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Flight Attendants

California Occupational Guide Number 79
Interest Area 9

FLIGHT ATTENDANTS (also called stewardesses and stewards) help make flights 
safe, comfortable, and enjoyable for airline passengers.

A Flight Attendant's work begins when the plane's crew meets for a preflight
briefing covering route, weather, type of food and beverage services to be 
offered, and passengers with medical problems or special requests. 
Each Flight Attendant is assigned a work station and specific inflight 
duties.  On board the plane, Flight Attendants check to see that first-aid 
kits and other emergency equipment are aboard and that supplies, such as 
food, beverages, blankets, and, reading material are adequate.  As passengers
board the plane, Attendants greet them, check their tickets, and assist 
passengers by hanging up coats and stowing small pieces of luggage under the
seats or in overhead compartments.

Flight attendants are responsible for passenger safety.  They explain safety 
regulations and emergency procedures, check to see that seat belts are 
fastened during takeoff and landing, and assure that other Federal Aviation 
Administration (FAA) safety standards are followed.  Flight Attendants are 
also concerned with their passengers' comfort.  Depending on the length of 
the flight, they may operate movie and audio systems, sell and serve 
cocktails, and heat and distribute precooked meals.  Before and after meals,
Attendants make periodic trips through the cabin to ensure passenger 
comfort.  For example, they might offer to help care for infants, bring 
magazines, or adjust seats.  In the event of an illness or emergency, Flight
Attendants may distribute medicine to alleviate symptoms or administer first
aid or operate emergency equipment such as chutes to quickly evacuate 
passengers.  At the end of the flight they see the passengers off the plane,
inspect and clean the cabin, and fill out any flight attendant reports 
required by the airline.


A Flight Attendant's job is both physically and emotionally demanding.  
Flight Attendants are on their feet during most of the flight and under 
pressure to complete their tasks within the scheduled flight time.  At times
they have to serve meals and pour drinks under turbulent flying conditions.
Despite stress or fatigue, they are expected to deal pleasantly with 
passengers of all personality types, including those who are difficult or 
rude.  Although Flight Attendants enjoy the benefits of travel, they also 
may have to live out of suitcases for weeks at a time.  They may be 
scheduled to fly at any hour, weekends and holidays.  Attendants are usually
required to purchase their first uniforms. Payment can be made through 
payroll deductions.

Most Flight Attendants belong to a union representing all flight attendants 
within their airline.  Among the unions representing these workers are the 
Association of Flight Attendants, the Independent Federation of Flight 
Attendants, and the International Brotherhood of Teamsters.


The following information is from the California Projections and Planning 
Information report published by the Labor Market Information Division.

Estimated number of workers in 1993            12,060
Estimated number of workers in 2005            16,510
Projected Growth 1993-2005                        37%
Estimated openings due to separations by 2005   3,840

(These figures do not include self-employment nor openings due to turnover.)

In recent years the turnover rate for Flight Attendants has declined because
a greater number of career minded people have entered the occupation.  The 
turnover rate has also been reduced by the fact that maximum age and marital
restrictions were eliminated.  However, the bulk of job openings occurring 
through the year 2005 will continue to be the result of Flight Attendants 
changing occupations or leaving the labor force altogether. 

Population growth and increased per capita spending power are expected to 
enlarge the size of passenger carriers and the frequency of flights.  The 
result will be an increase in the number of passengers which will translate 
into an increase in Flight Attendants, since FAA safety rules require at 
least one Flight Attendant for every 50 passengers.

The allure of the airline industry, with its travel opportunities and 
promise of adventure, attracts many job applicants and makes competition for
available positions keen.  Job seekers who fair best are those with a 
minimum of two years of college, experience in dealing with the public, and 
knowledge of a foreign language.

The prosperity of the passenger airline industry is vulnerable to periodic 
downturns in the economy.  When consumer confidence hesitates, pleasure 
travel is looked upon as a nonessential luxury.  Flight Attendants are often
laid off or put on part time status during such recessionary times, with 
very few new hires taking place until the economy bounces back.


Flight Attendant wages start at a range of $12,000 to $18,400 annually.  
With several years of experience, Flight Attendants can expect to earn from 
$14,100 to $20,100 per annum.  Top senior wages can reach from $20,100 to 
$42,000 a year.  The hourly wage paid to Flight Attendants is quite high, 
but they are customarily contracted to work only from 50 to 75 hours per 
month.  If the need arises for them to fly more often, they are compensated 
at a rate of time and one half.

Many airlines offer extra compensation on international flights to Flight 
Attendants are fluent in a foreign language.  The pay differential for 
multilingual Flight Attendants can range from 50 to 75 cents per hour.

Fringe benefits can include health and life insurance, retirement plan, paid
vacation, lodging and food costs on "layovers", uniform replacement, and 
free or discount air travel for Attendants and immediate family members.


Hiring requirements are similar among all the airlines. Flight Attendants 
must be at least 19 to 21 years old.  Height may be between 5' 2" and 6' 0",
with weight in proportion to height and bone structure.  Depending on the 
airline, natural vision must be at least 20/50 to 20/200; corrected vision 
(glasses or contacts) must be 20/20 to 20/50.  General health must be 
excellent; all airlines give pre-employment physicals.

A high school education is usually required.  In addition, most airlines 
prefer two or more years of college and/or work experience involving contact
with the public.  Nursing experience or training is advantageous.  
International air carriers require or prefer fluency in a foreign language,
such as Spanish, German, Chinese, or French.

Personal characteristics, as revealed in interviews and tests, are extremely
important.  When interviewing prospective Flight Attendants, employers look 
for maturity and adaptability, a pleasant voice and good vocabulary, good 
grooming, and tasteful dress.  Applicants are also evaluated on their poise,
tact, and enthusiasm for the job.

Flight Attendant courses, offered by some community colleges and trade 
schools, may provide helpful background information on the job and its 
requirements.  However, airline officials emphasize that such instruction is
not necessary and has little or no influence on their selection decisions.  
In any event, all airlines conduct their own training programs for new hires,
regardless of their backgrounds.  While in training, which lasts from four to
six weeks, candidates usually receive either a small salary or free housing 
and meals.  They are expected to bring sufficient money to cover personal 
expenses during training, plus moving expenses to their first home base.  
Depending on the circumstances, the amount required may range from $200 to 

With the exception of airlines flying only within California, the first home
base will probably be in another state.  This is because assignments are 
awarded on the basis of seniority and California is a very popular choice.  
In fact, 10 or more years of service may be required for a California home 


As seniority increases, Flight Attendants receive higher pay, better flying 
assignments, and greater job security.  Some advance to management positions
such as flight attendant supervisor, instructor, or inflight services 
manager.  A few transfer to other departments such as customer services, 
personnel, or sales.


One should apply directly to the airline.  Candidates who meet the minimum 
requirements may be invited to local group interviews by a team of 
recruiters.  Those who pass this screening are scheduled for individual 
interviews.  Free air transportation may be provided to the interview 
location if in another city.


Association of Flight Attendants (AFA)
1625 Massachusetts Ave NW, 3rd floor
Washington, D.C. 20036
(202) 328-5400

International Flight Attendants Association (IFAA)
c/o P.R. Miller
2314 Old Windsor Pke. 
New Windsor, MD 21776


DOT (Dictionary of Occupational Titles, 4th ed., Rev. 1)
Airplane-Flight Attendant     352.367-010

OES (Occupational Employment Statistics) System
Flight Attendants                  680260

Source:  State of California, Employment Development Department,
         Labor Market Information Division, Information Services Group,
         (916) 262-2162.
Note:  This is NOT a job opening.  The purpose of This California Occupational Guide is to provide you with useful information to help you make career decisions.   If you are searching for a job, go to:

California Occupational Guides

California Employment Development Department   >>   Labor Market Information   >>   More Occupational Guides