More than pilots, mechanics, and ticket agents, the job of an Airline Flight Attendant can get your travelling the world for free and an interesting career in aviation.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Flight Attendant training info

Airlines must schedule training classes well in advance, so pay particular attention to your assigned starting date. It may be within a week or anywhere up to six months away. Upon notification of your proposed training date, allow time to attend to personal affairs. If you are presently employed, plan on a date when you will submit your resignation. And then, if possible, give yourself a couple of weeks to get your life in order and study your pretraining materials.
Training classes have, on rare occasions, been cancelled or postponed due to circumstances beyond the control of the industry. A good example of this was the Gulf War of '90-91. Passenger air travel decreased so much during the confrontation that many airlines had to cut back on personnel. If you had been waiting your training date, your airline would have notified you of it's postponement, or even cancellation date. In some cases, it could be a year later when your class is rescheduled. Thankfully, these are not common occurrences.
Training is held in the airlines' home city or hub, and most airlines either provide lodging for trainees, or will assist you in finding suitable lodging. Some will begin paying you a salary when you start training, some when you complete it. Others will only pay you a per diem for food and expenses. In some cases, you will have to pay for your food and lodging yourself. (Check the listings in this guide for these individual situations.) Nevertheless, you should come to training with sufficient money for food and expenses for the three to six weeks' duration of training.
Pack enough clothing for the duration, as well. Business attire is required while in the classroom and common areas of the training center. More casual clothes and even a swimsuit may be required for training in evacuation and wet ditching (water landings). The training center may have laundry facilities available for your use, or you may need to frequent a local Laundromat.
You will usually share a room with one, two or three other trainees. For the next three to six weeks the flight attendant training academy will be your home away from home. Instructional facilities vary with each airline, but for the most part they are modern and multifaceted. It is here that each new trainee is transformed into a professional flight attendant.
Classroom training is held from 8am until 5 or 6pm, six days a week, for the duration of your training. If you live in the city where training is held, you may be allowed to spend the nights in your own home. Otherwise, expect to be at your training center the entire time. If you become homesick and wish to fly home for a visit, the airline may give you a pass to get home, but may not allow you to return. As there are thousands of applicants willing to take your place, there's no reason for an airline to make special exceptions for any student.
The general flying public holds the belief that a flight attendant is only on board an aircraft to serve coffee and food. But as far as the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is concerned, meal services and airline public relations are secondary duties for flight attendants. The FAA requires flight attendants to be on board for one reason only, and that is passenger safety. Flight attendants have been called upon to render first aid for cuts, bruises, burns, choking, and airsickness, as well as broken bones. There have been instances of flight attendants assisting with childbirth on some flights.
The U.S. Government requires you to be fully safety trained for each type of aircraft your company operates. You will be forbidden to work on an aircraft you haven't been trained and tested on. Every year you will be retested, and failure can mean loss of duty time, and/or your job. You will need to know the type, number, location and use of the fire fighting equipment on board, including the newly installed smoke hoods. Competence is also required in the operation of all emergency exits and evacuation techniques. Basic first aid, CPR and oxygen administration, and anti-hijacking training will be included as well.
The majority of your training day will be spent learning and being tested on these safety requirements. You will have hands-on training with all the oxygen, fire fighting, and first aid equipment. You will practice evacuating a simulated flight, and may even jump into a swimming pool to experience working with the life rafts and life vests. The remainder of your classroom training will consist of company policies and procedures, the paperwork required for every flight, as well as dining and service. You will practice on your fellow classmates, how to set up and serve meals and drinks from aisle serving carts, and then how to stow it all away again for landing.
To achieve certification by the FAA, every airline must demonstrate that its crews can evacuate an entire aircraft full of passengers in ninety seconds or less, with only half of the available exits functioning. The lives of the passengers and crew can depend on the training of the flight attendants. Your airline, therefore, will concentrate heavily on this area. You will be tested constantly on this information, and you must be proficient in all of it to complete training and begin flying.
The FAA requires you to carry a flashlight at all times while on duty, so bring one to training. The "Mini-Magliteā„¢" type has become the preferred flashlight for flight attendants. The Emergency Procedures Manual (EPM) your airline issues to you is also required equipment. This manual serves as your constant guide to company rules, regulations, the handling of unusual situations, and emergency procedures. You can be fined five hundred dollars if a FAA spot check finds you without your flashlight or up-to-date EPM. A reliable, working watch of a conservative style is also a necessity.
At the completion of training you will be fitted for your uniform and accessories. Flight attendant uniforms are unique to each airline. Airlines employ leading fashion designers to create uniforms for their flight attendants that are durable, practical, and versatile, all the while satisfying current fashion trends. The primary objective of having flight attendants wear uniforms is that they are easily recognized as leaders in an emergency situation. The uniform also sets the flight attendant apart as the individual responsible for providing service and comfort. You will, in most cases, be expected to purchase your first uniform, though some airlines will split the cost with you. The average five-hundred-dollar cost is deducted from your paychecks over your first year of employment. All replacement uniform items are generally paid for by the airline.
Standards are also established for the flight attendant uniform. From the time you check in to work a trip, and during the performance of all duties, you are expected to be in full uniform. Business attire may be substituted while deadheading, but there are no excuses for not having a complete and clean uniform on hand before each trip. It is mandatory for flight attendants to maintain a professional manner and appearance when wearing the uniform. This rule applies not only on the airplane and in the airport terminal, but also while in uniform on public transportation and in layover facilities. You will not be allowed to substitute or accessorize your uniform to suit your tastes.
By now you should have learned that seniority rules in almost any work-related situation in the airline. When you graduate from training, you will be assigned a seniority number that gives you a rank among all other flight attendants flying for your airline on a system-wide basis. This could be determined by your age in training, or by the last four digits of your Social Security number. You accrue flight attendant seniority as long as you remain on active flying status. Most companies allow their flight attendants to continue to accrue seniority during leaves of absence, and while on special assignment with the company or union. A decision to quit flying permanently means forfeiting all your rights as a flight attendant, including your seniority status. In other words, if you have five years seniority with ABC Airlines, and you quit to go to work for XYZ Airlines, you start all over again with zero seniority. In the same manner, if you then quit XYZ Airlines with five years seniority, and reapply a year later, you will once again start with zero seniority.
After training, you may be given a choice of cities from which you will begin and end all your flights, or one may be chosen for you by your airline. This will be your home base station, or domicile. Some airlines have only one domicile for flight attendants; others have as many as twelve. Not all cities will be available to you. Some domiciles are more "senior" than others- or in other words, more preferred. You will start in a "junior" domicile, and can then transfer out at a later date. You will be required to remain at your domicile for a set period of time (usually six months) before you can put in a request to transfer to another. Your transfer request will be processed in seniority order. If you're not senior enough for a particular base, or there are no openings there, your request will be denied. It may take many years of service with your company to be based in some of their more senior domiciles. This is a reason airlines ask you in the interview of you are willing to relocate. If you don't get assigned the base of your choice after training, you can always quit and go home, but I wouldn't try applying for that airline again. As mentioned earlier, even though you may be fully trained, other airlines don't recognize that training, nor give hiring preference to you if you are. And if you tell them you quit your last airline because you didn't get your domicile of choice, then this airline won't want to hire you either.
Many flight attendants and pilots commute from the cities they live in, to their respective domiciles. My airline has New York-based flight attendants commuting from as far away as Hawaii and Israel. Many commuters will share a "commuter apartment" in the domicile for use when they are spending a night or two between trips. All commuting is done at your own expense, and is not considered an excuse for not making your assigned working flight on time. You will have to use your airline's pass system for commuting, and you may only have a limited number of passes per year. Other airlines will sell you reduced rate tickets, but these may cost you $100 or more per commute. When you multiply that by four or five trips in a month, the expense can add up quickly. In all cases, you will be travelling on standby, and are not guaranteed a seat. If you are on reserve, you will have to live in your base city during the days you are on call, as you may be given only an hour's notice to appear for a flight.
Airlines look at dependability very closely. As an aircraft is unable to depart if it's not fully staffed, flight attendant absence or tardiness can be very costly to hundreds of passengers, as well as to your airline. If you are one of those people who is constantly late for appointments, then perhaps this career is not for you. Excessive incidents of illness, tardiness, or missed flights can lead to discipline and/or dismissal.
After training, you may be given time to return home before starting work in your new city, or you may start working right away. You should be prepared for this when you enter training, keeping in mind the potential cost factors of moving to a new city. You may share an apartment in your new city with the friends you made while in training, or move in with family or friends. Your flight schedule will make it easier for you, as you and your roommates may seldom be in the apartment at the same time. Some airlines allow you travel privileges when you complete training, others when you complete your probationary period. Again, this period of probation is a time when you must be extra diligent. Any infraction of the rules, such as missing a flight, showing up late, etc., can be cause for immediate dismissal.

-excerpt from The Flight Attendant Job Finder & Career Guide by Tim Kirkwood. For more information, go to

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