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My life as a flight attendant - the truth - Q&A's

Friday, 17 April 2015


I just realised whilst brainstorming blog posts, that although I often post about travel and the places I visit with my job, I haven't really ever gone into detail about the job itself and my life as a flight attendant. I often get tweets asking me travel related questions, and when introducing myself to people one of the first things they generally like to do is quiz me on my job! I guess there is still an air of glamour to flight attendants, and people love to know all of the ins and the outs, the truths and the realities. And whilst I'm sure it differs from airline to airline, I thought I'd share what my experience has been like for me so far. If your thinking of applying for a job as a flight attendant, or perhaps are just nosey - here's the 411 on life in the sky!

Do you get free flights? People love to ask this question, and the answer is yes! It's a huge perk of the job, and makes holiday planning much cheaper. We also get space available upgrades to first class, and the ability to take friends and family away with us when we are working. I love being able to take my mum away for example - the hotels all paid for by work and using a free flight means a free mini break for my friends and family!

Do you get paid the whole time you are away? Yes. We get paid (at my airline anyway) a basic salary that doesn't change no matter how often or how little you fly. So some months, if flights are quiet or you have lots of annual leave, you might only fly once but still expect to get the same basic monthly salary. On top of that basic salary you get an extra payment per flight, so if you want to do some extra flights to earn more money you can. On top of this, you get generous expenses in cash whilst your away, so that your not having to spend your own money on food and drink ( or sephora hauls!)

Do you stay in nice hotels? Yes. Most of the hotels we stay in are 5 star depending on the route.

Is your time your own when your on a layover? Yes, you have free time from the moment you get to the hotel until it's time to check out. So typically Caribbean trips are spent having cocktails on the beach, In America I'm likely to shop and socialise, and of course you can tick all of the touristy things off the list - but there's only so many times you can visit the Hollywood sign - it still looks the same a week later! So I tend to have a little routine of what I get up to in each location, and it soon becomes a home away from home. I know some parts of the world better than I know the area I live in!

How long are your layovers? Layover length depends on how many times the airline flys to the destination, and how much time we legally need to rest before we return. As an example, flights to New York are daily, so in most cases your only going to stay there for 24 hours (more than enough time to hit the shops, have a burger and take a nap - I'm sure you'll agree!) where as with longer flights to Las Vegas or L.A you might stay for 2-3 nights, and somewhere like Cuba or Barbados might see you staying there for 4-5 nights. A real mini holiday.

Do you always fly with the same people? At my airline, not at all. The bigger the airline the more common it is to not know a single person on your flight. But this is actually something I've always enjoyed as you get to meet so many new people, and believe me, within 10 minutes of the flight every body is sharing their inner most secrets like best friends. We have to bond quickly, and it's just something we naturally do. After all, this group of people are going to be the only people you know in the country for the next five days!

What's your favourite destination? This is probably the #1 question I get asked. Sometimes I respond with a cheeky 'London Heathrow', after all, there really is no place like home! But I assume most people want to hear me say somewhere a little more exotic, so in that case i would say Hong Kong or Cape Town in South Africa.

What's a 'normal' month look like? This months schedule for me starts with Vegas, has a Dubai in the middle, and ends with a San Fransisco - with a New York thrown in for good measure.

Where do you fly to? This again depends entirely on who you work for, but my airline flys pretty much the whole world over. Africa, the USA, China, India, the Middle East and Australia are just some examples, and then we fly to a ton of cities within them.

Are you always away from home, do you fly constantly? Luckily, no! When working for a long haul airline there are only so many flights you can fit into the month, depending of course on layovers. I like to do say 3-4 longer trips rather than 5-6 short ones, for example. So that means most months I'm only setting my alarm to go to work 3 times! It often feels like a part time job, which is one of the beauties of flying. I personally feel I have a brilliant work/life balance - for example I've currently got 5 days at home between flights.

Do you have any flexibility with your flights? At my airline, yes. One of the reasons I chose to work for them is the amazing flexibility that they allow us to have. We are able to chose which corners of the globe we prefer flying to, which days we prefer to work and we can even swap flights between ourselves so that you are working on the day you want or going to the place you want to go to. Obviously this all takes a lot of planning, and some months don't quite work out, but you take the rough with the smooth. I have to say that 80% of the time I work when I want and fly to where I want, so for me it works very well.

Do you have to work at Christmas or bank holidays? One of the downsides to the job is knowing your never guaranteed to be off for Christmas/your cousins wedding/your birthday/that night out you really wanted to attend or that bank holiday BBQ everyone is going to be at. But like I said above - with clever flight bidding and swaps, it is possible, but there have been Christmas times when I've been away for the whole thing and have really missed my family.

Do you have to have training or a travel related qualification? The answer here is a definitive NO. There are many 'courses' out there that promise to teach you how to become a flight attendant, but they are an absolute waste of money. There are no airlines that would be even the slightest bit interested wether you had this peice of paper or not, so instead spend your time building up customer service skills in a relevant customer facing role - and save your money!

Do you have to start off as short haul, and then progress to long haul? Whilst in some countries this is the norm, in the UK there is really no need to apply for Ryan Air with the hope of one day joining British Airways (airlines used purely for an example) Go for the airline that you really want to work for, they won't expect you to have worked for other airlines in the past. In fact, most airlines prefer a fresh face so that they can fully mould you into their way of thinking! So no experience will not hold you back, just go for the one you really want! I joined the airline I fly for at 20, and I've been there for 7 years. I previously only ever had part time jobs, alongside studying, so this was the first and only airline I've ever worked for.

What are the benefits of working short haul or long haul? Personally, I've always only ever flown long haul. I always liked the idea of being able to travel and really experience the country, and that's an opportunity that you only really get with long haul flying as long haul tends to equal long layover. Some people love short haul, as it means they come home every night and have a more '9-5' lifestyle. Some people like to find an airline that do a mixture. I like to maximise my time on the beach!

And finally - Do people really join the mile high club? ;) Not that I've ever seen! (Those bathrooms are devastatingly dirty, and I wouldn't advise it!)



I hope some of you found this post interesting, and if your thinking of applying to be a flight attendant yourself then feel free to e-mail or tweet me and I can give you some more personalised advise and top tips!


Until next time,

 

 

5 comments:

  1. I really enjoyed this post! I'm finishing my masters in Clinical psychology - and though I would love to work in my field, I have such a huge "wanderlust" in me that I keep on dreaming of beign a flight attendant. Also, I'm sorry to realize how little jobs prospects are out there in psychology (bad choice of degree, if you ask me :/ )
    So, I would like to ask you - if possible, if you could give me some tips on how to apply for a flight attendant job. I'm portuguese and there is only one nacional airline in Portugal - full of problems, and laying off a lot of people - so I couldnt really aplly there. Do you know if I can apply to any ohter international airlines easily? I'm fluent in the language and all, just lack the work experience. Also, would you recommend any particular airline?
    I know how rude it is to ask so many questions, but your help would be huge at this time of my life. If you prefer you can reply by email (catia.vr.cunha@hotmail.com)
    Thank you again!

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  2. Great post lovely! If you have any free time in Dubai and I'm here would love to grab a coffee/cocktail xx

    Stacey | Expat Make-Up Addict

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  3. Ah this was so interesting! I do always wonder what it must be like as a flight attendant. Honestly, if I wasn't so terrified of flying I could totally have seen myself doing this! x

    Jasmin Charlotte

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  4. Interesting insight, thank you.
    I know the problems of never being off for sure, and working at Christmas/New Years/Younameit is hard, but I really enjoy the odd Tuesday/Wednesday break when everyone else has to go to work...

    LindaLibraLoca: Beauty, Baby and Backpacking

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  5. Loved this insight into your world. I applied to British Airways when I was in my teens (many years ago now) but that was when there were tough height restrictions and being a short arse didn't quite cut the mustard!!! It was something I would have loved to have done but never mind. You hear of some people saying its to as glamorous as you think but your world certainly seems to be, and oh free flight!!!!, If only!
    Steph
    x
    www.pricelesslifeofmine.com

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