In her more than fifteen years as an airline flight attendant, Heather Poole has seen it all. Here, she dispels the top five misconceptions about her profession:
1. A college degree is not required to become a flight attendant. But there are very few flight attendants who do not possess one. Being a flight attendant is considered a profession, not just a job. When Delta announced 1,000 openings in 2010, the airline received 100,000 applications. Only the most qualified are hired: being able to speak a second language helps, and so does having customer service experience.
2. Flight attendants are paid well. No one becomes a flight attendant for the money. The average salary for a first year flight attendant ranges between $14,000 and $18,000. Each year we get a standard raise across the board. Major carriers tap out around thirteen years. This is one of many reasons why seniority at an airline is so important.
3. Flight attendants barely work. Eighty five hours a month might sound pretty great, but those hours are flight hours only. Time during boarding spent cramming bags into bins and helping displaced families get seats together never shows up in our paychecks. The clock doesn’t start ticking until the plane backs away from the gate.
4. Flight attendants love to date pilots. One flight attendant wrote down a few tips on the back of a beverage napkin for me: 1. Don’t do it. 2. Don’t do it. 3. Don’t do it. 4. If you do mess up and do it, don’t do it again. It’s only fair to mention I’m pretty sure there are plenty of pilots who feel the same way.
5. Flight attendants party on layovers. Most domestic layovers average 10 hours. Add a delay into the mix and it’s nine hours. By the time we check-in to the hotel, it’s now an 8 and a half hour layover. Keep in mind I need an hour and a half to get dressed and get back to the airport in the morning, which totals to seven hours of sleep if I can fall asleep the second I walk into my room. Sometimes there’s not enough time to eat, sleep and shower.