employment

Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession of 2020 and is likely to occur early in the projections decade. A return to normal patterns of travel following the pandemic is expected to support job growth of flight attendants, who will continue to be needed to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers on flights.

Employment projections data for flight attendants, 2021-31
Occupational Title SOC Code Employment, 2021 Projected Employment, 2031 Change, 2021-31 Employment by Industry
Percent Numeric

SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program

Flight attendants

53-2031 106,300 128,400 21 22,100 Get data

Contacts for More Information About this section

For more information about flight attendants, visit the career webpage of any airline company, contact its personnel department, or visit

Association of Flight Attendants—CWA (AFA-CWA)

Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA)

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

O*NET

Flight Attendants

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