What Flight Attendants Do
Flight attendants provide routine services and respond to emergencies to ensure the safety and comfort of airline passengers. Airlines are required by law to provide flight attendants for the safety and security of passengers. The primary job of flight attendants is to keep passengers safe, ensuring that everyone follows security regulations and that the flight deck is secure. A flight attendant’s most important responsibility is to help passengers in the event of an emergency. This responsibility ranges from dealing with unruly passengers to performing first aid, fighting fires, protecting the flight deck, and directing evacuations.
Flight attendants typically do the following:
- Participate in preflight briefings with the pilots, to discuss cabin conditions and flight details
- Conduct preflight inspections of emergency equipment
- Demonstrate the use of safety equipment and emergency equipment
- Ensure that passengers have their seatbelts fastened when required and that all other safety requirements are observed
- Serve and sell beverages, meals, or snacks
- Take care of passengers’ needs, particularly those with special needs
- Reassure passengers during the flight, such as when the aircraft hits turbulence
- Administer and coordinate emergency medical care, as needed
- Provide direction to passengers, including how to evacuate the aircraft in an emergency
Flight attendants spend many nights away from home and often sleep in hotels or apartments shared by a group of flight attendants. Flight attendants usually have variable schedules. They often work nights, weekends, and holidays because airlines operate every day and have overnight flights. In most cases, a contract between the airline and the flight attendant union determines the total daily and monthly workable hours. A typical on-duty shift is about 12 to 14 hours per day. However, duty time can be increased for international flights. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires that flight attendants receive at least nine consecutive hours of rest following any duty period before starting their next duty period.
Attendants usually fly 75 to 100 hours a month and generally spend another 50 hours a month on the ground, preparing flights, writing reports, and waiting for aircraft to arrive. They can spend several nights a week away from home. During this time, employers typically arrange hotel accommodations and a meal allowance.
An 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, attendants may have more control over their schedules. On small corporate airlines, flight attendants may work on an as-needed basis.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Flight Attendants,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/flight-attendants.htm (visited December 21, 2017).
What are my options? How long will it take?
- Basic Flight Attendant Certificate: 18 units (1-2 semesters)
- Advanced Flight Attendant Certificate: 35 units (2-3 semesters)
- Flight Attendant Associate in Science Degree: 60 units (2 years)
How much will it cost? How much financial aid can I get?
- Cost of Attendance ($46 per unit for CA residents + books, fees)
- Program Cost and Gainful Employment Link
What is the job and salary outlook?
Where do students work?
At all major airlines, including Alaska, American, Cathay Pacific, Compass, Delta, Emirates, JetBlue, SkyWest, Southwest, United, and more!
Quick links to get you started:
- Apply to Cypress College
- Apply for Financial Aid
- Enroll: Start with basic certificate classes*
- International Students
- Student Services
- Work Study (jobs on campus)
* If you will be taking general education classes toward a degree, you’ll want to take the placement tests, but these tests are not necessary to start this program.
Note: Students may receive course credit for FAA certifications or military experience toward their degree. Please see the Credit by Examination section of the Cypress College Catalog and meet with the Department Coordinator.