Many of us become or want to become a flight attendant for a host of reasons. Possibly it is the perception of glamour that gets us at a young age and while this was very true in the early days of flying unfortunately the mystique of flying is not what it was because it is much more common place for most people now-a-days.
Certainly many of those that have been flying for some years would say that there is no glamour as such but a reality check to working in some retail outlets I think would highlight just how lucky those who fly really are. I know that I’ve done some pretty ordinary jobs during the time I was out of flying and did them for even more ordinary pay! Quite frankly I spilt more at the bar on a good night out than what I got paid in some of the menial jobs that I’ve had the good fortune to have done.
I say, "Good fortune because those jobs remind me how good this flight attendant caper really is.Yes there’s higher paying jobs for some, but for me not a better lifestyle".
However let me continue... In truth, there are many reasons to become a flight attendant as there are people and everyone’s different, but here are my top 8 and not necessarily in order but let’s start with my favourite....
Without doubt lifestyle is right up there. I mean, your work place is an ever changing office that takes off from one city and lands in another city. It really makes the world a small place and it’s never boring because you not only get a brand new bunch of passengers nearly every leg you fly but can also have a change or part change of crew.
Over time you get to meet the who’s who in the world from celebrities, world leaders, sports stars world war veterans, entertainers, TV personalities and in general great people.
If you happen to be crewing an overnight it gets better again. Often you are picked up in a limo or if the crew is bigger in number than the limo can hold they provide an almost equally comfortable bus for your transport to the hotel. Your hotel for safety reasons is rarely below 4 stars and for the bigger airlines its 5 star minimum.
Yes there is real truth in living a champagne lifestyle on a beer budget. The realisation of the lifestyle you lead is when you’ve had it and then lost it as I did after my first airline went into liquidation after 16 years. Admittedly I have seen great changes and the aviation industry has indeed changed markedly in that time but from my perspective it’s still a lifestyle that I love and enjoy.
One of the biggest reasons to become a flight attendant is without doubt the camaraderie of the crew and for that matter the aviation ‘system’ the world over. The fact that you wear an aviation ID means you have just joined one big club the world over. When working internationally it meant that I could fly from Sydney Australia to Osaka Japan, pull up a stool in a bar and immediately strike up a conversation or join a group of other flyers for a meal just because they too flew.
While the uniform identifies you it’s the job that unites you like no other system or network that I have ever worked in. And sure, you don’t always want to socialise with crew but the beauty is that you can choose whether you want to or not when you are a flight attendant. I think it gets back to the selection process of flight attendants in that one of the priorities looked for in a potential flight attendant is that you are a people person.
3) Working conditions
Working conditions for me is a big one. Now I might add that these can be vastly different between low cost carriers and full service carriers. I guess I’m a little tarnished also because I saw the low cost carrier concentrate on nothing other than $$$ and showed absolutely no care for either the passengers they carried nor the crew they employed to work those aircraft.
For instance, they would think it OK that you worked ten or eleven hours straight with no food. They would be happy to see you work a 16 hour day, give you 10 hours rest and work you another 10 or 12 hours. I could go on but suffice to say there are some pretty unscrupulous operators in the low cost carrier world and for my part here let’s forget them because they are not a long term option that you would want to build and have a career with! Maybe start with them but move on when you get some experience.
So for those carriers that understand that people, both customers and crew, are important also understand that working conditions for their staff and staff morale is what helps to put passengers bums on seats and keep them there.
And while low cost carriers don’t think it’s important, as a crew member I do think that being fed at work is not only proper (seeing that you can’t just hop off at any time you choose) it’s the right thing to do and with 24/7 shift work it is also an OH & S issue.
And while there are jokes abound about aircraft food, the crew meals quite frankly can be better than many people eat at home.
As you become a flight attendant, you’ll also be supplied with a uniform which is a small windfall saving you $100’s of dollars per year.
The actual work you do as you become a flight attendant can at times be stressful and full on but on longer trips especially, you’ll have ample time to take a break, visit the cock pit or sit and chat to a passenger. For me it really isn’t work it’s a pleasure.
4) Travel benefits
Now travel benefits are a big one as you become a flight attendant and these benefits differ from airline to airline. Where one airline might not charge a dime to fly standby on given flights, another may charge $10, $20, or even $50 per flight or trip. This can mean savings of 80% to 90% and in some cases totally free! And although most of these prices mean you travel subject to load which means you only travel if there is a spare seat, it’s still not a bad deal for the inconvenience of missing a flight now and then.
You also enjoy the benefits of flying cheap on other airlines as many of them will sell standby tickets to other airline employees anywhere from 75-95% off the regular full fare ticket price. Now this is great because you can still holiday cheaply in places that your own airline doesn't go to.
5) Effective time
Effective time or time to be able to do other things is a great reason to become a flight attendant. Because you work a 24/7 roster you will find that you will be at work when other ‘normal 9 to 5 workers’ are watching TV or perhaps are still sleeping. This means that you have an inbuilt barometer to using your time wisely. Conceivably you can start work at 5am and finish at 12 or 1pm (sometimes earlier) and who really wants to really watch midday TV when outside is a great day for a hit of tennis or trip to the beach!
Plus, as you become a flight attendant, you can also work as a reserve flight attendant and spend all that time that you are paid for studying a Diploma, taking art classes, improving your golf game, looking after your kids, or following any other passion that you want to.
The one thing that I have learned from being made redundant from my old airline is that when that happened I had nothing to fall back on. I had no qualifications; I had limited passive income even though I’d been an investor all my life and I was unable to easily get another job to get the cash flow that I needed.
So here’s a personal tip if you are just starting out in the airline game as a flight attendant. Make use of your effective time. Sure have a great time when you fly and enjoy your lifestyle but make the decision sooner rather than later to become qualified in something that will pay you a dollar if you are ever made redundant.
Opportunities is a great reason to become a flight attendant. Every day you go to work you are presented with opportunities to network with your passengers. It may be nothing more than sitting down to have a chat and making their flight be it their first or 21st a great one. In so doing you never know who you might meet. Yes flight attendants have even met their life partner on board a flight they once crewed. Obviously there is ethics and proper conduct to be followed here but hey this job presents opportunities.
I can remember probably one of my best flights as far as total intrigue and entertainment goes and that was for me, not the passenger! Well passengers in this case. I was on a one and a half hour flight going south to north through the centre of Australia when at the end of the service I decided to sit down and have a chat to two elderly gentlemen who I found out were brothers.
Well let me tell you these guys had never married, had lived together since they were teenagers and were as funny as. They had seen both world wars and indeed were returned veterans. They talked about everything from living together and who does the housework through to politics and the industrial revolution. Quite literally they had me in stitches of laughter. From memory one was in his late 70’s and the other in his mid 80’s. Two nicer people you could never meet. And all because I took the opportunity to sit and talk to them. I’m sure they appreciated a young flight attendant (at the time) sitting down to talk also but I’m sure I got way more out of my time with them than they got from me. That is another good reason to become a flight attendant, the quality time you can spent with people.
Yes, because you fly with an airline you open up a Pandora’s box of discounts. You’ll be open to discounts on hotels, selected shopping outlets, travel including all modes such as car hire, selected cruises and train trips. The same goes for entertainment venues and holiday packages etc. When you become a flight attendant simply ask the crew because if anyone knows a bargain the crew do.
I’ve listed my 8th reason to become a flight attendant as miscellaneous because it covers a few areas that will be seemingly insignificant in some countries however it is a big deal in others. Take for example USA resident employees. Because the USA health system operates vastly different to the Australian health system, Americans, when they want to become a flight attendant, really value and look for an employer that takes care of the Health benefit issues. It’s the same with your 401k. Our tax situation is once again different so although we have a similar opportunity to what the 401k offers, it is not an employment plus for us, who want to become a flight attendant.
Stock options however in any airline can be a plus, the same as credit union benefits to members can be.