Job Description

Air hosts and hostesses, or flight attendants, work on commercial airlines. Federal law requires airlines to have flight attendants on board in order to protect public safety and to monitor passenger compliance with airline safety rules. They assist customers with basic in-flight requests, help passengers who become ill, and serve food and drink to passengers. The job requires both customer service skills and an understanding of Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) flight regulations.

Job Duties

Flight attendants are responsible for informing passengers of in-flight safety rules and regulations. Prior to each flight, the attendants attend a briefing in which the pilot goes over the flight plan and their duties on the flight. This briefing provides the pilot an opportunity to coordinate the activities of the crew, and to explain any possible weather conditions or issues with passengers. The pilot will also review information about the length of the flight and the evacuation procedures for the particular plane. Flight attendants are expected to attend this briefing and plan their in-flight actions accordingly. Before passengers board, flight attendants confirm that emergency equipment, including first aid kits, are available and in working order. They may also check for an appropriate supply of beverages, blankets and pillows that might be used by passengers on the flight. Flight attendants check passenger tickets as passengers board the plane. They assist passengers in finding their seats and stowing carry-on baggage. They educate passengers on the use of seat belts and emergency equipment, and check to ensure that passengers are wearing their seat belts and have their seats in the proper position for takeoff. Throughout the flight, they cope with any safety issues that arise, including directing evacuations if necessary.

Working Conditions

Flight attendants tend to work irregular hours. They often work on evenings, holidays or weekends. A shift may last up to 14 hours at a time for domestic flights and longer for international flights. They typically spend approximately 65-90 hours in the air per month, and another 50 hours preparing to fly and writing reports. Overtime is paid for hours over the flight hours promised in their contracts. Much of their time is spent traveling. Airlines pay for hotels and provide meal allowances when flight attendants are away from home.

Certification and Requirements

Flight attendants are required to have at least a high school diploma, but a college diploma is preferred. Airlines may give preference to those who have attended flight attendant training programs. Degrees in psychology, communications and tourism are also given preference. Customer service experience is preferred, and if a flight attendant wants to work on an international flight, she generally must be fluent in a foreign language.

Most airlines provide formal training for newly hired flight attendants. This training is usually between three and eight weeks long and takes place at the flight training headquarters of the airline or of a partner airline. Attendants are not officially hired until they successfully complete this training. The training involves lessons on emergency equipment, first aid and water survival. Terrorism training, CPR and firefighting training may also be required. The FAA requires a flight attendant to complete this training to become certified. FAA certification is required for all flight attendants.

Job Outlook

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job prospects for flight attendants are supposed to grow at a rate of 11 percent between 2006 and 2016. This is on par with the 12 percent average growth projected for most occupations. Despite this average growth, competition for the jobs is intense due to high demand for this travel-intensive position.