Contributed by Mond Ortiz
Every flight attendant out there will tell you that their journey in earning their wings was never an easy one, in fact, some would describe it as going through a needle hole. Those who say that it is easy to become a flight attendant never experienced becoming one. It's just like taking driving lessons from someone who doesn't know how to drive. Airlines do have very high expectations from their flight attendants that there is no such thing as lowering their standards.
To understand why it is very hard to become a cabin crew, we have to first define what a flight attendant is. A flight attendant or cabin crew is someone who is part of the flight crew team employed by the airline whose primary duty is to ensure the safety, security, and comfort of all passengers on board an aircraft, be it a commercial, business, or even some military flights. You may even go check Google for this definition. While a pilot operates the flight controls in the cockpit, a flight attendant operates all the cabin equipment. Their job is as crucial as that of the pilots in ensuring a safe and sound flight for passengers.
When it comes to safety, there is no room for error as the smallest mistake can prove fatal, as evidenced by a few incidents where a loose washer or a small piece of tape covering a sensor have brought down a whole aircraft killing hundreds on board. Flight attendants have to be ready for anything that may happen especially during take-off and landing. They have to be ready to act quickly as they only have 90 seconds to evacuate all 100+ passengers incase of an unfortunate situation like emergency crash landing. Flight attendants also have to be ready for any medical situation a passenger goes through. At 40,000ft, it would be hard to land an aircraft right away and it is not guaranteed that there might be a doctor on board in any flight.
Comfort. Flying can become uncomfortable to many, especially first flyers or those afraid fo heights. Flight attendants have to be ready to ensure the comfort and wonderful flying experience of every passenger, giving them a 5-star class service without compromising safety as safety is paramount.
Flight attendants are also the front liners of the airlines. Notice how airline companies would usually use their flight attendants as their image and brand models? You barely see known celebrities, mostly flight attendants. Hence, they have to imbibe the core values of their company, like for the case of Philippine Airlines, their flight attendants need to embody the 5 Ms or 5 guiding values which are Magaling or formidable, Maalaga or caring, Maaasahan or dependable, Magalang or respectful, and Malambing or affectionate.
With all these said, airline expectations on their flight attendants are really high, hence, the grueling process of becoming one.
So allow us to show you the tedious process of what one goes through to become a flight attendant.
You have noticed in many of our features that the mortality or attrition rate during cabin crew recruitment events or open days are about 90% or even higher. That's because during the recruitment process alone, standards are already very high. While many airlines require a huge number of flight attendants, they barely lower their standards just to meet the numbers. Barely. If they have to stage more recruitment days, they will. Usually out of 1,000 applicants, less than 50 are usually accepted for training. Out of 100 who applies the regular way like emailing resumes, only less than 5 or sometimes, even 1 only makes it through. What do airlines look for in this case?
Well first of all, you have to pass their physical requirements. Weight should be proportionate to height or proper BMI (Body Mass Index), height or arm reach requirements, should have good eyesight, should have clear skin with no visible tatoos when in uniform, perfect set of teeth, and other physical requirements that an airline requires. Just to set the record straight too, a certain skin color has never been a requirement for most airlines that we know of. Whether you are light skinned or morena, it does not matter for all our local airlines.
Then is the personality requirement. They look for those who can exhibit enthusiasm althroughout, one with excellent interpersonal skills, and one with a strong sense of purpose of becoming a cabin crew. The question "tell me more about yourself" plays an important role in a cabin crew recruitment event and recruiters are able to tell if you exude the qualities of a flight attendant.
Airlines have various steps in looking for cabin crew candidates. Here are some of the process or steps each go through, in no particular order. This is not airline specific as the recruitment process of each airline varies from one another.
Pre-Screening Phase: Here, recruiters check the way your physique. So basically recruiters will either make you stand or walk and say something. They check your height, weight, check for marks, skin, hair, eyes, and teeth. They also check the way you walk. At times, they check your body frame shape. Some airlines have pre-screening process and some don't. Or some combine pre-screen with impact interview right away. Sometimes, they also check the way you talk during this phase. Yes they check your voice, your pronounciation, and for any speech problems like the "P & F" and "B & V" 'frovlem'. They also check your papers and requirements. They also check your get-up and the way you carry your clothes and your self. Moreso, they will check your smile and how you can sustain it throughout the day. They will not tell you to smile, they will simply just observe you if you are smiling or not. Mortality rate is already high at this stage, sometimes about 30% of the total number of applicants make it through this stage.
Just a note too, all applicants are already being screened and observed the moment they step in the assessment or interview venue.
Impact Interview Phase: In this phase, recruiters will check of how much of an impact you make. This is where they usually ask the question "tell me more about yourself" and more questions that may arise from your answers or resume. Here, they will check your total impact which includes your confidence, your smile, the way you talk, and the way you carry yourself. Moreso, the airline recruiters want to get to know you and how of if you can be an asset to the company. Airlines have different standards but one thing for sure, they are all high. Mortality rate here is usually at 80% to 90% already.
Talent phase: Okay, you might be confused here. Some airlines ask you to show your talent not because your talent is a requirement but because it is a way for airlines to check your self-confidence. Some may dance, some sings, some does both, some acts, and so on. Now, the talent phase is sometimes combined with the group dynamics phase which we will discuss after this. The talent portion is a way also for airline recruiters to get to know you more.
Group dynamics: This is where airline recruiters check how you work as a team player and how you engage with colleagues and other people. They check your interpersonal skills too. Recruiters ask you to do different things. Some airlines will group you and ask you each to show a talent because as previously mentioned, they want to see how you will work as a team. You could perform one by one or as a group but performing as a group would be better, each showing their talent. Some will ask you to do an activity like coming up with a presentation and so on. Some airlines will give you a topic which you will discuss amongst yourselves and airline recruiters will be observing how you engage with one another, how you work in a team, and how you communicate.
Final interview phase: Does this mean a sure entry? Nope not yet, in fact, mortality rate at this phase is still as high as 50%. Usually, airline managers and top executives take part of a panel and interview you one by one. They may ask you the same question they did during your impact, or they may give you a certain situation not related to becoming a flight attendant to see how you respond to such and so on.
Medical check: This is very important, in fact, some airlines like Philippine Airlines have two medical checks during the recruitment phase. So here, they check if you are fit to fly and if you are fit for the job. As you all know, the working environment of a flight attendant is a very hazardous one being exposed to sun radiation, the dry air, change in pressure, and the work schedule. This one is usually a thorough check.
Written / IQ / EQ Exams: Some airlines require their applicants to also undergo written exams like IQ tests and personality tests. Usually, this comes before the impact interview. Some airlines can be very strict with the results and some may not but it is always best to be ready for the worse.
With all these process in place, applicants are thoroughly screened before being taken in for training. Again out of usually 1,000 applicants, around 50 or less makes it in but that's not it, there is still a much more challenging part, training!
Sadly, many prepare too much for the recruitment process and not much for the training. Many thinks that it is time to relax already after making it through the tedious process of recruitment. Well, this is one reason why some still do not make it, they do not take the training process seriously. Allow us to be the one to tell you hardships and challenges you experienced during recruitment is just a tenth of what you will go through during the training process.
First, there is a CCOM or Cabin Crew Operations Manual. These come in 2 or more volumes as thick as a Bible. This also serves also as your "Bible" during training which has to be brought to class every training day. Go check the picture above, that is an actual CCOM.
Next, there is the training period which only lasts 2 to 3 months. Short, right? But if you will cramp one whole college term in just 2 to 3 months, then we guess it would be the longest term of your lives. Training period varies per airline but for airlines in the Philippines, average period is 2 to 3 months.
Third, there is the passing mark. The passing mark for all exams is at least 90%. Some go as high as 95% and some, not a bit of mistake. You also have up to 3 lifelines alone with 1 retake only. Failing an exam will cost you a lifeline. Sorry but 89% is still not considered, it should be 90%! Way back high school and college, getting a 90% in the exams is a bonus, we are okay with 80%. Here though, you have no choice but to make it a 90% or higher. Consume three lifelines and you're done for.
Fourth are the exams. Exams almost everyday, written and practical., sometimes, both at the same time. Even if you end late and start early, you have to pass the exams 90% or higher. Cheating? Not a chance, trust us! If you were able to do it during high school and college, definitely not in cabin crew training as most airlines are now resorting to computer based exams.
Fifth are the drills particularly the safety drills which require a lot of physical strength and endurance which we will discuss later.
Combine all those above and you will get 2 to 3 months of sleepless nights, missed occations, missed family time, tears, stress, and tons of prayers!
The cabin crew training is a very wholistic one with a lot of classroom lectures, physical drills, written and practical exams, because a cabin crew wears different hats: a nurse, a firefighter, a life saver/ lifeguard, a policeman, a server, a caregiver (at times), a brand ambassador, and of course, a friend.
Flight attendants then go through a wide array of training modules which include but not limited to:
These trainees go through a final checkride before they are finally released to earn their wings. A flight attendant's nameplate wing is an official symbol that you are already a cabin crew and that you are eligible to operate inside an aircraft with the responsiblity of ensuring the passengers safety primarily and then comfort.
This is why during cabin crew graduation ceremonies that we attend, majority of the new flight attendants shed tears, recalling the hardship and challenges they went through to be a flight attendant. As easy as it may seem in the eyes of someone who never went through training, it is not!
To be someone trained to take on multiple hats takes a lot of effort. In fact, we have asked numerous flight attendants their journey changed their lives and they all said that they have learned the importance of hard work, staying commited to your goal, never giving up, learning to appreciate every person they meet, and learning that nothing is indeed impossible in this world.
We then asked them if their journey to become a flight attendant was worth it, and they all said more than they ever expected.
To the eyes of a number of people, the life of a flight attendant is a glamorous one, brought by the rewards of their job, but the journey to get there was just like climbing the highest mountain. It is hard, dangerous, and challenging, but the view up there will indeed show you that the world is a beautiful place.
To prove our point even more that becoming a cabin crew is not easy, we are creating a series of videos posted on our YouTube channel entitled "How To Be a Cabin Crew" and we are focusing on training and later on, the recruitment process. We are very fortunate that Philippine Airlines has given us the permission to witness and document an actual cabin crew training, hence, we would be able to show you in detail what one goes through to be a cabin crew. This is viewable on our YouTube channel Flyhigh Manila TV (Please click this to go to channel and subscribe). We are breaking down each part of the training process into different episodes to fully educate everyone about the job of flight attendants. This is also to prepare our aspiring crew for the training program of an airline should they make it through the recruitment process.
Serving you meals and doing safety demos are just a sixteenth of a flight attendant's actual duty and responsibility, hence, the tedious process of becoming one. To be a safety professional where lives are on the line, flight attendants are trained to the highest standards by an airline.
So we hope that next time you are greeted by your flight attendant with a smile, smile back and greet them. When they serve you your meal, thank them. When they remind you to fasten your seatbelt, acknowledge and follow them. They went through a needles hole to be a flight attendant to ensure your safety on board, and at anytime your flight faces any unfortunate or unwanted incident, know that your cabin crew are ready to save your life even if they put their very own in great danger.
It is not easy to become a flight attendant.