Galley Gossip: How Being Married To A Flight Attendant Is Great Training For The Job

Photo: Christopher Bailey

Hi Heather, My wife is a flight attendant and for some time now I’ve been looking to make a career change and was thinking of becoming a flight attendant myself. I can see how she enjoys it and has fun with it and I’d like to try it, too. Do you think it would be a good or bad thing to bring up in an interview situation that I am married to a flight attendant or does it matter at all? Obviously being married to one gives me a greater insight and depth of understanding of the job and what it involves compared to many other candidates. I have a degree in Microbiology so I have somewhat of a brain, although my wife might debate that with you. I also co-managed a bar in Ireland before I came to the United States so I know what it’s like to have to deal with difficult and intoxicated customers. I also was an airport screener for a while and I’m a state certified emergency responder. I’d like to think these things would make me a strong candidate. Just curious what you think. Thanks for your time, Brian.

Based on your work experience alone, you sound like the perfect candidate to me! You’re comfortable cutting people off handling intoxicated passengers, you’re familiar with the responsibilities that go along with working at an airport, and you have a pretty good idea of what life is like in the sky. Being a certified emergency trainer will only make you more attractive to the airlines. Your wife, I’m sure, has mentioned that no one ever dies in flight, right? At least not until a doctor can make an official pronouncement. This might be why so many flight attendants have nursing backgrounds. Some are even senior enough to hold a flying schedule that allows them to balance a nursing career at the same time. These are always my favorite flight attendants to work with because when there’s an emergency in flight, they tend to take over. That being said, I truly believe it’s your wife that makes you a standout.

You've Got Heather Poole

You of all people should know that it takes a special person to be involved with a flight attendant. As you’ve mentioned, you already understand our crazy schedules and what the job entails. Most people don’t realize that being a flight attendant isn’t just a job, it’s a lifestyle, and it affects everything we do – or don’t do, because we can’t get the days off to do it. This explains why so many new flight attendants either quit a few weeks after successfully completing the training program or last a lifetime. It’s that extreme. Many people can’t deal with our long absences, missing holidays, not being able to make long-term plans, and our ever-changing schedules. Just last week I was reassigned not once, but twice before 10 a.m. on day two of a three-day trip, and then on day three, my three-day trip turned into a four-day trip. If there’s one thing that flight attendants have in common it’s that we always have back up plans A, B and C, because when it comes to working in the aviation industry something is bound to go wrong. It’s why being flexible in terms of scheduling is so important. This is exactly what makes you special. You understand all of this already. I say if you’ve got it, flaunt it! Good luck.

Galley Gossip: How To Answer Difficult Flight Attendant Interview Questions

I’m scheduled for a flight attendant interview on Tuesday! I’ve been through the process once before so I am familiar with the questions they may ask, but I’m just not confident in my answers sometimes. The hardest part is answering behavioral or situational questions. When they ask, “Name a time when…” I find it really hard to recall examples from my past work experience. I have trouble with these questions and I’m not sure what a good answer may be. I hope you can help. Here are a few examples.

1. How do you handle stress?

2. Name a time when you were under a lot of stress and how did you deal with it?

3. Describe a situation when you had to make a quick decision?

You’ve been through the interview process once before, so you already know what to expect. That’s half the battle. Try to relax and don’t forget to smile. Being able to keep your cool during a stressful situation is a big part of the job. The fact that the airline called you for a one-on-one interview says a lot about you. Thousands of people apply for the job, but very few applicants hear back from the airline. Remember that next time you’re not feeling overly confident. And try to have some fun.

When it comes to answering interview questions, the most important thing to do is let the airline know you’re a customer service oriented person – as often as possible. Talk about how you go above and beyond the call of duty to help people. Airlines are looking for flight attendants who are friendly, work well with others and take pride in their job. Try not to read too much into the questions. There’s no such thing as a right answer. You don’t have to share life-altering events for an airline to realize you’d make a great fit. Think in terms of the job. Keep it simple.

I can’t answer the questions for you, but I can give you a few things to think about when it comes to stress and making quick decisions.

 


1. How do you handle stress? Look how you’re handling it right now – perfectly. You’re doing everything possible to prepare for the interview. When you come prepared for something, you’re less stressed, and when you’re less stressed, you’re able to focus on the task at hand and do a better job. This is why the airlines spend weeks, even months, training flight attendants. When something goes wrong, we don’t think about it, we go right into action. How else do you think we’re able to evacuate hundreds of passengers during an emergency in just a few seconds?

2. Name a time when you were under a lot of stress and how did you deal with it? Running late, for me, is the worst stressor of all. When one thing goes wrong, it seems like everything goes wrong. This is why I give myself plenty of time to get to the airport. And why I set not one, but three alarms to wake me up when I have an early sign-in. Of course, it wasn’t until I found myself sprinting through the Tampa airport practically buttoning my blouse as I ran because my alarm didn’t go off to learn this lesson. Learn from your – er, my – mistakes. And pack the night before.

3. Describe a situation when you had to make a quick decision. Recently a passenger walked on board with his fly down. I could have ignored it, but I decided to tell him. I know I’d want to know! But I whispered it in his ear instead of saying it out loud for all the other passengers to hear. He blushed, turned around, and zipped up real quick. He also thanked me several times. Your quick decision doesn’t have to be a life changing event. Really you just want to show you’re a helpful person. When someone falls down, do you help them up or do you keep on going? It’s what the airline wants to know about you.

Hope that helps.

You might also want to check out this “Galley Gossip” post: “How To Prepare For A Flight Attendant Interview.”
[Photo courtesy of Kudumomo]

Galley Gossip: Flight attendant interview – The pros and cons of speaking a second language and how it affects reserve

Dear Heather, I am hoping to become a flight attendant soon (have a face to face interview next week!) and have a question about reserve status. I speak Japanese fluently and was wondering how different things are for flight attendants who speak a different language. Are they on reserve for the same amount of time? Is anything different? – Natasha

For the first time in history being a flight attendant is considered a profession, not just a job. Fewer flight attendants are quitting, turnover is not as high as it once was, and competition to become a flight attendant has gotten fierce. Ninety-six percent of people who apply to become a flight attendant do not get a call back. In December of 2010 Delta Airlines received more than 100,000 applications after announcing they had an opening for 1,000 flight attendants. Even though it is not a requirement to have a college degree, only the most qualified applicants are hired. Being able to speak a second language will greatly improve your chance!

The only thing that affects reserve status is company seniority (class hire date). Seniority is assigned by date of birth within each training class. This means the oldest classmate will become the most senior flight attendant in your class. Seniority is everything at an airline, and I mean everything! It determines whether you’ll work holidays, weekends and when, if ever, you’ll be off reserve. So it’s important to accept the earliest training date offered.

While speaking another language doesn’t affect how long you’ll serve reserve, it will have an impact on your flying career.

PROS

1. MORE MONEY. “Speakers” earn more per hour than non-speakers. Unfortunately it’s only a few dollars on top of what a regular flight attendant is paid. Remember most flight attendants make between fourteen to eighteen thousand a year the first year on the job, so every dollar counts.2. GOOD TRIPS. Speakers on reserve are assigned trips to foreign countries where people speak their language. No offense to cities like Phoenix, Pittsburgh or Portland, but a layover in Paris is just a tad bit more desirable. Not just because it’s a foreign city with exciting things to do and see, but because international routes pay more per hour (on top of speaker pay).

3. DAYS OFF. An international flight usually ranges between eight to fourteen hours, while domestic flights rarely go over six hours. Because flight attendants are paid for flight hours only – all that time we spend on the ground is not considered flying time, which means the flight attendant greeting you at the boarding door is not being paid – it takes domestic flight attendants a lot longer to get in their hours each month. Flight attendants who work international routes work what is considered “high-time” trips and high-time trips equate to more days off.

CONS

4. BAD TRIPS. Speakers get what is called “bid denied”. What this means is they get stuck working the same trip until they have enough seniority to hold something else. I know a number of speakers who became so tired of working the same route week after week, month after month, year after year, they chose to drop their language qualification altogether. In the beginning of ones flying career, a thirty-six hour layover in Paris might sound great, but even Paris gets old after awhile.

5. LESS FLEXIBILITY: The best thing about being a flight attendant is the flexible lifestyle. Because we’re paid only for the hours we work, we’re free to manipulate our schedules however we like. We can work high-time one month and not at all the next month. We can also “back up” our trips. Most flight attendants are scheduled a few days off between each trip. By trading trips we’re able to adjust our schedules so that we can fly several trips in a row in order to get a big chunk of days off to go on vacation or just hang out at home. Speakers have a harder time doing this because they can only trade, drop, and swap with another speaker that has the same qualifications.

6. PROBLEM FLIGHTS: On domestic routes problem passengers have no trouble letting us know what’s wrong. At my airline international routes are only required to be staffed with one speaker per cabin. If we don’t speak the language, we have no idea there’s a problem or if we do know there’s a problem, we have no idea what the problem is, and the flight goes on as peacefully as it had been. Unfortunately those who do speak the language get stuck handling all the problems.

Photo courtesy of Dmytrock’s