Federal aviation regulations require commercial airlines to employ flight attendants. Although many individuals believe flight attendants are there for customer service, airlines entrust these professionals, sometimes called "stewards" or "stewardesses," with the health and safety of all passengers aboard a flight. These individuals must act to save lives in the event of an in-flight medical or structural emergency. To meet these high standards, airlines require flight attendants to undergo a rigorous training program before they are officially hired.
New flight attendant hires must undergo an official job training program shortly after preliminary hire, which according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, may last from three to six weeks. The training program may take place at the airline headquarters or at a flight attendant base. Airlines that do not have their own flight attendant training facilities often hold training sessions at another airline's base. The actual duration of the new hire flight attendant training varies based on the size of the air carrier.
Emergency procedures are a key component of all flight attendant training programs. During an airline-sponsored pre-employment training program, prospective flight attendants learn emergency actions such as aircraft evacuation, crash slide deployment, water landing procedures, CPR and first aid. In addition to general emergency procedures, prospective flight attendants gain knowledge on the specific aircraft types to which they are assigned by their employers.. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, trainees must take tests on these procedures.
Security Procedures and Company Policies
In addition to handling aircraft mishaps and medical emergencies, flight attendants must also be able to recognize and thwart hostile passengers, attempted hijackings and other terroristic or criminal acts. To this end, these professionals receive defense and security training. In addition to receiving federally required security training, flight attendant candidates must also learn their employers safety and security policies, as well as general company policies and airline-specific healthy living recommendations. Candidates must pass tests on these subjects.
Testing and Certification
After completing the airlines' initiation programs and tests, prospective flight attendants ride along on practice flights to put their training into action. Flight attendant candidates that pass their tests and successfully complete the required programs receive the Federal Aviation Administration's Certificate of Proficiency, allowing them to serve as flight attendants on actual passenger routes. Also, flight attendants that pass training officially become employees of their respective airlines.
2016 Salary Information for Flight Attendants
Flight attendants earned a median annual salary of $48,500 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, flight attendants earned a 25th percentile salary of $39,860, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $62,490, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 116,600 people were employed in the U.S. as flight attendants.