Looking to learn how to become a flight attendant?
As a flight attendant, you may be able to find a lifelong career that you enjoy, as well as go on domestic and international flights around the world.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for a flight attendant is $61,640 per year, and the number of flight attendant job openings is expected to grow by 30% over the next decade. This is much faster than the average for all occupations.
Airlines are hiring for flight attendants like crazy right now, so it is a great time to learn how to become a flight attendant.
Today, I have interviewed Deanna Castro from Future Flight Attendant on how to become a flight attendant.
Deanna has been a flight attendant for 16 years, and she is also a flight attendant career coach.
In today’s interview, we are going to talk about flight attendant salaries (and how your years of work experience will impact your pay), job duties, what flight attendant job training is like, and more.
In this interview, you’ll learn answers to questions such as:
- How much does a flight attendant make?
- How long does it take to become a flight attendant?
- Is it hard to become a flight attendant?
- Which airline has the highest paid flight attendants?
- What is an average flight attendant shift like?
And more! This interview is packed full of valuable information on how to become a flight attendant.
Deanna also has a helpful resource on how to become a flight attendant – How To Land a Flight Attendant Career course. This course goes over choosing the right airline for you, the hiring process and interview tips, how to prepare for flight attendant training, live coaching sessions, and more.
How To Become A Flight Attendant
1. Please give us a little background on yourself and how you got started as a flight attendant. Where have you traveled to?
For as long as I can remember, I always wanted to travel. My parents didn’t travel much because my Dad had a business that he was tied to and was afraid to fly.
When I was 12 I took my first flight to Florida with my mom and sister, and my Dad drove the 1100 miles to meet us there.
I remember the flight attendant, she looked like Snow White. She smiled as she brought us our pre departure drinks and made me feel so at ease.
I was in awe this was her job, and she looked so elegant.
My favorite part of the flight was the takeoff, I remember looking out the window watching everything get smaller and smaller and from that moment I was hooked on flight.
When I was 19 years old, I took a year off of college and I moved to Italy for six months to study art. My parents weren’t too happy about it, but I was determined to leave the country for the first time.
I’ll never forget that flight either, back then, everyone was smoking! The inside of the cabin was a big cloud of smoke. But I didn’t even care, I was going to Europe, and I couldn’t wait.
I grew up on a horse farm and my parents always knew that I was never going to stay put, I was too adventurous.
My parents begrudgingly allowed me to temporarily move to Italy, and when I got home they had a proposition for me.
If I would drop out of school, they would build me a state of the art riding facility and help me get started in business as a horse trainer and riding instructor with the rest of my college money. I said yes, of course I said yes! Who wouldn’t? I loved horses and I loved business so why would’t I say yes?
After about nine years, I couldn’t take it anymore, I had to get out into the world. I loved to travel and staying in one place felt suffocating.
I went on a solo vacation to Hawaii for six weeks. I fell in love with the island, made so many friends and got offered a job. I went home, leased my horse business and moved to Hawaii.
My parents were not happy with my decision. I told them I would eventually come back, but I needed a break and I needed to see the world. I would take these extended trips, a month in the Greek Isles, I would travel around the UK and Europe, and then go back to Hawaii.
My new employer in Hawaii encouraged travel, and I was in my element when I could fly to different parts of the world.
One day I saw an ad in the newspaper, if was for a cattle call for Hawaiian Airlines, I felt that being a flight attendant and getting paid to travel the world would be a dream come true for me.
I cut out the ad and put it up on my refrigerator, and eventually threw it away. I told myself that I didn’t have the qualifications. I felt like I wasn’t good enough, I didn’t have enough training or the skills that they were looking for and I couldn’t have been more wrong.
I ended up leaving my job, closing the business temporarily and working for another employer in an office. That office job was hard. I’m too much of a free spirit for that and I felt stuck.
One day a new temp employee started, it was my job to train him and we got to talking. It turned out he was on furlough (this was after 911) from his flight attendant job with United Airlines.
I told him I always wanted to be a flight attendant, but I doubt they would hire me. He was like “What?!? You are perfect for the flight attendant position! It’s such an easy job and they are looking for customer service experience, which you have.”
I was shocked. “Did an actual flight attendant just tell me that I was the perfect flight attendant candidate?!”
He got called back to work and what he said stuck with me. As soon as the airlines started hiring again I applied! I got hired on my first try. When the recruiter told me I was invited to flight attendant training we both started jumping up and down and were hugging. I think I was crying, I was so happy.
We carried on like that for a full two minutes and then we both felt a little embarrassed because it was like we were best friends separated at birth who had just been reunited! It was great. I’ll never forget that moment for the rest of my life.
That was when I found true happiness and my calling. I didn’t end up applying to Hawaiian Airlines so I got to move home, work part time in my horse business and I got to FLY and I was based at home.
Things all worked out perfectly. I got to travel, my parents got to have me back home, and I lived a life I only ever dreamed about.
I got to travel everywhere, especially my first few years flying. I was in the UK every week, Italy, Switzerland, Norway, Hong Kong, Tel Aviv, Hawaii, all over the Caribbean, and most of the United States.
I’m still a flight attendant today, it’s been sixteen years now and I control my schedule a lot more than I used to be able to. I mostly stay in the US and Caribbean by choice, but I still occasionally do a fun international trip, like Singapore or anywhere else I can find that has a long layover and is fun.
2. What is the average day as a flight attendant like?
The average day as a flight attendant is you go to the airport and check in for your flight. There are flights that are more like a vacation, and then there are flights that are more productive.
The flights that are more like a vacation you would fly to some exotic or fun destination and spend 24 hours there. You stay in a great hotel, right on the beach or in the city where you can do anything you want for the next 24 hours.
The productive flights are ones with a shorter layover at the airport, or maybe just a turn (a turn is when you go someplace and fly right back, so there is no hotel, because you go home at the end of the day.)
Why those flights are more productive is because you spend more hours on the airplane and less in the hotel. You are working and not lounging around.
There are short trips that are not as productive, (less flight hours and shorter layovers) but I try and avoid trips that don’t have a lot of flight hours. I’m in it for trips that are either the fun or make the most money.
I like to work long days, 12 – 14 hours and the day just flies by, literally!
As a flight attendant you spend a lot of time talking to passengers, easing their fears and frustrations, serving food and drinks, and checking safety equipment.
As a flight attendant you don’t often work with the same crew members, but when you meet your crew you are immediately family. It’s a special bond that all flight attendants share because we have such a crazy lifestyle and only we can understand it.
3. How much does a flight attendant make?
At the major airlines start out around $30 an hour. Contractually we get a raise every year until we top out in pay. I have topped out in pay until we get our next raise at about $70 an hour after 13 years.
Most of the major airlines are currently in contract negotiations and we will surely be getting raises.
A new flight attendant makes about $25,000 to $35,000 a year depending on the airline. The secret is to work for one of the top five airlines (American, Alaska, Delta, Southwest and United Airlines) and not the small regional airlines if you want to make money as a flight attendant.
It’s very easy for a flight attendant of ten or more years to make six figures. After five years, flight attendants at the top five airlines are able to make $50,000 or more a year.
Even though the pay isn’t as high for first year flight attendants, you live a million dollar lifestyle, getting paid to travel, free travel on your own time, and you get to stay in beautiful hotels and resorts on your layovers.
Everything is taken care of you as a flight attendant, you don’t need to find your own hotel or arrange transportation to and from the hotel, that is taken care of by the airline.
4. Are airlines currently hiring for flight attendants? What does job growth look like?
Airlines are desperately seeking flight attendants right now. Once the pandemic hit, travel declined rapidly and some airlines actually paid flight attendants a lump sum to retire. Flight attendants jumped at the chance to get paid to retire on top of their retirement plans.
Then, when travel returned, there was a shortage of flight attendants. I have not seen this much hiring from all of the airlines in the history of my career.
Not only is there a flight attendant shortage because of flight attendants retiring, but airlines are expanding their routes and buying more airplanes. They need flight attendants to staff those flights. Thousands of flight attendants are needed right now.
5. How old do you need to be to become a flight attendant?
Depending on the airline you can be as young as 18, and some airlines hire at 19, while others at 20 and 21. American hires at 20, and United, American, Delta, Alaska and Southwest all hire at 21.
There is no age limit to become a flight attendant either. Many people become flight attendants after retirement. As long as you are in good physical condition, you can apply to become a flight attendant. Airlines value life and work experience of all kinds.
Because being a flight attendant is such a great job, there are flight attendants that have been flying for over fifty years and have no plan for retirement in sight. Why would they? They control their schedule, work when, where and if they want, and make great money.
6. How long does it take to become a flight attendant?
That really depends on the airline. Some airlines can speed up the process and it may only be about six months. Other airlines are slower and it can take a year or longer.
If you don’t get hired there is a waiting period to apply again, either six months or a year, depending on the airline. So in that case sometimes it can take years to get hired as a flight attendant.
Everyone’s timeline can be different, but it can be helpful that it takes awhile to get hired because you have time to prepare.
The competition to become a flight attendant is so fierce that you have to nail the interviews to be selected.
7. Is it hard to become a flight attendant? What are the qualifications to become a flight attendant?
It can be hard to become a flight attendant because airlines can get hundreds of thousands of applicants and only 1% to 2% get hired.
But I tell everyone not to let that number scare them because if they have a desire in their heart to become a flight attendant, they can make it happen.
Some qualifications to become a flight attendant are:
- A high school diploma or GED
- Possess and maintain a valid U.S. passport or foreign passport with applicable visas and be eligible to work and travel freely within the U.S. and all countries they serve, without restriction.
- A passion to serve
- Customer service skills (not necessarily in a customer service position, most jobs have an element of customer service)
- Must be 18, 19, 20, or 21 depending on the airline
- Be physically agile and be able to assist customers. The ability to stand, walk, kneel, bend, stoop, stretch, reach, lift heavy objects, and push or pull a beverage cart up to 250 pounds
- Ability to pass ten year background check and drug testing
- Able to speak, write, and communicate effectively in English
- Willing to relocate or commute based on operational need
- Most airlines are requiring a Covid-19 vaccination
8. Which airline has the highest paid flight attendants?
It’s pretty close between Delta, American, and United, but Southwest Airlines has the highest hourly rate.
Southwest Airlines also pads in extra time into their trips so that flight attendants can make a little extra money. Most flight attendants don’t get paid for boarding so that extra money helps cover that time spent not being paid for boarding.
Another thing about Southwest? They allow their flight attendants to sell their trips. If they have a trip they don’t want to do because they want the day off they can advertise the trip and offer a nice chunk of change for another flight attendant to take it.
I feel like Southwest Airlines is really committed to their employees making great money.
9. What are the pros and cons of being a flight attendant?
The pros and cons of being a flight attendant are:
In my opinion the pros far outweigh the cons, but there is always a down side to everything.
- Paid travel and free travel on your time off
- Excellent pay and benefits
- Free flight benefits for your parents, your children, spouse, or even a friend
- Ability to make six figures a year – I myself am a six figure flight attendant earner
- Meeting all kinds of people, celebrities, politicians, athletes, you name it.
- Layovers in exotic places in the best hotels
- Lifelong friendships
- There is no age limit for flight attendants and some people become a flight attendant after retirement
- You can’t beat the flexibility of the job
- Discounts on everything, rental cars, hotels, food, and corporate discounts
- Long days
- In the very beginning you don’t have much control over your schedule
- Being away from your family for holidays
- Low pay in the beginning
- Some passengers are unruly, but thankfully the FAA has implemented a zero tolerance policy and those unruly passengers now have to pay fines for unruly behavior instead of warning letters or counseling.
10. Can you list the steps needed to become a flight attendant?
- Fill out the application on the airline’s website
- Upload your resume and cover letter
- Assessment – Some airlines conduct assessments which is an online questionnaire
- Video Flight Attendant Interview – this can be either pre recorded questions or a group video interview.
- Some airlines do a Telephone Interview – It’s just what it sounds like, an interview over the telephone.
- Face to Face Interview – You fly out and spend about a half a day interviewing, with many other flight attendant candidates
- Initial Flight Attendant Training – For most airlines you are not officially hired until you pass 3.5 – 8 weeks of flight attendant training at a training center.
- Graduation – Graduation is when flight attendants get their wings.
- Flight Attendant!
11. Are there any other tips that you have for someone who wants to become a flight attendant?
It’s a long process to become a flight attendant, and there are a lot of steps to take to get your wings, but it’s all worth it.
Being a flight attendant is one of the best jobs in the world.
12. Can you tell me more about the course you offer?
The course I offer is called Flight Attendant School – it’s an online learning program with four weekly live coaching sessions.
Passing the flight attendant interviews are the hardest parts of becoming a flight attendant. My course covers everything that you need to master the interview process.
Not only do you get an entire online course that teaches you exactly what you need to do to become a flight attendant but you get four weekly zoom coaching sessions.
What do we do in the coaching sessions? Flight Attendant Career Counseling, it’s a big jump and a completely different lifestyle, our career counseling session will help you find the best airline fit for you.
We also do mock interviews, prep and practice so you can look, feel and be the part of the flight attendant in your interviews. My students make some major transformations during the course.
They gain not only knowledge but also so much confidence that they are able to stand out as a star in a sea of applicants.
The aviation industry is different than any other and the Flight Attendant Course & Coaching sessions help aspiring flight attendants learn everything they need to know even if they have no flight attendant experience.
Do you want to learn how to become a flight attendant?