Flight attendant training is a compulsory requirement to work as a flight attendant with any airline. In addition to training, there are also a myriad of personal requirements before you can be eligible for a position.

Flight Attendant Training:

A cabin mock-up used as part of a Flight Attendant Training course with Turkish Airways.

This cabin mock-up is a crucial part of Turkish Airway’s flight attendant training program. Photo credit: Derin.

The flight attendant training you need to complete must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, and in turn this means you have been “FAA Certified”.

Obtaining FAA certification is crucial, because this is the only training fully recognized by the airlines.

There are significant differences between aircraft manufacturers and their models, that the FAA also require you to be trained and certified for each unique aircraft. This means you must perform training for each type of aircraft that your employer (airline) need you to work in.

But before you get to do any training – you need to successfully pass the initial screening and interview process, which forms the first step of the hiring process. After this, you can commence your training with the airline which is considered the second step.

What’s interesting is that being trained by an airline does not guarantee you a position with the company – it is simply a requirement just to become eligible for a position, so you can then be considered (and hopefully offered a position with the airline thereafter).

So as you can imagine, the airline are using their own training program as a means to find the best candidates for the positions they have available.

How do Flight Attendant Training programs work?

Flight attendant training is an intense, multi-week program ranging from 2 to 8 weeks of varying hours each week.

The amount of training you need to do is dependent on the airline, the sector you’re training for (domestic or international, or both) and the types of aircraft you’ll be working in.

Between 20 and 100 potential candidates are trained at any one time. This number of candidates is far greater than the number of flight attendants required by the airline, to make up for the percentage of students who will drop out or do not meet the requirements as the program progresses.

The pass mark for the flight attendant training programs are most commonly set at 90%, which is setting the bar high. This high pass mark ensure only the best students proceed.

The methods used in each training program vary slightly between airlines, but it is mostly theory-based. Some airlines are known to expect their candidates to do homework each week.

“…flight attendant training is intense and exceptionally in-depth. With a pass mark of 90%, you need to be as best-prepared as possible.”

In addition to the theory work, you are also required to perform typical duties and safety drills on your own, all while being supervised directly by the airline training staff.

The training staff will measure your progress by having you complete written assessments and have you perform practical tests. This allows you to prove your knowledge and understanding of topic, and to a greater extent, your understanding of the role of a flight attendant.

What does the training cover?

As we originally pointed out, flight attendant training is intense and exceptionally in-depth. With a pass mark of 90%, you need to be as best prepared as possible.

Here are the topics covered by the majority of airlines, all of which you will be tested on:

  • Federal Aviation Regulations (FAR)
  • Aerodynamics and the Theory of Flight
  • The primary systems of an Airplane and equipment functionality
  • Technical terminology
  • Air traffic control: ground-based direction of aircraft
  • Airport code: a three-letter code which is used in passenger reservation, ticketing, and baggage-handling systems
  • First aid, CPR and other emergency treatment
  • Airplane and airport evacuation drills and commands
  • Flight routes and regulations
  • Calculating time: Time zones and flight time. Adding and subtracting hours and minutes using the 24 hour clock
  • Cabin service procedures:
    • Methods for serving passengers in-flight
    • Meal and beverage service procedures
  • Company history, policies and procedures specific to the airline
  • Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) safety, emergency, and evacuation procedures
  • Personal grooming
  • In-flight announcements and presentations
  • Security, hijacking and bomb threat procedures
  • Providing assistance to disabled or elderly passengers and unaccompanied adolescents

For international flight positions, students are also trained in customs regulations and passport requirements.

The final step of flight attendant training will require you to pass FAA safety, emergency & evacuation procedure test.

A safety drill being performed in a flight attendant training session at Garuda Indonesia. Photo credit: US Embassy, Jakarta.

A safety drill being performed in a flight attendant training session at Garuda Indonesia. Photo credit: US Embassy, Jakarta.

What happens if I fail the training program?

During the training program, you may be able to retake a test – though this is dependent on the airline, and will likely depend upon on the need for flight attendants versus the number of applicants as to whether or not this will be offered.

From all reports it is difficult to be accepted back into a flight attendant training program for the same airline once you have failed, though it’s not impossible.

3 Important Things to Note:

  1. There are many quality flight attendant training schools in the country which will provide you will a great deal of the first-hand knowledge you’ll need to become a flight attendant – BUT, the truth is regardless of any prior training – you must be (and will be) trained by the airline.It certainly won’t hurt to have prior training and proven knowledge, but do keep in mind that it may not be taken into consideration at all as part of your application. Your results and performance in the airline’s training program will have much more weight.
  2. Your appearance will be assessed throughout the training course. You are literally being judged by your looks: your personal grooming, your general tidiness and your dress sense etc.
  3. There are training programs where students are paid for training, but this is rarely the case. Due to the extended period of training, most airlines will provide you with basic accommodation plus air transportation to and from the training facility.

What happens after you pass training?

Congratulations! You are now eligible to be offered a position with the airline. You may now be employed as a flight attendant on “reserve status”, also known as a “reserve attendant”.

Reserve flight attendants who are “on duty” are then on-call, and are required to fill in on flights to increase staffing numbers or to fulfill the role of a flight attendant who is on leave.

You’ll remain as a reserve attendant for 12 months as a minimum, but it can take (up to 5) years to be brought on as a permanent attendant.

I landed a job! Wait, now I need more Flight Attendant Training?

Correct! On an annual basis, flight attendants are required to complete “recurrent training” every 12 months.

Recurrent training is mandatory, in order to reiterate all safety aspects of the role, including emergency evacuation, first aid, security, hijacking and other safety procedures.

The point of continual training is to ensure these core skills become second nature to you, and can be performed instinctively in a real-life emergency.  It does make sense, when you think about, right?  I personally I feel more comfortable as a passenger, knowing flight attendants are working hard to stay in their role.

Flight attendants who do not successfully complete the recurrent training will be grounded, and unable to work until they satisfy each of these requirements.