Galley Gossip: Advice for flight attendants in training


I have been just recently hired as a flight attendant for a commuter airlines called Colgan Air. I am just emailing you to ask for some advice on starting out, tips of the trade! I hope to hear from you soon!




Even in this day and age of travel when being a flight attendant isn’t quite as glamorous as it once was, airlines receive thousands of applications each month from people who are interested in the job. This means competition is fierce. Airlines choose only the best candidates. That, Leilah, says a lot about you. Congratulations!

When it comes to flight attendant training, as well as those first few months on the job, my advice to you is simply this, do not quit! Trust me, at some point you will want to. I’ve been there. We all have. Just remember that no matter how frustrated or tired you become, do not give up. Training will only last a few weeks and when it’s over you’ll have a lifetime of adventure ahead of you. No matter how much you miss your friends, family, and loved ones, do not throw in the towel. Stay focused. Think about all the great places you can take your family and friends once you get your travel benefits. No matter how much someone misses you and begs you to come home, don’t quit. Just think about all those days off (at least twelve of them) that you can spend with them when you’re not working a nine to five job – Every. Single. Day. No matter which crew base you’re assigned, do not make any rash decisions. The job is flexible and in time you will figure out how to manipulate your flight schedule so that you can be exactly where you want to be whenever you want to be there. Remember, the job is unlike any other job, so it only makes sense that it will take some getting used to. Eventually you will figure out how to make the job work for you.

While I know the job is not for everyone, I just want to make sure you give it enough time before making any drastic decisions. Because it’s not just a job, it’s a lifestyle, a very unusual one. I say this because years ago I had a crash pad roommate who, after eight months on the job, decided to quit. She wanted to become a hairdresser. Two years later she wanted her old job back. So she reapplied, scored a few interviews with different airlines, and, as far as I know, never did get hired again.

As for flight attendant training, it can be overwhelming at times. In fact, I found the seven and a half week course at my airline to be tougher than four years of college. Not because it was hard, per se, but because there is a lot of information to absorb in a short amount of time. On top of this, there will be late nights and early mornings with very little sleep in between. You will, at some point, feel exhausted. You might also find yourself having trouble thinking clearly, or even thinking at all! Then when classmates begin to suddenly disappear, you may become paranoid. I know I did. At one point I truly believed that the salt and pepper shakers in the cafeteria might be bugged. I mean why else were classmates going POOF! during a five minute bathroom break, never to be seen or heard from again?

Now mix it all together; all that new information coming in at once, the exhaustion, the paranoia, not to mention feelings of homesickness, and you’ve got a trainee reacting in ways they might not normally behave. Perhaps by pushing trainees to their breaking point the airlines believe they will observe how future flight attendants might react in less than desirable situations at 30,000 feet. Maybe this is just a way an airline can filter out the weak since a big part of the job is remaining calm under pressure.

A few other tips…

1. Don’t be late. The airplane doesn’t wait for anyone, so why would your instructor? Unless a flight is understaffed, an airline will not delay a departure in order to wait on a flight attendant who is running late. If you’re late to class be prepared to leave your flight manual by the locked door and return to wherever you came from.

2. Get lots of rest. Nodding off in class is another way to obtain your walking papers. Flight attendants must stay awake during a flight unless it’s a long haul flight overseas with scheduled crew breaks. We are to remain alert at all times in order to handle in flight emergencies quickly and swiftly. Caffeine is your friend.

3. Beware of flight instructors. Do not get confused and think you’re friends with a flight instructor. Oh sure they might be nice, at first, but it’s their job to make sure that only the best flight attendants graduate. Trust me, they’re just looking for a reason to get rid of you, so don’t make it easy by letting your guard down.

Hope that helps, Leilah, and good luck to you!

Heather Poole

** ATTENTION FLIGHT ATTENDANTS: Share your flight attendant training stories below – the good, the bad, and the ugly.

Photos courtesy of Jfithian and Jfithian

Plane Answers: Follow up questions to ‘So you want to be a pilot.’

Welcome to Gadling’s feature, Plane Answers, where our resident airline pilot, Kent Wien, answers your questions about everything from takeoff to touchdown and beyond. Have a question of your own? Ask away!

We’ve received a lot of follow up questions to the Plane Answers post from last week, “So you want to be a pilot. Here’s how.” The following questions were chosen from those who wrote in asking about a career change:

Rick asks:

I read your article last week about pilot training and careers “So you want to be a pilot?” on Gadling. I am 55 years old. Is it too late for some one my age to consider a career in commercial aviation? I am in excellent health and train daily (running, swimming and cycling).

Hi Rick,

The mandatory retirement age is 65 for airlines, but there isn’t a retirement age for corporate flying, instructing or ‘Part 135‘ charters.

If an airline hired you at 59 or 60, you may find it impossible to recoup your investment in the years of flight training you’d have to accomplish.

But there’s usually pretty good demand for flight instructors who are willing to stay with a company, as opposed to those who are building time with their sights set on the first charter or airline job that comes along. If you really enjoy flying, and you think you might be a good teacher, that could be your best bet. And you can often continue working somewhere else while you instruct on the weekends, for example, especially since the pay for instructors is so low, you’ll likely need a second job anyway.
And who knows, you may find some charter work to do after a few years of instructing.

There was a time when major airlines wouldn’t hire anyone who wasn’t young enough to eventually make it to the left seat. At my airline, the unwritten age limit in 1998 was 47. The retirement age back then was 60. I would imagine airlines may start using 50 as a cutoff. Since most airlines aren’t hiring pilots right now, it’s hard to know for sure.

Good luck. And even if you decide not to fly commercially, give some thought to getting a private pilot license. You’ll likely enjoy the process.

And Carl asks a similar question:

In your article you stated that the mandatory retirement age was 65. Does that mean that you can’t fly commercially after 65 or just for the major airlines. I’m looking at early retirement at 55 and would like to do charters to hunting and fishing sites and small to medium groups to special destinations.

Flying charters to fishing or hunting locations often involves flying a floatplane for a guide service. There is no retirement age for those operators, but the experience requirements are steep. Insurance companies dictate the minimum flight time for these pilots, and most require experience in that particular location.

Having grown up in Alaska, I can tell you that there are thousands of high-time pilots who are thinking along the same lines as you. If you do decide to pursue this goal, you might be better off learning to fly from one of the flight schools in the area where you’re hoping to work, so your experience can be considered local. And you may end up getting to know some of the operators there as well which will help in the networking department.

You can find a list of flight schools in your area here.

Jeromy asks:

Hi Kent,

I’m approaching 30 and I’ve been considering a career change lately due to my lack of desire to sit behind a desk for the rest of my life. I was a wildland firefighter for several seasons while working my way through engineering school. I loved the job and I remember looking up at the lead plane pilots flying low guiding the heavy tankers, showing them where to drop the fire retardant. I always thought that would be a thrilling position, dangerous though it may be. Now I feel like I’m at a crossroads, and my dream of living that adventure could lie down one of those roads.

The requirements seem to be around a minimum of 1300 hrs to get your foot in the door. How would you recommend achieving this dream expediently, while trying to feed a family at the same time?

Hi Jeromy,

I agree. Flying in a firefighting support role has been a dream of mine since I first saw the movie “Always.”

Your first step is to get your Private Pilot License as I explained last week. Since you have a family and a job, I would recommend going the Part 61 route, since it’s usually easier to set your own pace, and the hourly rates are often less expensive. Hopefully you can finish up your commercial, multi-engine and instrument ratings with them (you’ll need all three) and move along to a part time instructing job to build time.

While you’re doing that, try to get in touch with some of the pilots who do the job. Networking is the best way to land any flying job, and you may discover just what requirements you’ll need. I have to think that your firefighting experience might appeal to an employer, though.

There were so many good comments from last week’s column, I’m hopeful someone who flies tankers will respond here with some more detailed advice for you.

Do you have a question about something related to the pointy end of an airplane? Ask Kent and maybe he’ll use it for the next Plane Answer’s Plane Answers. Check out his other blog, Cockpit Chronicles and travel along with him at work. Twitter @veryjr