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What It’s like to work as a Flight Attendant/Cabin Crew

What It’s like to work as a Flight Attendant/Cabin Crew

Photo: Dmitry Birin / Shutterstock.com

Want to know what it’s like to work as a flight attendant/cabin crew? As part of my travel job series, I’ve interviewed some flight attendants that are currently working at various airlines to answer some of the most common questions about the job and what to expect.

In this global world, many people consider working as a flight attendant as a dream job, but not everyone knows what it’s like or what you need to become one, or how much money a flight attendant earns. 

To my help, I have talked more with Diane Patierno, Mimmi Larsdotter, David Soares, and Rea Mitchell. 

How long have you worked as a Flight attendant?

Diane Patierno: 

Diane Patierno has been working as a flight attendant for almost one year since September 2018, and she works at Emirates.

 

 
 
 
 
 
Visa det här inlägget på Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Ett inlägg delat av Diane Patierno (@dianepatierno)

Mimmi Larsdotter:

Mimmi Larsdotter is from Sweden and has been working as a flight attendant for six years. 

mimmi larsdotter swedish flight attendant

David Soares:

David is from Portugal and works at Emirates since July 2018.

david soares cabin crew

Rea Mitchell:
 
Rea Mitchell works at Alaska Airlines and has been a flight attendant for 2.5 years. 
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
Visa det här inlägget på Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Ett inlägg delat av Rea (@flyawaywithrea)

What’s your favorite thing/things about working as a flight attendant? 

Diane Patierno: 

I do love the interaction with people, our customers on board. I love getting to know them, and turning their journey into an experience, that will end up being a nice memory. 
 
I also like working in a team. On each flight we work with new colleagues, so you literally never get bored! Meeting new people, creating bonds, listening to amazing stories, traveling the world to experience stunning places and cultures, there is a lot to be grateful for!
 
I also like the idea of being a brand ambassador for my company, because as flight attendants we are the image of the company, and I really enjoy playing this role.
 
In social media, I’m using my flight attendant job as a tool to enhance my storytelling. I love sharing with my people all the experiences I live on the flights and on layovers.
 
diane patierno cabin crew

Rea Mitchell:

I love the flexibility. It gives me a chance to keep some time available for my loved ones, and to give back to causes that mean a lot to me.

David Soares:

There are several things that I like about working as a flight attendant, but one of my favorites is without a doubt traveling the world. The old saying, breakfast in Paris and dinner in Rome is truly possible with this job.

One day I’m enjoying sunny beaches in Mauritius and two days later I might be exploring the canals in Amsterdam or photographing giraffes in Kenya. 

Mimmi Larsdotter:

To work with all wonderful colleagues. It’s something special to get to know each other 12.000 meters up in the air and in foreign cities. It’s also lots of fun to be able to visit cities like New York and Chicago often, so you will feel at home there as well.

work as a flight attendant

What are some cons about the job?

Diane Patierno: 

Onboard, the job can be tough. Physically demanding (carts to pull, containers to lift…and a lot of squats going on when collecting the trays!). Jet lag and night shifts can lead to fatigue, so you really need to take care of your body and try to eat healthy, stay active and get proper sleep to face it all!

In the beginning, it’s a struggle, but after some months you will learn how your body works, and hopefully, you’ll be able to better manage your rest.

Mimmi Larsdotter:

The biggest con is that you receive the schedule about 2 weeks before the turn of the month, and you won’t have much impact on how and when you will work. There can also be several occasions where you work night one day, and daytime the other, which can make it hard for the body to adjust. 

Sometimes, there will be stressful situations at work, and you’ll have many things to do and demanding passengers. Sometimes, you’ll also be on your own on stopovers, so it’s a good thing if you enjoy being in your own company.

Rea Mitchell:

It can be extremely lonely at times, I often spend my layovers in my hotel rooms, as going out every layover can get pretty expensive.

 

 
 
 
 
 
Visa det här inlägget på Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Ett inlägg delat av Rea (@flyawaywithrea)

David Soares:

Every job has its pros and cons but for sure, my job has more pros than cons. One thing that people find challenging is managing your rest.

Flight attendants don’t have a 9 am to 5 pm schedule, one day we are waking up at 3 am and the next day we might be waking up at 5 pm, so managing our rest and sleep is probably one of the most important aspects of this job. 

What kind of education is needed?

Diane Patierno: 

Basic high school diploma. No need for specific aviation studies in my company, because once you’re hired, they will train you. New joiners will attend a two months training course in Emirates Training College.
 
It’s very hectic, a lot of studying about safety, security, medical, service, but it’s necessary to give you the right confidence to go onboard. The language requirement is English (a second language or more might be a plus). Also, some previous customer service experience will be appreciated.
 
flight attendant education

Mimmi Larsdotter:

In most cases, you’ll get the education from the airline once you’re hired. This is usually free and last between 3-8 weeks. Before applying for a job as cabin crew, it’s meritorious to have worked with customer service and knows multiple languages.

David Soares:

You don’t need to have any degree in aviation or any previous experience in this field. The only requirement is to have completed high school and to be fluent in English.

Rea Mitchell:

In the US, the only required education is a high school diploma or equivalent. The airlines provide the required training after that, which can vary from 4-8 weeks.

How much is the average salary?

Diane Patierno: 

The monthly salary is made up of two parts: the basic salary (4.260 dirhams) and the flying pay (58 dirhams per flying hours). On average, the flying hours per month will be around 90/100, so the salary is somewhere around 2500 Euros per month. 

Mimmi Larsdotter:

It depends, but generally somewhere around 1800-2500 Euro before taxes. Then you’ll additional allowances that can vary a lot between the various airlines.

flight attendant mimmi larsdotter

David Soares:

The salary depends on the number of flying hours and your grade, whether you are working in the economy, business or first class, and whether you are a cabin supervisor or a purser. That said, for economy flight attendants the average salary is around €2200,- per month. 

Rea Mitchell:

Starting out I believe it is about 30k a year. It’s not much, but it’s all seniority-based. You get better paid the longer you stay with the company, and some airlines have productivity incentive bonuses or other bonus programs which are very helpful.

How would a normal working day look like?

Diane Patierno: 

Hard to pick one, but I’ll try. When leaving from Dubai, I will set my alarm 4 hours before my E-gate (the moment I have to sign in). Get up, get ready, review Safe Talk (it’s a question everybody is asked during the briefing to prove that we are able to operate the aircraft).
 
Take the crew shuttle bus to Emirates HQ and sign in. Meet the other crew in the briefing. Here, a lot of checks going on: documents, grooming, safe talk. Then we discuss the flight: passengers profiles, service sequence, special instructions…We enter the briefing room as individuals, we exit as one team. We take the shuttle to the aircraft (that’s why you won’t see us at the airport in Dubai!).
 
We board before passengers, do Security searches of the aircraft and pre-departure steps. Then we meet you guys for boarding (my favorite part!). After the flight, passengers disembark first, we complete our checks and collection, and then our bus takes us to the hotel where we stay. We check-in, collect our allowance, and then we’re free until the wake-up call to fly back to Dubai!
 
flight attendant diane patierno

Mimmi Larsdotter:

The day begins at check-in and “briefing” with your colleagues for the day. The Senior Cabin Crew will go through the flight and mention things such as special food, or if there are any passengers with special needs. Everyone in the crew has their own positions on the plane, and each position has its own specific tasks. 

During the flight, a specific service concept is being followed, which can be different depending on if you fly charter or standard flight. After the end of the day, you’ll either go home or be picked up by taxi which will drive you to the hotel.

flight attendant

David Soares:

I usually wake up around 4h before the flight time, which gives me plenty of time to get ready and prepare my obligations as cabin crew. The company provides free transportation from the accommodation to the headquarters (where we report for duty) and vice versa. We report to duty 2h before flight departure, which is required by the company.

After going through security, we go to a briefing room where we meet the crew for the first time and flight details are discussed. After the briefing is over, we are taken to the aircraft and perform the pre-flight duties. Passengers start boarding 45 min before departure.

Once everyone is seated, after menus and toys for small children are delivered, we are ready to take off. Meals and drinks service is the next step and is the perfect opportunity to interact with passengers.

Once we land and check in to the hotel, we are free to explore and enjoy the destination, or do everything over again in case if it’s a turnaround and sleep in our own beds at home, Dubai.

david soares flight attendant

Rea Mitchell:

Depends on my trip, I commute, so I always try and fly over a few hours early, get ready at the airport, I get to the gate an hour before the flight and meet my crew. Depending on my position, I get on board, do safety checks, and set up my carts or galley. Some days can be up to five flights (google the Alaska milk run), and others can be one. 

There is honestly no normal day in aviation.
 

 

 
 
 
 
 
Visa det här inlägget på Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Ett inlägg delat av Rea (@flyawaywithrea)

What working hours can be expected?

Mimmi Larsdotter:

No day is like the other. Sometimes you’ll be working for 3 hours (for example if flying domestic) and sometimes you’ll work for 14 hours. The average is probably around 10 hours per day, and you can start working at any time of the day.

David Soares:

There’s no such thing as fixed working hours or weekends off. We can work any day, regardless of the time of the day.

Rea Mitchell:

The aviation industry honestly never sleeps. Each airline and country has its own rules. In the US the longest day an FA can work is 14-16 hours, and then require rest. (8 hours, but some airlines contracts require double rest if this happens)

Alaska Airlines

Photo: Philip Pilosian / Shutterstock.com

What kind of perks do flight attendants get?

Diane Patierno: 

You have allowances to cover your bills on layovers, and accommodation and transportation to work in Dubai are provided.
 
Oh, and amongst the main benefits, of course, we have discounts on plane tickets, hotel stays and stuff for us and our families. When in Dubai, we have a lot of discounts on food and hotels and leisure activities by using our membership cards.
 
diane patierno flight attendant

Mimmi Larsdotter:

Most airlines have benefits for their employees where you can buy flight tickets at discounted prices if there is room for it. Some companies are more generous and allow flight attendants to bring friends as well for the same price.

David Soares:

Being a flight attendant has amazing perks, especially in Dubai. We can access the most exclusive hotels and restaurants in the city, travel the world with special prices and have discount all across Dubai.

 

 
 
 
 
 
Visa det här inlägget på Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

Ett inlägg delat av David Oliveira (@davidoliveirac)

Rea Mitchell:

Flight attendants can fly standby on their own airline, and on other airlines (but that depends on each airlines agreements). As well as other discounts, such as with cell phone carriers or other various places, but this is a deal made by the airline.

What are the most common mistakes normal passengers do?

Diane Patierno: 

Passengers are often a bit confused on the plane. So they struggle to find the toilets, opening the doors, etc. 
They often press the call bell by mistake. When there is a call on the bell, by job description, we have to rush to answer, and sometimes we find out it wasn’t on purpose, so use the call bell wisely!
 
Then there is a very personal struggle I have, and I want to share with you guys. When we collect the trays after the meal service, it’s often a mess. 
 
We have to fit 39 trays in our carts. This means that you should give it back with the remaining items in the same position they were when you received the tray. A lot of people mess up the items on the trays after they’ve eaten.
 
We call it “Burj Khalifa”, meaning it looks like a high pile of rubbish. So that we will have to spend a lot of time tidying up every single tray in order to fit them back in the carts. Please, give back your trays the way you received them, and the flight attendant will love you!
 
Emirates tray

Photo: Peter Gudella / Shutterstock.com

 

Mimmi Larsdotter:

That the passengers take too long time to get ready for boarding. They stop in the aisle and pack up their things. The same thing happens after landing, and many just take too long time to get off the plane.

The cabin crew in general wishes that passengers were more effective, because often, the plane will fly off to another destination right after, and then it can be frustrating that some passengers will wait to be the last and start packing their belongings. 

A lot of passengers also seem to have trouble finding the toilets. 

Flight attendant boarding

Photo: Shutterstock

David Soares:

Most passengers think that we all know each other, we meet for the first time in the briefing room. Rarely, we fly with the same people since we have 18 to 20k cabin crew. 

They think as well that we live in our home countries, we all live in Dubai. Also, some passengers still think they need to pay for food or beverages, in Emirates all food, drinks, and alcohol is included. 

Rea Mitchell:

Many times they don’t read the small print when purchasing the tickets or learn the rules of the country they are flying into. 

Do you have a favorite destination?

Diane Patierno: 

I do love Maghreb, it’s so Mediterranean. The perfumes and the food and the scenery and the antiques and the history and the culture and the people. I fall in love every time I go there!
 
Then, Singapore stole my heart: it’s a metropolitan garden. Super clean, tidy, organized. People are nice and kind. I think it’s the best mix of Eastern and Western world, and I love it!

Mimmi Larsdotter:

Los Angeles and New York. In Sweden I prefer Gothenburg.

mimmi larsdotter cabin crew

David Soares:

Venice will be always an all-time favorite, but recently had the chance to visit Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires and I fell in love with both cities. There’s nothing more special than seeing Copacabana beach from above and circulating around Christ Redeemer with a helicopter or enjoy a wonderful dinner while watching a Tango Show in Buenos Aires. 

Rea Mitchell:

My favorite destinations are all based on my mood and the time of year. I LOVE Juneau, AK, Vancouver, B.C., Kona, HI, Raleigh, NC, etc.

What is the worst experience you have had onboard a flight?

Diane Patierno: 

Worst experiences to me are crew related. Passengers can be sometimes rude or demanding or challenging, but I truly believe that the crew makes the flight. So, if I see some colleagues being negative, lazy, giving us hard times, I try to stay away from them to keep my positive vibes up. It doesn’t happen often, but still. I love working with people who are passionate about what they do. It really makes the whole difference!

Mimmi Larsdotter:

Hard to say, but large delays when you’re tired and then add on vomit in the plane, and mothers who change poop diapers on the seat, and you can safely say it’s not your favorite day on the job. Drunk and rude passengers are not very nice either.

David Soares:

I consider myself a lucky person, I had challenging flights but I cannot say I ever had a really bad experience during a flight. Hope it continues this way, fingers crossed.

Rea Mitchell:

I had a passenger throw water on a friend/crew member. The FAA ended up getting involved in that situation. I also had a passenger scream at me saying I was going to get her kicked out of the country because she broke FAA regulations and I had told her that I was going to have to write the situation up.

Follow these flight attendants on Instagram


Do you have more questions on what it’s like to work as a flight attendant/cabin crew? Leave a comment below and I will come back with an answer as soon as possible. 

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