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When I went to my flight attendant interview they told us that being a flight attendant is the best kept secret, but that the secret was out. With over 300,000 applicants to my specific airline the acceptance rate is dismal. In fact it is easier to get into Harvard than it is to become a flight attendant based on acceptance rate percentage. But is it worth all the hype? For some people yes. For other people not so much. It is a very different lifestyle, and it's not suited for everyone. We'll start with the pros because everyone loves a bit of good news.
There are few jobs that give you the opportunity to travel as frequently as being a flight attendant. Even when you're working, you are traveling. It's not just traveling to exotic new places that you've only dreamed of going to, but its being able to visit your aunts and uncles who live across the country that you haven't seen in years. It's being able to move away from your home town, but still come back to visit and not be a stranger. Don't get me wrong the new, foreign places are the main reason to do this job, but there is nothing like being able to connect with your family and friends.
Before you get too excited yes, you do have a manager. By saying "no manager" I mean there is no one constantly watching you. When you are on the plane it's just your crew and the passengers. There's no manager telling you what to do you like a normal retail or 9-5 job. You are trained to do your job, and the company trusts that you will accomplish it. Your manager is there to help you. The lack of a constant managerial presence gives you piece of mind and self-worth because you are trusted to do your job without someone breathing down your neck.
You Don't Bring Work Home
There are no projects that have deadlines, no conference calls that edge into the weekend, no staff meetings that run long. When you are home that means you did your job, and you get to take a load off until your next trip. This particular 'pro' is one I take for granted, but for many flight attendants, it's one of the job's most advantageous qualities. When you're home, you're home.
You get to choose how much you work each month. Most airlines have a monthly minimum number of hours that you have to fly each month (30-40 hours), which is the equivalent to 'part time' ('full-time' is considered 80 hours at my airline). Some flight attendants fly only the bare minimum, while others are considered high time flyers (120-140 hours a month). It's up to you! You can switch it up every month as well. Your schedule is as full as you'd like it be within realistic boundaries.
Also the days you go to work are flexible. Some people only work weekends, while others just need Monday through Wednesday off. Or if you'd like to work the first two weeks of the month and then have the last two weeks off, it's possible! The flexibility comes from "trading/dropping trips" which is a whole other article, but through trading/dropping trips all of this is possible.
Possibility For Big City Living
I'm from a small town, so I was absolutely ecstatic when I was given my base in a big city. I am so happy not to be living where I grew up (I realize this is not for everyone, but it's what I always wanted). I feel like in small hometowns after high school, you are divided between people who are still there and people who left. I always wanted to be someone who left. I was granted that opportunity through this job.
This one is kind of a double edged-sword which is why it is listed as the last pro. Many people in the real world (non-flight attendant world) have that coworker that they don't get along with or can't stand. In the aviation world sometimes there is a very little chance that you will work with the same people twice. This means that you get to meet a TON of people. You are exposed to all kinds of stories and new methods of getting the job done. You get to interact with various viewpoints and cultures and it's all apart of your flight attendant family!
The reason why it's a double edged sword is because sometimes you will meet a fellow flight attendant that you really enjoyed working with, and odds are you won't work with them again for quite a while. There are ways of working with your favorites, but it's tricky.
This is my biggest personal struggle with the job. I am a former athlete, and I went into this job almost right out of college. School and sports are all about routine. You go to class at this time and you go to practice at this time. With this job, THERE IS NO ROUTINE WITH YOUR SCHEDULE. You can try and make it as consistent as possible, but there are no guarantees. Some months you could work only the weekends. And other months you work every 2 days. It's really hard to lead a healthy life with no routine. You can't go to the gym on a regular basis. You can't form relationships with people in your city because you are there scattered throughout the month. Eating healthy is a challenge because you have to prepare the food so far in advance and keep it cold for 3 days. Forming relationships in your base city is difficult because it's hard to become a regular or a familiar face anywhere.
Being a flight attendant is a particularly lonely job. Everyday you are surrounded by hundreds of people who don't know you and don't care for you. I thought "no routine" wouldn't bother me, but really look at your life and see what brings you joy. If having tacos and margs with the girls on Tuesday nights is the highlight of your week or if instructing a spin class on Saturday mornings is what gets you to the weekend, this job is not for you.
This is a given with the job and almost goes hand in hand with the "no routine." Some days you have to wake up at 2:30 am and then a day later have to work an all nighter and stay up until 6:30 am. You almost always are in a constant state of exhaustion. Not even including the mess up of your body clock with all the time zone changes.
There is so much waste that happens on an airplane that it is sickening. I'm talking garbage. So much single use plastic that cannot be recycled. Pouring out 8 cartons of juice that were only half used. All the trash from passengers really adds up, and the percentage that actually is recyclable is abysmal. Even the things that airlines do recycle is a constant battle. Whether it be flight attendants who "just didn't feel like saving the cans" today, or the cleaners just throwing away our recycle bag filled to the brim with plastic water bottles. It is sickening.
From a very early age, we learn that people are the worst. This "con" is not so different than many other jobs, only in that you are trapped in a tube with them for however many hours. There's no escape, but regardless this job makes sure you learn that people suck.
I get car sick and sea sick, but I had never gotten sick on airplane, until this job. Those snow storms in New York or the heat in Arizona or the hurricanes in Miami or the thunderstorms in Texas or the mountains in Nevada make flying very difficult and very bumpy. As a flight attendant it is a daily occurrence. Two years later, I still have not gotten "my sea legs". When I know the weather is going to be bad, I'm sending up prayers, playing sudoku, drinking ginger ale, ANYTHING to distract me from the bumps.
With all this said, I hope it provides some insight to whether or not this job is for you! Regardless I hope all your travels are happy and healthy, and make sure to give your flight attendant a smile!