Five years ago today, I embarked on the greatest adventure of my life thus far – I started training to become a Flight Attendant, a job I’ve always dreamed of having since I could remember.
I remember like it was yesterday, I was working at a Convention Center Resort in Orlando at the time, in their Reservations Department when I was referred by a friend of mine to apply for a position as a Bilingual Flight Attendant. I applied & within a week received an email with instructions on completing a “Telephone Interview”, I found the whole thing rather awkward, you were supposed to answer questions asked by a recording, record your answers & submit. I did not expect much, rather convinced that I had tanked the interview to be honest. About another week later, I received a phone call that I had been chosen to attend an “in person” interview in NYC, to take place just 4 days later. I immediately said “Yes, I’ll be there!” not realizing just how much a last minute plane ticket & hotel in the city would cost. I told myself that I was investing in my future & that if it was meant to be, I would get my money back in all the leisure travel I had planned to do.
My mom gave me as a gift, a book called “How to Be a Flight Attendant” by Kiki Ward, an ex – American Airlines Flight Attendant & I studied this book religiously. It had tips & tricks for interviewing, what to do, what not to do, what to wear for an interview, makeup ideas, all wrapped up in a short memoir. I took it with me on my flight from Orlando to New York (the lowest fare ticket was actually on the airline I was interviewing for), I spent the entire flight observing the crew, highlighting notes in my book, & trying desperately not to stress out.
The interview process began promptly at 9am the following day, with a huge group interview, there were at least 50 of us who were eventually split into smaller groups & given ice-breaker games & activities to participate in. We met some fellow instructors from the training academy, supervisors, human resources personnel & some fellow Flight Attendants. I went through a series of tests, interviews, fingerprinting & background checks during this 8 hour day, completely exhausted, nervous & way out of my element but I kept telling myself that I could do this!
The end of the interviews came & I was told that if they were interested, that I would receive a phone call or email within the next few weeks, I was a bit discouraged having read that a lot of airlines offer you positions on the spot but I was hopeful & optimistic.
About two weeks later, I was sitting in my Housekeeping Management class when I received a phone call from a New York City number I did not recognize. The call went to voicemail, I stepped out into the hall so I could have a listen; it was from the Human Resources Department offering me a position with their company! I must have listened to the voicemail at least 10x before I finally gave them a call back. I was given a training start date of May 30th which gave me about a month or so to get my affairs in order & give my current job notice.
Fast forward to training, I was an emotional wreck during those three weeks. We had class from 8am-8pm six days a week with only Sundays off & even on our Sundays off, I’d spend them studying our door drills, commands, evacuations etc. We had testing every other day & were required to pass them with a score of 90% or better, we had an opportunity to retake a test we scored below on & if we weren’t successful on the retake, we were to pack our bags & head home. My mom would spend countless hours studying with me over the phone, quizzing me on airport codes, emergency equipment etc. As much as I loved my classmates, she was definitely my favorite study buddy.
We had a class of 44 people, retired firemen, police officers, nurses, students, previous airline employees, we were a huge melting pot of a class. I was the third youngest, having just turned 21 about a week prior to training. We received our base assignments (where we are required to start & end our trips) about a week or so into the program & I had my heart set on New York City. I ended up being based in Fort Lauderdale which some would think it’s great but since I was already living in Florida, I didn’t see it as much a change – I wanted this job to be a fresh start for me, a brand new chapter.
All of us but one completed & passed our training, I joke that I never studied as hard in college as I did in training but it was an intense three weeks & it should have been because it’s a job that a lot of people don’t realize is more than just serving drinks & snacks 37,000 feet in the air. We are trained to stay calm & evacuate an entire aircraft within 90 seconds in the unlikely event of an emergency, we are trained in basic first aid but we’re medical professionals in the sky until the pilots can land an aircraft & we can get paramedics on board if a medical emergency were to arise, we’re babysitters for parents who often need a break from their children or they don’t want to buckle their seatbelts, mechanics for when your TV’s aren’t working properly or the internet connection is spotty, therapists for passengers who have a fear of flying or are going to bury loved ones, bartenders for special occasions, geographers “What state are we flying over?” or “What lake/river is that down there?”, psychics “Am I going to make my connecting flight?” — we have to wear many hats with this job, no two days are ever the same for me & while some questions & situations do get rather old at times, I think that’s one of the reasons I love my job so much.
In my five years of flying I’ve transferred bases a total of three times, (currently based in Boston), had some rather frightful medical emergencies, experienced my share of scary turbulence, logged hundreds of thousands of flight miles, laid over in cities I’d only ever seen in movies & meet some of the most amazing human beings (both fellow coworkers & passengers) on this planet. Many ask if this is a job I can see myself doing for the rest of my life, I’m not quite sure if I’ll be doing this when I’m 70 (I hope by then to be retired somewhere in the Mountains, flying with my retiree benefits to see my grandchildren) but I do know that there really is no other job like it in the world & I am truly blessed to be doing what I love.
“For once you have tasted flight, you will forever walk the earth with your eyes turned skyward, for there you have been, and there you will always long to return.” – Leonardo da Vinci