Galley Gossip: A question about “flight attendant training schools”

Dear Heather,

Could you please tell me which course of action I should take to become a flight attendant. Should I take a college training program that offers a diploma, or should I go to a airline and go through their training program? I have read a lot concerning flight attendants today and I don’t know what to believe when it comes to the training procedures. Thank you for your time and hope to meet you one day,

Maggie from Kamloops bc

Dear Maggie,

I do not know one flight attendant who has gone to a school offering a certificate or diploma to become a flight attendant that has actually become a flight attendant. I believe those schools are a waste of time and money and do not recommend them at all. In fact, one of the reasons I’ve shied away from advertising offers on my personal blog is because I do not want those kinds of ads, flight attendant training school ads, associated with my name. I refuse to endorse something I do not believe in.

If you want to become a flight attendant, apply to the airlines directly. Each airline has their own training program that can range from two to seven weeks long. The first airline I ever worked for, Sun Jet International Airlines, was a charter airline with only three (leased) aircrafts, all MD80’s once owned by Hawaiian Air. Sun Jet flew from Dallas to Newark, Ft. Lauderdale, and Long Beach for just $69 a flight – twice a day. Even that teeny tiny airline had their own training program that lasted two weeks.

I only worked three months for Sun Jet before I applied to a major airline and actually got hired. Even with all the hands on experience I received working for a small airline, I still wasn’t completely prepared for the intensive training I went through with the major airline. Every airline owns different types of aircraft and many of those airplanes have been reconfigured making them different from the same airplane flown at another airline. Also, our medical and emergency procedures differ from other airlines, which is why getting a diploma at a “flight attendant school” not connected with a specific airline doesn’t make sense.

After I read your letter, I searched FLIGHT ATTENDANT SCHOOLS just to see what they had to say. The Travel Academy states the following

Airlines in the US currently employ approximately 86,000 flight attendants and hire almost 8,000 more each year. The minimum hiring requirements for becoming a flight attendant are High School Diploma or GED and at least 18 years of age. However, to get hired you need poise, a strong presentation, and the ability to connect with people.

Even in this day and age of travel, people still dream of becoming a flight attendant, which means your competition is fierce. Granted, you can become a flight attendant with just a high school diploma and a GED, but because there are so many applicants to choose from, airlines have the option of picking future candidates who have a lot more to offer than just the basics. Not only do I have a college degree, but I’ve held many jobs in the past that required good customer service. Customer service experience is a must. .

As for poise, a strong presentation, and the ability to connect with people, these traits are important. So is being flexible. That said, you do NOT need to pay money and go through weeks of training at a so-called “flight attendant training school” to acquire these traits.

In our weak economy today, airlines are struggling to stay afloat and very few are hiring. In fact, most airlines are laying off. That’s why getting a college degree is important. You want to have something to fall back on if you do become a flight attendant and find yourself grounded. My advice to you is to get a college degree, or some sort of technical training, before you apply with an airline. Learning to speak a foreign language is also a plus.

The flight attendant I worked with last night, Shirley, not only has a college degree, but speaks three languages and worked for several airlines before ending up at my airline. Shirley is now in the process of getting a certificate in court reporting, a two year training program. Why? Because after ten years of flying for a major carrier Shirley is about to be furloughed. That pretty much means she’s being “layed off”, only the airlines have to call her back to work before they can hire someone else.

The Travel Academy also states…

Ninety-six percent of people that apply to become a flight attendant without our training don’t get a second interview.

I’m fairly certain that ninety-six percent of people that apply to become a flight attendant with OR WITHOUT training from The Travel Academy don’t get a second interview. But don’t let that deter you. I applied to a major airline, got an interview, and did not get hired. Shirley, the flight attendant I mentioned above, had an amazing career working six years for a prestigious charter airline. She actually wore white gloves and flew around the world twice. She also applied to a specific major airline 18 times – 18 TIMES! And never got hired. After sending an application to my airline, she was hired a few months later. Not only is she an amazing flight attendant, hardworking, always smiling, and lots of fun, she’s one of my favorite flight attendants to work with. The airline that didn’t hire her really lost out.

As for the money you’ll spend on one of these training schools, Flight Attendant Express, another company offering flight attendant training, states…

The reason these schools charge a lot of money and keep you for WEEKS and/or MONTHS at a time is because it takes a long time to learn Sabre, the computer system they teach, which is used for booking airline reservations. Keep in mind that the financial aid they offer is NOT free – it is a loan that must be paid back and it will eat into your paycheck for years! Our program is only $899 and includes your hotel room.

Their program is ONLY $899! That’s a lot of money to spend on a program that can’t guarantee a job with a company that is going to train you once you are hired. And yet you’ll still have to spend even more money once you are hired by an airline. My airline paid for our training, food, and lodging, but not our uniforms. Who knew blue polyester could cost $2,000? (It was pay roll deducted out our checks over the years) Your expenses don’t stop there. The very day my wings were pinned to my blue lapel, the airline flew me to my crew base where I was expected to find a place to live with only four days to do so before I had to fly my first trip. Nine times out of ten you will not be based in your hometown, which means you’ll need enough money to rent an apartment in whichever city you are based in.

Not to mention, flight attendants don’t make a lot of money. In 1995 I made only 18K – and I work for a major airline! After 9/11 flight attendants, at my airline, took a 30% pay cut, so new hires today aren’t even making what I made when I first started.

As for learning Sabre, unless you’re going to become a ticket, gate, or travel agent, you will not need weeks worth of training on the computer. Though it’s all a blur now, I’m pretty sure my Sabre class only lasted a day or two. That’s it. So save your money, apply to the airlines directly, and let them train you on their dollar, not yours.

For more information on how to become a flight attendant, read my Galley Gossip post, A question about Southwest Airlines, AirTran Airways, and other airlines who may be hiring flight attendants, and make sure to check out for even more information.


Photos courtesy of (flight attendant) Limeydog, (slide) Fly For Fun, (flight attendants) Nicholas McGowan

Galley Gossip: 20 ways to use a maxi pad in flight

Before I share the list – 20 ways to use a maxi-pad in flight, I first must explain
how this post even came to be. I don’t want you to think I spend my time sitting around thinking about maxi pads. Trust me, there’s a method to the madness.

So there I sat at La Guardia airport in New York inside flight service operations, relaxing in a beat up, reclining chair, not watching the weather channel on the screen in front of me. I’d been sitting there for hours due to the fact it was my turn to serve standby. For those of you who aren’t familiar with airline lingo, standby is a term used when flight attendants on reserve are required to spend three to six hours, depending on the airline, at the airport just sitting around and waiting to be called out to work a flight in case someone doesn’t show up at the last minute. At my airline, this happens once or twice every reserve month.

On that particular day Sean sat in the recliner beside me. He’d been cracking me up since the moment I’d sat down. Now I’ve written about Sean in the past. In fact, he was the lead flight attendant, the one in charge, in the Galley Gossip post about a child who had gotten lost in first class. At some point our conversation turned serious and Sean shared a story about a medical emergency that forced him to become quite resourceful and do something that impressed me greatly. He used a maxi pad as a bandaid.

“You’re brilliant, Sean. You really are. I would have never thought of doing something like that,” I said, and that’s when it hit me, “hey, we should make a list of all the different ways we could use a maxi pad in flight!” We didn’t make the list, but we did laugh about it.

Flash forward three months later. On a flight to Los Angeles, I walked into the galley, looked up, and saw it – a maxi pad shoved between two ceiling panels. It was there to soak up condensation that would otherwise drip on me. Right then and there I knew I had to make the list, and with the help of my crew, flight attendants who never cease to amaze me, we came up with 20 unique ways to use a maxi pad in flight.

The day after the list was created a passenger on our flight back to New York stepped into the galley, held out a white sleeve, and in a British accent asked, “Do you have anything I can use to get this off of me?” Red lint covered her white cotton blouse. “It’s from the blanket!”

“I’m sorry,” said one of my coworkers. “There’s nothing we can really do…except give you a few wet paper towels to wipe it off.”

“But I’ve got somewhere important to be when I get off this flight and I can’t go looking like this!” she exclaimed, shaking both arms at us.

If we hadn’t made the list the day before, I would have never thought of using a maxi-pad as a lint brush, which means I would have never said, “Well…there is something we can use…” I nodded my head in the direction of the lavatory, smiling mischievously.

Heather, one of my colleagues, explained to the passenger that a strip of tape on the back of a maxi pad could be used to remove the lint- that is if she didn’t mind patting herself down with it. The passenger just nodded and then disappeared into the lav.

Two minutes later the passenger spun around in the galley and sang, “It worked! Thank you so very much.”


  1. Headrest
  2. Oven mitts
  3. Light shade
  4. Condensation absorbent.
  5. Towel
  6. Mop
  7. Bag handle
  8. Hair remover
  9. Band aid
  10. Tape
  11. Arm rest
  12. Eye mask
  13. Lint brush
  14. Curtain holder
  15. Shoe insole
  16. Cool compress
  17. Beer koozie
  18. Coffee filter
  19. Post-it note
  20. YOU TELL ME!
  • That’s right, this is your chance to channel your inner flight attendant and come up with an interesting way to use a maxi-pad. Just leave a comment below and I’ll choose the best idea. May the best wanna-be flight attendant win!

    And just when you think you’re done with a post, you go to to search for photos to go along with your bizarre post and find this…
    (just had to share!)

    Photos courtesy of (smiling girl) pinkcandylemon, (hair tie back) Hyesterical Bertha, (blister cover) Elizabeth Mcquern

Galley Gossip: A letter from a frequent flyin’, two-timin’, cheat!

Dear Airline,

I remember the first day we met. It was love at first flight. We’ve shared countless hours together- oh the places we’ve gone. It’s been bumpy at times, but I always stuck up for you when people called you old and grumpy. I even stuck by you when you dropped service to Providence, my home town! But lately something has changed. You don’t treat me the way you used to. You started charging me for every little thing, even the things we used to enjoy for free. And now when I fly you, you seem to always be tired and give out on me before we even get anywhere. You’ve even gotten skimpy with the meals.

Well now there’s someone else. I won’t lie. Why you ask? Because she’s not falling apart. Her meals aren’t as good as yours, and sometimes I really DO miss your salty nuts, but the temptation is there. I know what you’re thinking, it’s that she can offer me the updated MD88 AND the MD90…and you can’t! It’s true, you’re right.

Maybe there’s still a chance for us- let’s fly it out. How about a day trip together. How about a nice double mad dog Chicago turn on my next day off? Lunch and Dinner on YOU? Maybe some wine? Let me know!

An “ex” frequent flier

Dear “ex” frequent flier,

I’m not the only one who has changed. Putting the blame on me is just so typical. There you sit with your salty nuts moaning and groaning about everything I do, meanwhile you haven’t put a hand in your pocket for years. You flew the lap of luxury for the cost of a coach ticket over the last ten years, never once thinking about how I’m always able to give, give, give and never ask for anything in return – other than your loyalty. As with every relationship something has to give!

While you continue seeking out the other carriers, always looking for a shinier, newer, prettier, airplane, I continue to fly the same routes day in and day out with every one of my seats occupied. Haven’t you noticed that others still find me attractive and whenever you leave someone is quick to take your place?

A new airline doesn’t always have more to offer, ya know? Don’t you realize that regardless of the color of my paint, the order in which you board, or the snacks I serve, when it comes down to it we’re all pretty much the same? That whenever you stray, you’re just trading in one set of problems for a whole new set – many times an even worse set! So please, for the love of God, show a little respect and stop blatantly checking out the competition. It only makes me feel worthless, unimportant, and unloved – after all we’ve been through together! Seriously, how long do you think I’m going to just sit at the gate and wait for you to come to your senses? And do you actually believe I’ll accept your apology when you come crawling back for more? Because we both know you will. You always do.

Instead of flying it out, why don’t you keep flying your new sweet little airline. Honestly, I can’t wait to see how long that lasts. I’ll bet money your little airline goes bust and you find yourself back on the road to qualifying miles. Sooner or later you’ll learn all that glitters isn’t gold, and then you’ll be right back to what you know. Yeah, I may be old and I may even be a little grumpy at times, but I still have what you want; cheap flights, decent service, and more routes than that new airline of yours!


The Old Airline.

P.S. Just because she says she’s a virgin doesn’t mean she is!

Photos courtesy of Telstar Logistics and Ack Ook

Galley Gossip: In-flight emergencies – what are the odds?

Standing at row 33 behind the beverage cart, I handed a passenger a Diet Coke with extra lime. That’s when another passenger came racing up behind me and yelled, “There’s a fire in the bathroom!”

A fire on the airplane is one of my biggest fears as a flight attendant. Only because I’m quite familiar with how quickly a fire can get out of control. Once, years ago, I lit an Aveda travel candle and placed it on a shelf in the bathroom of my crash pad. As luck would have it, the Aveda candle was housed in a silver tin that got so hot it melted the plastic shelf. The candle dropped into a wicker basket full of tissue. Within seconds the flames climbed the walls and jumped onto the fluffy toilet seat cover. To make a long story short, I frantically fought the fire and eventually was able to put it out. I was lucky that day.

I looked up the aisle at the lavatory the passenger was now pointing at, and though I couldn’t see any smoke, I turned to my colleague and said, “Call the Captain. I’ll be right back.”

Did I happen to mention that FAA was on board scrutinizing our every move?

My heart raced as I walked up the aisle. I had barely cracked the accordion door open when I heard passengers coughing loudly throughout the cabin. Smoke began billowing out of the trash receptacle. A cigarette, I guessed.

“I can’t breath!” I heard several passengers scream.

Quickly I shut the door, opened an overhead bin, grabbed a bottle of halon, pulled out the pin, and pushed the lavatory door back open. Pointing the hose at the fire, I pressed the lever and sprayed. I also prayed. Two seconds later a colleague handed me another bottle of halon. When that was empty, another tank was placed in my hands. The smoke grew thicker and thicker as the coughing got louder and louder. A giant hazmat-looking-hood that covers the entire head and provides oxygen while fighting fires was thrust upon me.

While I continued fighting the fire, my colleagues moved passengers and oxygen bottles away from the lavatory. Because the flight was full, passengers were doubled up. Then my colleagues passed out wet towels and instructed passengers to use them to cover their mouths.

As soon as the fire was extinguished, the Captain’s voice boomed, “Flight attendants, prepare for landing!”

Frantically we threw everything into the carts and locked it all in place. It was then we took our jumpseats and tried to catch our breath.

“Very good!” our instructors called out.

The FAA guy didn’t respond. He just sat there taking notes.

“Now grab your manuals and let’s go over what just happened,” an instructor said. And that’s what we did. We all grabbed our in-flight crew manuals and discussed what had happened and what we could have done better.

The above scenario took place in a controlled environment during my flight attendant recurrent training session. (Click the link to read what happened last year) It was also a re-enactment of what actually took place on a flight earlier this year. Each year flight attendants are required to go through hours of intensive hands on training, practicing everything from CPR to what we should do in case of a terrorist attack, and each year I leave the training facility feeling prepared for just about anything.

Whenever I write a post centering around customer service or flight safety, it never fails, there’s always someone quick to point out how rare it is that an in-flight emergency will occur. And that’s alway following by how bad customer service is today and how flight attendants should be replaced with vending machines – vending machines! I kid you not.

Besides having a very large woman pass out on top of me in the middle of the aisle, a man traveling from an international destination vomit all over my crew bag – and uniform blazer, a woman go unconscious not once, but twice, during a meal service, and wing flaps that wouldn’t go up one occasion, or down on another, resulting in the aircraft being met by dozens of emergency vehicles on the ground while I sat in my jumpseat ready to pop a slide and command an evacuation at any moment, not much has happened during my fourteen years of flying. The one and only time I had a serious medical emergency (a woman had a heart attack) two of my crew members happened to be qualified nurses and in business class traveled a group of doctors on their way to a medical convention. Like I mentioned above, I’ve been really lucky.

So what are the odds that an in-flight emergency will occur on one of your flights? I don’t know. What I do know is that I was surprised to meet several flight attendants at recurrent training this year who had, in fact, experienced several emergencies – each!

After fighting the fire, I found myself practicing CPR on the floor with a flight attendant I’d never met before. He was in charge of the AED, which meant he was the one delivering the electrical shock when advised. “Have you ever had to do this in real life?” I asked as I pulled off a pair of plastic gloves and placed a pocket mask in a box being passed around the room.

“Twice,” he said as he got to his feet and helped me up.

“Twice?” I repeated. “Are you serious?” I could tell by the look on his face it had greatly affected him.

The next class involved going through a planned emergency. A planned emergency happens when flight attendants are alerted in flight by the cockpit that an emergency landing will take place. Flight attendants will then go through a planned emergency check list step by step until all tasks have been completed. Remember the miraculous Hudson River landing? That was a planned emergency landing.

As we sat on the mock airplane waiting for the instructors to announce the names of the “working crew” I sighed. The stress was getting to me. “Thank god I’ve never had to do this in real life,” I mumbled to the guy sitting beside me.

“Oh I’ve had four planned emergencies and one unplanned emergency.”

I just looked at him. Then I said, “No offense, but I hope I never have to fly with you!”

“Why?” he asked, still smiling. “I’m lucky!” That’s when I realized he was lucky, very lucky indeed!
Then he added, “During one of the planned emergencies I worked with a flight attendant who had brought along his 8 year-old son. Can you imagine? What are the odds that the day you bring your child on a flight you’re working is the day an engine catches on fire and you have to make an emergency landing?”

Just then an instructor called my seatmate’s name to play the lead flight attendant during the planned emergency landing we were about to re-enact, along with eight other names. Mine wasn’t one of them, thankfully. Even so, I shook my head as I sat in my seat, just like a real life passenger, and thought about the so-called odds and what it all meant. I mean what were the odds that the one guy in the room most qualified to handle a planned emergency landing would be called out to role-play the flight attendant in charge? What were the odds that my CPR partner would have had to actually perform it in flight on two seperate occassions? What are the odds of anything, really? And in the end, do the odds even matter?

Are you a flight attendant who has experienced an in-flight emergency? Share your story here!


Galley Gossip: Nonreving – a new web site for airline employees (and retirees)

Dear Heather

came across your blog recently and I wanted to introduce you to our web site just in case you were not aware of it already. Our web site is really the first of its kind allowing Non Rev travelers to see flight schedules and more importantly, flight loads on over 130 airlines around the world. We obtain data from Sabre® global distribution system; interpret that date thru our complex formulas to put seat availability in to 1 of 5 easy to understand categories. Members who use our web site can search flights all over the world to plan their Non Rev travels or commutes. Once a member chooses the flight(s) they wish to Non Rev on, they can set up mobile and email alerts to keep them apprised of the latest loads. Since flight loads are quite dynamic and can change often before departure, it is important to keep informed of the latest loads. With our service, our members can easily choose to set up alerts from 24 hours up to 1 hour before departure thus keeping them updated while they go about their normal activities.



Dear Brad,

I haven’t had a chance to log in and check it out, but why use your site opposed to the one I normally use?


PS – Where were you last month? That’s actually me in the video (below) using my laptop to check passengers loads from Chicago to New York.

Dear Heather,

I am not sure what site you normally use, so I will have to give some general answers.

1. Most airline employee web sites only allow you to look up flight loads on your airline. For example, if you work for US Airways, you can look up your loads but you don’t have access to any other airline.

2. Following number one, who flies the same city pair you trying fly on? Our site allows you to see over 170 airlines around the world that fly that route. With that information at your finger tips you can choose the best option for you to non rev on. It might fit a better departure/arrival time for you or it might be a better load. Wouldn’t you rather fly on an empty airplane flown by another airline than be stuck in last row middle seat for a 5 or more hour flight? One of the most important rules to non reving is having back up plans.

3. Once again, I don’t know what source you use, but many airline employees and retirees do not have access to a “quality” web site for a source. Even their company’s web site may be antiquated and or very slow. Most airlines do not spend money, time or other resources on providing the top notch employee non rev web sites.

4. With our system you can sign up for alerts to your cell phone and email. Let me give an example of how this is beneficial. You and your family are going to be flying from LAX to HNL in two days. The loads look OK right now but we know that could change in the next 48 hours. Now you can check your company web site or call your company reservations every so often to learn the latest loads or sign up for alerts on our web site and you will automatically get sent a text message at times you want before departure. This allows you to now not to have to be in front of a computer or call a reservations line to get the latest loads. We do all the work for you. Go about your normal activities such as shopping, golfing or just hanging at the beach on your way back from HNL. Maybe an earlier flight now looks better or maybe the loads got really bad and there is no since in even trying to non rev until the next day so you might as well stay on the beach. Commuters love the web site. When they are doing their last leg inbound for work, they turn on their phone when they can, and the alerts pop saying which flight looks the best to get home. There might be two flights that leave about the same time on different airlines and they can make a quick informed decision before running to the right gate. Even if they are jump seating, most prefer or need a seat in the back of the plane.

5. Why other sites are inferior to ours:

  • Have not been redesigned in ages so what does that say for the quality?
  • Only 3 categories (smiley faces) while we have 5 easy to understand categories.
  • Can not sign up for alerts. The only way to get updated info is to get back on the web site.
  • No customer service.
  • No listing phone numbers. We list Non Rev phone numbers next to every flight so if you need to call to list, you have easy access.

6. Non user friendly log in. You have to find/remember you companies log in. With our system you create your own profile.

  • One stop source for weather, hotels, rental cars, cruises, destination information and other information.
  • Zed calculator.

Hope this helps explain a little more of what we do.


Dear Brad,

Awesome web site! Nonrevs around the world are going to love it. Thanks for sharing. But…even though I am able to check loads on several different airlines, I’m unable to check on all airlines. What’s the deal?


Dear Heather,

There are a few airlines that do not participate with Sabre supplying enough data for us to determine loads. For those airlines we only show schedules. We do however provide passenger seat availability for over 130 airlines around the world. If you have any more questions, feel free to ask