Since the introduction of commercial air travel, people all over the world have dreamed about becoming flight attendants. As an air hostess or stewardess, you basically get paid to travel. You spend your time flying high amongst the clouds, surrounded by people in their good vacation-ready moods and waking up to breathtaking views of Paris in lights. And all you have to do is serve a bit of food and give a few smiles. What’s not to love?
As it turns out, the allure of being a flight attendant is ingrained in fantasy. Of course there are those in the industry who love their jobs and wouldn’t change them for the world, but it’s certainly not the easiest profession, nor the most glamorous. Aside from working strange hours and basically living out of a suitcase half of the time, flight attendants must follow several strict rules.
Each airline has its own expectations, but there are a couple of universal laws that they all tend to hold their staff to. Some are just a matter of common sense, some are a little over the top, and others are just downright bizarre!
So could you survive as a flight attendant? Read on to find out!
Requiring that your staff be of a certain marital status sounds like a big lawsuit waiting to happen, right? As it turns out, some airlines do expect their crew to be of certain statuses. Jet Airways in particular requires that inexperienced cabin crew be unmarried. We can’t see how this affects the job itself, but it looks like this airline and others like it don’t want to deal with the possibility of their new inexperienced staff possibly falling pregnant or refusing shifts due to wanting to spend time with their families. Interestingly, those applying as experienced cabin crew for Jet Airways are allowed to be married.
Until recently, Qatar Airways reserved the right to fire cabin crew for getting married or falling pregnant within the first five years of employment. Now, staff are able to get married if they notify the company, and are offered temporary ground jobs if they become pregnant.
Body weight is one of the strictest areas in which flight attendants are held to a certain standard. Like all people traveling via aircraft, any excess weight could cause problems. Czech Airlines has stated that a BMI or Body Mass Index between 19 and 24.9 is acceptable, but anything more is unsatisfactory.
Malaysia Airlines also monitors the BMIs of cabin crew by testing them twice a year. Anyone who fails the test must immediately make lifestyle changes until they fit inside the limitations again. Once you fail the test, you are tested every month. If it gets to the point where you can’t lose the weight to fit into your expected BMI, you are forced to take leave until you can shed the pounds.
Hiring or refusing to hire someone based on how they look sounds wrong, but it happens in a lot of industries throughout the world, whether they admit it or not. And of course, it’s no different when it comes to hiring flight attendants!
Most airlines have guidelines in place for how their cabin crew must look, though the standard tends to differ between them. Sometimes, the standards placed on physical attributes are logical, and other times, it’s all about the look. Emirates has a very particular expectation regarding the stature of their staff: their cabin crew must have arm reach of 83 inches while standing on their tiptoes. Jet Airways expects all flight attendants to have a clear complexion (free from blemishes, pimples and scars), as well as a pleasing personality and good eyesight.
Most airlines expect their flight attendants to be as healthy as possible. Not only does this help them to feel good and perform their duties to the best of their ability, but it also helps them to avoid getting sick. And considering their odd working hours, constant changes in temperature and interaction with so many different people, they would be strong candidates for catching the flu more often than others! Air New Zealand asks all potential staff to have a medical examination, while Etihad asks for medical and health screening after hiring.
Physical health isn’t the only aspect of health that airlines care about, though. Czech Airlines actually requires cabin crew to undergo psychological testing at the Institute of Aviation Medicine before they are given the job.
Physical strength isn’t the first trait that comes to mind when we think of flight attendants, but it is very important that they are stronger than the average person. Unlike a few of the other rules on this list, this actually affects their ability to perform their jobs.
WestJet, a Canadian airline, requires that cabin crew “successfully pass a functional assessment” test before they are hired. This involves having them lift 50 pounds from the ground to their waist, and 22 pounds overhead. This strength obviously comes in handy when passengers can’t lift their own carry-on baggage into the overhead compartments, but also during emergencies when they may be required to move heavy objects. It’s often debated whether cabin crew should have to lift your baggage or not, but most of the time, they have to be able to do it, just in case!
You might have thought this was just a myth, but it’s actually a real rule for many airlines: cabin crew must be strong swimmers. Even if they are never faced with a real emergency situation in their careers, it’s still crucial that they are able to help passengers if there is one.
The specific requirements vary between airlines, but most of them require a standard level of proficiency when it comes to the water. Ryan Air expects its cabin crew to be able to swim at least 20 meters (or around 65 feet), while EasyJet asks that they can swim even further without any assistance, and be able to spend at least one minute treading water. Things are more relaxed with Etihad, which expects cabin crew to be able to swim with help from floatation devices.
Being a flight attendant is one career that you don’t need a degree for, but that doesn’t mean that you can get the job without any qualifications at all. In actual fact, there is extensive training given to potential cabin crew, and to get hired, they have to ace it all! Czech Airline enrolls its trainees at the Institute of Aviation Medicine, where they do a daily course for six weeks which decides whether they’re fit to fly.
The tests that some airlines set up are more intense than you would think: TAM Airlines reportedly organizes a maze in a dark building filled with smoke that its cabin crew must get through successfully. Cabin crew for the Brazilian airline are also made to learn jungle survival training in case a plane goes down in the wild.
This is good news if you watch makeup tutorials all day, and bad news if you prefer the bare-faced look! A great majority of commercial airlines expect their female staff to wear a minimum amount of makeup to work. Some companies leave it up to the individual flight attendants how much they wear, while others designate specific amounts to wear.
Allegiant Air expects all female staff to wear either lipstick or lip gloss, in colors that complement their facial features. They also ask that lip liner be used from time to time, but not always. United Airlines requires makeup to be constantly freshened throughout the flight, but prohibits staff from doing this in front of passengers. And while these restrictions are placed on women, male flight attendants are forbidden from wearing any makeup on most airlines.
Luckily for anybody traveling in coach on a long flight and feeling nauseated AF, flight attendants are required to meet high hygiene standards. On American Airlines, teeth should always be clean and natural, although the company also asks that dental retainers be transparent and braces be disguised. Allegiant Air encourages mints and breath sprays and overall good oral hygiene too. Flight attendants also have to take any tongue piercings out, since no jewelry may be worn in the mouth.
It’s good for passengers that flight attendants practice good hygiene, but in some cases, airlines take their demands to extreme lengths. Hawaiian Airlines asks that nail length stay below an eighth of an inch beyond the fingertip, while United Airlines allows some leeway: their cabin crew are allowed to have half an inch from the fingertip.
If there’s one thing you probably already noticed about flight attendants, it’s that most of them have impeccable hair. This isn’t because they all happen to be passionate about hair styles or friends with hairdressers: their airlines actually require them to have their hair in a certain way. Hawaiian Airlines does not allow any unnatural colors, top-knots, dreadlocks, Mohawks or cornrows. American Airlines is not a fan of volume, and doesn’t allow cabin crew to wear hairstyles that wave or curl too much.
And it’s not just the hair on your head that they keep an eye on. United Airlines does not accept moustaches that extend beyond one quarter of an inch below the side of the mouth, and American Airlines asks that noticeable hair in nostrils, ears and underarms be removed.
Tattoos are all the rage now, but you can’t exactly jump on that bandwagon if you’re a flight attendant. In most cases, tattoos must be covered up fully, and aren’t allowed any place where they can’t be concealed. Tattoos on the feet are a big no-no for British Airways, since their shoes must be classic court style, exposing the top and side of the food. Since they only allow 15 denier stockings and no more, any leg or foot tattoos can’t be covered up.
The British airline also doesn’t allow tattoos on wrists. Cabin crew won’t get away with covering up their wrist tattoos with jewelry or big boyfriend watches either, since only discrete watches with thin silver or gold bracelets are permitted.
Most airlines limit the amount and type of jewelry that cabin crew wear. As you might have guessed, more extreme pieces like tongue and nose piercings are not acceptable on most airlines, and flight attendants are asked to take them out for their shifts, if they’re hired with them in the first place. But even jewelry that you might have thought was standard is restricted with some companies!
United Airlines does not allow more than two rings on each hand. JetBlue is a little vaguer, and asks that flight attendants refrain from wearing any accessory whatsoever that does not complement the uniform. When it comes to earrings, Hawaiian Airlines allows hoop earrings as long as they’re not larger than one and a half inches in diameter, and Allegiant Air states that men cannot wear any earrings at all.
Flight attendants are just people, but for the sake of a good reputation, a lot of airlines want you to forget that. While serving on a flight, or just wearing their uniform, staff of Regional Express Pty Limited must not do any of the following: slouch, walk or stand with their hands in their pockets or cross their arms. Yikes!
Malaysia Airlines is so particular about the proud way that its cabin crew walks that it even has a catwalk in its training center. The runway is surrounded by mirrors so flight attendants can watch themselves until they get their walk just right. Some airlines also place limitations upon the personal habits of the staff: Alaska Airlines requires all applicants to stop using any nicotine for a minimum of six months prior to applying.
When in uniform, a flight attendant is representing his or her entire airline. So naturally, there are a few rules when it comes to how they are allowed to wear it, and what they may or may not do while in it.
For starters, United Airlines makes sure that the skirts of its cabin crew are no more than one inch above or below the back of the knee. JetBlue is adamant that no flight attendant ties their sweater around their waist, since it can be worn smartly around the shoulders. The hat worn by flight attendants with Emirates has to be in a certain place above their eyebrows: two finger widths, to be exact. While in uniform, all flight attendants must follow the rules they always would while working.
If you’ve ever spoken to a flight attendant during a flight, you might have noticed that they speak in a very eloquent manner. That’s because it’s more than likely that they are being held to a certain standard of speech. Crew for Malaysia Airlines are asked to speak with their natural accent, rather than trying to come up with an inauthentic English accent. The company believes this helps on-board announcements to sound more natural and pleasing.
Manners are also a big deal for many flight attendants, and some companies teach their staff proper dining and table etiquette. This doesn’t make too much of a difference on the actual flight, but helps them to appear a certain way when dining out in restaurants or hotels while they travel and represent the airline.
Sources: cosmopolitan.com businessinsider.com.au, traveller.com.au