The Role of a Flight Attendant -
An Interview of a Professional and
an Overview of the Position
By: Faith Eversole
Traveling. Seeing the sites. Meeting people from all over the county. Always being on the go. To many people, a job that entails these things would be a dream come true. The position of the flight attendant may be just the thing. It's not just pointing out the Exits or throwing peanuts at people. There's more to it than what you might think.
I've interviewed a flight attendant who was willing to answer many questions and explain what a typical day is like from the beginning to the end in this position. To protect her and the airline with which she is employed, we will simply call her "Molly".
Why be a flight attendant?
"Ever since childhood, I've been infatuated with airplanes and the concept of lift so naturally any position that got me closer to these machines the happier I was. It's really neat to meet so many different people from so many different places. It's fun to see how they differ in lifestyle simply due to their location."
Qualifying to be a flight attendant is tough work!
Getting a job as a flight attendant, or any position working in the air field isn't easy. Intense training is involved and meticulous background checks. Molly explains it as, "A rigorous five weeks of stress, studying, medical training and physical strain."
She explains that it was a lot tougher than balancing sodas on a tray. "It was over a month's worth of screaming door drills, cabin preps, CPR training, emergency scenarios, testing every other day, and emotional stress when a classmate would fail and have to leave."
Think being a flight attendant is all fun and games? Think again!
As glamorous as it may seem to dress in a cute little uniform, be the center of attention at the beginning and ending of a flight, and to be able to visit a number of places across the country, the job has its bad sides. Many people in the field are based in different cities than where they live; for most it's a different state. Molly resides in Florida but is based out of Boston, Massachusetts. "I try to get on the last flight out of Florida the night before I have to work a trip. Then I sleep in the crew lounge or the cheap hotel that most of us use."
And the day begins!
The beginning of the shift starts about an hour before take off. The crew meets and discusses safety measures and goes through general introductions. With the pilots already on the plane, the rest of the crew joins them. "This is when we all do our security checks such as checking the medical equipment, intercom systems, lavatories smoke detector, oxygen, life vests, and overhead bins for any suspicious items. I always test the cockpit door in emergency entry mode. The captain will then brief us with expected weather, turbulence, flight times, etc."
Only then are they cleared to board. Once boarded, the Ground Security Coordinator and the flight attendant go over any security issues and secure the cabin doors. "Once the cabin doors are closed, it's all fun and games for me.
"I make the necessary announcements required by the FAA but I give them my own little twists. Then we do our safety demonstration which I like to make humorous. Compliance Checks are checking seatbelts, making sure bags are completely under the seats, no pets are out of their containers, and car seats are only at the window seats. By this time the plane has pushed back from the gate and is taxiing out. After our Compliance Check, I dim the lights and turn on the customers' televisions.
Once our aircraft reaches the front of the line the Captain or first officer will use the intercom to tell we have been cleared for takeoff. Then we buckle in to our assigned jump seats and use our brace positions until we hear the double ding that indicates we have hit 10, 000 feet."
At this point, only the flight crew is authorized to be out of their seats.
Peanuts! Get your fresh roasted peanuts!
Beverages and snacks are served shortly after this period. Snacks varying from chips and crackers to nuts and cookies are offered. On this particular airline, beverage carts are not utilized as it is unsafe to block the isles. Flight attendants, instead carry trays to display various snack and beverage options.
After Beverage and Snack Service is finished, Molly and the other flight attendants walk through several times cleaning up any trash and keeping the galleys clear.
Everyone's got to go!
Special care has to be taken to allow the pilots out of their cabin. A simple restroom break can prove to be quite the ordeal.
"We set up the front galley to let the pilots out. This involves clearing the front galley of any customers, setting up a soda cart to block the isle, and dimming the lights so as not to draw attention to front of the plane. I knock on the cockpit door and one pilot comes out while I go into the cockpit, locking the door behind me - there has to be two people in the cockpit at all times. Then the same goes for the other pilot - one comes back in, the other one goes out while I stay in the cockpit until they are finished. Once I come back out we lock the door and remove the cart."
Cleared for landing!
During the descent, the flight attendants walk through one last time checking for trash, making sure tray tables are up and customers are securely in their seats. When cleared for landing, they buckle up and secure themselves.
Customers unload from the plane and the crew has about thirty minutes to completely clean up and get ready to do it all over again.
Flights don't always run smoothly.
Molly states that not all flights are as perfect as one would hope. "I've had customers with everything from anxiety attacks to heart attacks. I've even had some cases that are too horrible to mention."
How much does a flight attendant make?
Depending on the airline, salaries can vary. The higher end of the scale is typically around $50,000 per year. Some airlines will even pay for housing. Some smaller airlines generally pay $20 - $30 per hour with some variations when it comes to holiday pay and seniority. Additional pay is typically awarded if one is called in on their day off!
So what does it take to be a flight attendant?
"You have to have a sense of humor and be extremely tolerant towards all kinds of people from every background. If you're easily jaded, it's not for you. Being away so much of the time is what most people find infatuating about this job, and for me it's the best part. I have found however, that many people try it for a while and realize it's not for them. You have to be a free spirit with no commitments."
Being a flight attendant is tough work. While traveling is often one reason why many people are interested in the position, it can also be disappointing. Many times the flight crew doesn't even get off the plane at their destination and are unable to explore the sights.
But flight attendants such as Molly love their jobs; they enjoy interacting with customers from all walks of life and enjoy being "free spirits." It takes a special kind of person with a certain lifestyle to pull it off. If you've ever flown before, you'll understand how easy it is to spot the ones who enjoy this routine and take pleasure in being a flight attendant.
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