What Does it Take to Become a Flight Attendant?

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Do you dream of soaring through the skies, meeting lots of new people, and travelling the world? Many dream of becoming a flight attendant, but not everyone has what it takes. Do you?

A flight without friendly, professional flight attendants is unimaginable. If you have ever flown anywhere, you will know that flight attendants (also known as stewards and stewardesses, or hosts and hostesses) are the lovely folks who walk up and down the seat isles and hand out food, drinks, refresher towels, headphones, blankets, sickness bags, and whatever else you need on your journey. They are pretty much the people that ensure your safety and comfort during your trip in the air.

Whether you envision becoming a flight attendant during your gap year, for a longer amount of time, or plan to make a career out of it – there are certain things you need to know and ask yourself before taking off towards the great blue plane.

Can You Handle the Highs and Lows?

Do you know who you are? We ask this question because it is indeed important. Being suitable for this job and having the right personality and attitude for the highs and lows that come with it is very important. Being a fan of flying is not quite enough to make you a good candidate for this line of work – though we certainly hope you love flying!

Here are some personality traits and skills that are helpful if you’re looking at becoming a top flight attendant.

Be Friendly

As a flight attendant and part of the cabin crew, you are there to make people feel welcome, safe, and taken care of. You need to be approachable at all times. This is not negotiable. It is part of your job requirement. It’s certainly not always easy. Sometimes you’ll be exhausted, jetlagged, dealing with personal issues, or put up with passengers who think they are the royalty of the world.

“It’s challenging to act friendly when passengers don’t treat you with respect.”

– Laura Wahl, former flight attendant

Be Curious

Jean-Michel Weiss has over 30 years of cabin crew experience. As a former Swissair and SWISS maître de cabine, he has travelled the world and flown to over 100 countries. He stresses,

“This career is not for someone whose goal it is to fly and serve people. This career is for someone who is curious about encountering different cultures, people, countries, and world perspectives – to make the absolute most of the opportunities that come along with being a flight attendant.”

Marni Erasmus who has worked as a flight attendant for Emirates for almost 3 years says that the best part of her job are the new experiences she has made.

I’ve seen all the big cities of the world, and I’ve gone shopping all over the world. I love experiencing different cultures and the food!”

Be Confident

When you are responsible for someone’s safety and wellbeing, that’s a big deal. You need to have the confidence to implement the regulations on the aircraft, even when passengers don’t want to listen. For example, if the seatbelt signs are on and a passenger refuses to wear theirs, don’t get intimated. It’s your responsibility to make sure they follow safety instructions.  Sometimes this means that you need to take the initiative on how to handle a situation.

Marni also points out,

“Don’t take everything too personally.”

Be Spontaneous and Explore

In most cases, your layover at a destination is only a few days, so you want to try and plan how you can make the most of it – in advance. Get informed about your destination. For example, select a museum or restaurant you want to visit. At the same time, allow yourself to be spontaneous. You will meet people, on the plane and in the places you visit, and often they will invite you to explore their hometowns and share adventures.

“The ideal flight attendant is extroverted and gets energised from meeting a lot of people. There should be a fascination with the new and foreign.”

 – Jean-Michel Weiss

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Are you suitable?

Apart from the above character traits, there are other factors that can determine whether or not you are suitable for this line of work. Take some of the following aspects into consideration.

Language

Are you able to communicate in more than one language? Some airlines won’t hire you unless you can speak at least 2 or more languages, especially if the airline’s country has more than 1 official language. Do you pick up the basics quickly?

Family & Relationships

Do you have a partner, children, or both? Being a flight attendant means that you are away from your loved ones weeks on end at times. It’s very tough, and not everyone is willing to make that sacrifice.

If you are in a relationship and choose to do this, you need to have a lot of trust, and a lot of communication. If you are a parent, you need to consider that you won’t have as much time with your children as they may need from you.

Laura Wahl worked for Edelweiss for 3 years. She has the following comment on relationships while working as a flight attendant.

“For me, it was impossible to be in a relationship. When I got home, I needed the time to be by myself, and I couldn’t imagine how a boyfriend would fit into the picture.

I also think that if you have a partner, they might not be very understanding of the fact that you spend so much time away, and have more time with other people than with them. Having said this, however, most of the crew members I know are in a relationship.”

Social Life

Are you willing to sacrifice the social life you are used to? It can take a strain on friendships, because you don’t see your friends back home as often – so you need to work harder to stay in touch.

Like Marni, you will need to make peace with this and see the bright side. 

“It’s not all glamorous. You fly on your birthday, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve. But therefore I have been all over the world.”

Health (Exercise, Sleep & Nutrition)

If you’re dead set on keeping a regular sleeping, eating, or exercise routine, forget it. You won’t be able to avoid jetlag, long working hours, and different types of cuisines and eating patterns. This is not to say that you can’t practice any of those things, but it will require more dedication, and will be trickier to maintain. So if you’re unwilling to go with the flow, you might need to reconsider.

Laura recounts,

“You have to get used to the dry air during the flights. I ended up changing my entire skin care range to a more moisturizing one.

I also ate a lot of sweets and chocolate during the night flights to keep my energy levels high. Even though I regret it every time, I couldn’t help it – the energy booster got irresistible. Health and exercise are very important to me, but as a flight attendant, sometimes you just get too exhausted to keep up the exercise regime.”

Another thing you need to consider is your general health. If you have health complications, you might not be able to do this job. For this reason, anyone wanting to work as a flight attendant needs to undergo a standard medical exam

Cabin Crew Training

Needless to say, flight attendants go through extensive training before they can start working. And getting the right training is crucial in order to be prepared for every situation, and to do the job well.

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Cranfield Aviation is a leader in cabin crew training. The Johannesburg based aviation school offers the Cabin Crew Abinitio Course Pdf brochure – specialised training for anyone looking to become a top form flight attendant.

Rick Bosman who is in charge of the schools marketing and logistics emphasises,

“Our students cannot believe how much they actually learn in addition to the skills that are required of a flight attendant.”

If you want to do this 6-week course, you need to

  • be 18 years old or have a Grade 12 school leaving certificate
  • be able to speak, read, and write English
  • be able to perform life raft and life jacket drills in the water (with aid of life jacket)

Useful Infos about the Cranfield Course

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Can I only complete the course in Johannesburg? If yes, does Cranfield assist with transport and accommodation?

Yes, you have to complete the course in Joburg. Cranfield won’t assist you with transportation costs or logistics if you are travelling from another town, but the aviation school offers accommodation on the premises, at a separate cost.

If I complete the 6-week course, can I work for any airline?

Pretty much. You can work for any South African registered aircraft. If you want to work for airlines registered internationally, you need  to have your license validated for that country.

How many languages do I need to speak?

It depends on the airline, but you have to be fluent in English, as it’s the sky language.

Does a flight attendant just serve food and hand out blankets?

No! A flight attendant is essentially the safety officer on board. The safety and security of the passengers is the top priority – from making sure that the seatbelts are on, to managing stressful situations, for example if a passenger panics during some turbulence.

Do I need any medical check-ups before working as a flight attendant?

You need a Class 2 Medical done by an aviation certified doctor.

Can I have tattoos or piercings?

You aren’t allowed to have any visible tattoos, and you can only have two pierced holes in each ear.

Will I get to travel a lot?

If you have a travel bug, you will absolutely enjoy being a flight attendant. This career is all about travelling and seeing the world.

For more information on the course, including the next intake dates and price details, click here

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Additional Tips when Considering this Career

“Do it!!!! It’s a great opportunity to see the world, save money, and get to know yourself. It is an unbelievable experience.

It’s also a cool way to start a collection. You can collect something from every city you visit… I’ve been collecting magnets!”

– Marni Erasmus

“The best part about this job is being able to travel around the world at a young age and get to know many different cultures and people. I have become more self-confident, open-minded, and have gotten a lot of inspiration for my future.

Try to be independent and open to exploration. Have a strong mindset and self-confidence. It’s also important that you are able to work as part of a team.”

– Laura Wahl

EduConnect 2cents

Check out this funny clip on what grinds a flight attendant’s gears. Yip, people can be difficult – but can you stay as calm and friendly as this chick?

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