Can I have another bag of peanuts?

I’m interested in learning about what a flight attendant goes through during the course of his or her job. I’ve searched the archives hoping for an ‘Ask the Flight Attendant’ thread, but none to be found.
What are the highlights? The travelling, I would guess, but is their anything else? What are the worst parts of the job? What kind of training do you go through? What are the perks and benefits? What’s the salary in the range of?

Stories appreciated too!

“If I put that screaming child out the hatch really quick, would there still be a catastrophic loss of cabin pressure, or would all our ears just pop a little?”

My uncle’s ex was a flight attendant, so this is all second hand from her. She said she HATED the job with a passion- in fact, she quit as soon as she found something better.

Apparently, the hours are just out of control. I guess you’re on for a full day (in which you fly somewhere far away, back, and maybe to and back again), then off for a day or two. Although she could fly anywhere and stay, scheduling rarely allowed for the time to do so.

She said the worst part was the men: apparently they would grab her, grope her, smack her ass, talk down to her, etc. She would complain and was told she just had to deal with the customers, as that’s how they act.

Don’t forget that she’s the one that gets to clean up your kid’s hurl, the bathroom after someone made a huge mess in it, and the one who gets the thankless job of keeping that jerk across the aisle’s kids in line. Not to mention, she’s the girl that gets asked 10 times a day, “Sooooo, are you doing anything tonight? Want me to show you around town, baby?”

I’m sure not all flight attendants experience this- heck, I’m sure most love it. But oh boy, did she hate it.

Oh, she also told me her pay, but I can’t remember what it was. I remember it struck me as being VERY low, especially considering the hours involved.

From here

If I recall, she made something in the very low 30s.

I would suggest you ask this question at
There are lots of frequent flyer there, but also folk and a great deal of past threads on flight attendancy.

No need to register, and you can do a search without being registered.

Probably the best place to start would be at TravelBuzz

I used to be a flight attendant, but that was a) in the 90s pre 9/11, b) part-time and c) for the German Lufthansa. I had a friend who was with American Airlines and I know their schedules and training was somewhat different, so anything I tell you might not apply in America. However, I’ll try to give you an impression anyway, if you have any other questions, feel free to ask!

Here goes:

At first, we had to do a course regarding the emergency procedures which lasted a week. This ranged from learning where the fire extinguishers are stowed on board to actually trying out the emergency slides (fun! whee!!!). We had to do this for two different plane models (I was on the B737 and the Airbus 340, later I received additional training for the B747) - German law only allows flight attendants to be trained on two models. As far as I recall, my American friend received some sort of “basic” emergency training and then had something like a thick manual of all different types of aircraft she had to get acquainted with individually before every flight.

Then, we did a 3 week course regarding the service: How to stock your beverage trolley, how to prepare the cabin before take-off, how the service flow works (different on each aircraft depending on your position). We also did some courses about the wine and food on board and on how to apply make-up properly (I kid you not!). After that, I was qualified for economy and business class, first class required an additional course that only full-time employees did.

In addition, we had to do all sorts of health exams: measurement (one girl was fired because she had lied about her size on the application), weight, blood tests etc.

So, how did I like the work? I actually liked it fine (maybe that also had to do with the fact that I only did it for 2 months at a time). We had to do 80 flight hours a month - “flight hours” actually meaning “from take-off to landing”. That meant if you were doing short-range flights you were SOL because the actual air-time on those is rather short and you have to do a huge number, leaving little free time. I on the other hand was mostly scheduled for long-range flights. That meant I got to do 3 flights to the US a month, translating to about 10 work days, plus 5 days of “standby” time (where they get to call you if somebody calls in sick). The rest of the month was free, and actually lots of my colleagues pursued a second job (usually in the form of selling something like jewellery etc. because you get to meet lots of people in the job).

The work itself was rather meh, not very challenging intellectually. Think waitressing in a restaurant that’s usually very crowded, where people are more snappy than usual and you don’t get any tips. The gropey men did not happen to me overly much, I much more hated the annoying whiny “Why are you not as good as airline X” men or the Russians who would order about a thousand Vodkas and then sneak into the galley and steal your bottle if you weren’t looking. As an anecdote: When I worked on a flight to the US during the soccer World Cup (in the US) and Sweden were playing, economy class was filled with Swedish soccer fans. As Swedes are wont do, they imbibed quite a lot on-board (alcohol is very expensive in Sweden) and the whole economy class started singing soccer chants. Whereupon a business class traveller asked me to go back there and shut them up. Yeah. I’ll go back there and tell 200 completely drunk Swedes Mr. 54D doesn’t want them to sing anymore. (As to how drunk everybody was: When we had finally finished our debarking procedure (which takes quite long in the US, you have to prepare everything for customs) and we left the plane, we met some Swedes who had not found immigration yet and were wandering about the terminal - it was 1 hour later and if you know JFK: you can’t really miss immigration if you just go straight). But that’s the level of expectation you meet: you are responsible for everything that happens to the passenger.

But I liked the travelling, even if you did not have lots of free time, you did get some, which meant lots of sight-seeing for me! You also usually had nice colleagues - at Lufthansa they don’t have set crews but rotate everybody. This means you almost never met the same people twice, which had advantages (no cliques, no mobbing etc.) but also disadvantages (going through the same small talk all the time, not really having the time to establish relationships). However, most of them were very sociable and it was easy to find somebody to do things with at your destination.

The most negative factors were the physical factor and the social implications. Physically it was rather exhausting, what with the jet lag and the long hours and working on a plane while it swerves up and down and you get airsick. Also, if you look at older flight attendants, you know what the radiation up there does to your skin (and who knows what else). And socially, it was harder to maintain relationships with friends, because you never knew when you would be home (they could change your scheduling on a whim and you never had the same schedule twice in a row).

So all in all, I never regretted having worked there, but I don’t know if I would be saying the same thing if I was doing it to this day: As far as I know hours have gotten longer while pay has decreased, and I’m not as young and sprightly as I used to be, dealing with jet lag is getting progressively worse (judging from my business travels now). It’s fun to do for a few years but you should definitely keep your options open if you burn out or plain want to do something more with your brain than just asking “coffee or tea?” for the umpteenth time.

I spent 4 years working as a flight attendant with an airline in the Middle East, from 1998 thru 2002. It wasn’t a career choice for me (I’m a lawyer now), rather a chance to travel the world without having to pay for the trip!

Basic training took about 6 weeks, starting with 3 weeks of safety and emergency procedures, including “jump and slide”, ditching training (basically testing if you can swim in light clothing while wearing a life-jacket) and learning the exact location of all the emergency equipment on the aircraft, from the fire-axe to the infant safety belts. Then 3 weeks of cabin service training – learning how to serve reheated food and crappy sandwiches to stressed out passengers without ripping someone’s head off and spitting down their throat! Plus all the grooming crap about “maintaining an appropriate height-weight ratio” (i.e. not turning into a tub-o-lard from eating all that yummy aircraft food) and refreshing your make-up at 3 o’clock in the morning so your passengers can wake up to an exhausted but well-groomed breakfast server.

Within 2 years, I was qualified to operate (i.e. work as cabin crew) on 4 aircraft (A-320, A-330, A-340 and B-767) as a first-class flight attendant. We used to work on the basis of 8-10 days off a month. I mostly flew long-haul with a roster usually involving a string of blocks (a collection of flights) that would have you out of the country for anywhere from 3 to 10 days, adding up to a total number of 20 duty days. I used to get a crappy basic salary of about $660 per month (the company provided accommodation and transport to and from operations), plus flying allowances of $8 per flying hour and $2 for every hour you were on duty (i.e. away from base). So, if you were away on a 10-day block, with 35 flight hours, you would get a $280 flight allowance, plus a duty allowance of (give or take) $480. So if you took a few weeks holiday, you were on starvation rations for the next month!

Now and then I get really nostalgic about flying because I did get to see some wonderful places and meet some great people, plus I have some hilarious stories!

Best one was on a flight from Mumbai on the A-320. The call-bell on the aircraft is above the passenger’s head, along with the reading light. During the flight, we had noticed this guy turning his reading light on and off every few minutes, but some people aren’t familiar with aircraft, so we figured he was doing the “light goes on, light goes off” routine! Top of descent into Abu Dhabi (or Muscat, I can’t recall), the guy stops me as I’m securing the cabin and says … “Madam, I have been fingering you now for one half hour! Why you didn’t come?” I had to run down to the back galley and cover my face with a towel – I was howling with laughter!!!

Of all the places I have visited, there are a few that I would like to see more of, like Kuala Lumpur, Kathmandu and Zanzibar. There are also a few places I am glad I got to visit because I would not spend my own money visiting them – not because the people are bad, but because of the abject poverty. Dhaka in Bangladesh was one of those places, with wall to wall humanity and confronting poverty and filth. Mind you, the airports in places like Khartoum (Sudan) and Sana’a (Yemen) are just plain scary, so there is no way I would ever want to visit either of those places!

Flying is a nice way to spend a couple of years, but after those first exciting years, it becomes just a glorified waitress job, with (maybe) slightly better pay and worse hours.