Flight attendants held about 106,300 jobs in 2021. The largest employers of flight attendants were as follows:
|Scheduled air transportation||96%|
|Nonscheduled air transportation||1|
Flight attendants work primarily in the cabins of passenger aircraft. Dealing directly with passengers and standing for long periods may be stressful and tiring. Occasionally, flights encounter air turbulence, which may make providing service more difficult and cause anxiety in some passengers. Handling emergencies and unruly customers also may be difficult and stressful.
Flight attendants may spend many nights away from home. Employers typically provide meal allowances and may arrange sleeping accommodations, such as in hotels or apartments shared by a group of flight attendants.
Injuries and Illnesses
Flight attendants have one of the highest rates of injuries and illnesses of all occupations. Common injuries include sprains, strains, and bruises. To avoid injury, these workers must follow safety procedures. For example, they must ensure that overhead compartments are closed, especially during turbulence, so that carry-on items don’t fall and present a risk to everyone in the cabin. Attendants also ensure that carts are properly stowed and latched during emergencies to prevent injuries to passengers and themselves.
Flight attendants may have variable schedules, and part-time work is common. They often work nights, weekends, and holidays because airlines operate every day and have overnight flights. They may spend several nights per week or per month away from home. In most cases, a contract between the airline and the flight attendant union determines the total daily and monthly workable hours.
On-duty shifts per day may vary from 4 to 18 hours or longer, such as for international flights. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires specific hours of rest between duty periods based on the duration of a completed duty period. Each month, flight attendants may fly a specified number of hours and generally spend another specified number of hours on the ground preparing flights, writing reports, and waiting for aircraft to arrive.
A flight attendant’s assignments of home base and route are based on seniority. New flight attendants must be flexible with their schedule and location. Almost all flight attendants start out working on call, also known as reserve status. Flight attendants on reserve usually live near their home airport, because they may have to report to work on short notice.
As they earn more seniority, flight attendants may have more control over their schedules. For example, some senior flight attendants may choose to live outside their home base and commute to work. Others may choose to work only on regional flights. On small corporate airlines, flight attendants may work on an as-needed basis.
Flight attendants receive training from their employer and must be certified by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Flight attendants typically need a high school diploma or the equivalent and work experience in customer service.
Applicants must meet minimum age requirements, typically 18 or 21; be eligible to work in the United States; have a valid passport; and pass a background check and drug test. They must have vision that is correctable to at least 20/40 and often need to conform to height requirements set by the airline. Flight attendants also may have to pass a medical evaluation.
Flight attendants should present a professional appearance, which may be defined by the employer.
A high school diploma is typically required to become a flight attendant. Some airlines may prefer to hire applicants who have taken some college courses or who have a college degree.
Those working on international flights may need fluency in a foreign language.
Prospective attendants may enroll in flight attendant academies.
Work Experience in a Related Occupation
Flight attendants typically need 1 or 2 years of work experience in a service occupation before getting their first job as a flight attendant. This experience may include customer service positions in restaurants, hotels, or resorts. Experience in sales or in other positions that require close contact with the public and focus on service to customers also may help develop the skills needed to be a successful flight attendant.
After a flight attendant is hired, airlines provide initial training that typically lasts for several weeks or a few months. The training usually takes place at the airline’s flight training center and is required for FAA certification.
Trainees learn emergency procedures such as evacuating aircraft, operating emergency equipment, and administering first aid. They also receive specific instruction on flight regulations, company operations, and job duties.
Toward the end of the training, students go on practice flights. They must complete the training to keep a job with the airline. Once they have passed initial training, new flight attendants receive the FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency and continue to receive additional on-the-job training as required by their employer.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
All flight attendants must be certified by the FAA. To become certified, flight attendants must complete their employer’s initial training program and pass an exam. Flight attendants are certified for specific types of aircraft and must take new training for each type of aircraft on which they are to work. In addition, attendants receive recurrent training every year to maintain their certification.
Career advancement is based on seniority. On international flights, senior attendants frequently oversee the work of other attendants. Senior attendants may be promoted to management positions in which they are responsible for recruiting, instructing, and scheduling.
Flight attendants typically have an interest in the Helping, Persuading, and Organizing interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Helping interest area indicates a focus on assisting, serving, counseling, or teaching other people. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people. The Organizing interest area indicates a focus on working with information and processes to keep things arranged in orderly systems.
If you are not sure whether you have a Helping, Persuading, or Organizing interest which might fit with a career as a flight attendant, you can take a career test to measure your interests.
Flight attendants should also possess the following specific qualities:
Attentiveness. Flight attendants must be aware of passengers’ needs to ensure a pleasant travel experience. They must also be aware of any security or safety risks.
Communication skills. Flight attendants should speak clearly, listen attentively, and interact comfortably with passengers and other crew members.
Customer-service skills. Flight attendants should have poise, tact, and resourcefulness to handle stressful situations and meet passengers' needs.
Decision-making skills. Flight attendants must be able to act decisively in emergency situations.
Physical stamina. Flight attendants may need to lift baggage and stand and walk for long periods. They often need to conform to height and weight requirements and have vision that is correctable to at least 20/40. Flight attendants may have to pass a medical evaluation.
Flight attendants should present a professional appearance and not have visible tattoos, body piercings, or an unusual hairstyle or makeup.
The median annual wage for flight attendants was $61,640 in May 2021. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $37,020, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $81,400.
In May 2021, the median annual wages for flight attendants in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Scheduled air transportation||$61,870|
|Nonscheduled air transportation||61,830|
Flight attendants receive an allowance for meals and accommodations while working away from home. Although attendants may be required to purchase an initial set of uniforms and luggage, their employer usually pays for replacements and upkeep. Flight attendants generally are eligible for discounted airfare or free standby seats through their airline.
Flight attendants may have variable schedules, and part-time work is common.
Employment of flight attendants is projected to grow 21 percent from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all occupations.
About 18,100 openings for flight attendants are projected each year, on average, over the decade. Many of those openings are expected to result from the need to replace workers who transfer to different occupations or exit the labor force, such as to retire.
Much of the projected employment growth in this occupation is due to recovery from the COVID-19 recession of 2020 and is likely to occur early in the projections decade. A return to normal patterns of travel following the pandemic is expected to support job growth of flight attendants, who will continue to be needed to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers on flights.
For more information about flight attendants, visit the career webpage of any airline company, contact its personnel department, or visit
Association of Flight Attendants—CWA (AFA-CWA)
Association of Professional Flight Attendants (APFA)
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)