Here's How To Score A Dream Job As A Flight Attendant And Travel World For Free

by Emilie Dawson

So, you want to travel the world and be a flight attendant? 

Since I've had this job, I've traveled to two continents, five countries and countless American cities I would never have otherwise explored.

My co-workers change for every trip, as do the customers traveling. I can travel domestically for free and internationally for unbelievably low prices.

It's not all as glamorous as young Leo would have you believe in "Catch Me If You Can," but the benefits empower me to do what I love to do. Every job, aviation no exception, has its ups and downs (no pun intended).

What is a flight attendant supposed to be like?

Every flight attendant is unique. It sounds very obvious, but I've heard so many people say, “I would love to do that, but I'm not right for it."

We perform a job in uniforms that make us look homogenous, and I want to stress that we're not.

I've worked with people who have PhDs and master's degrees, and others who only graduated from high school.

I've seen people who moved for the first time for this job, and people who use the benefits to go home to their native country when they can. Some are young and single, while others are parents who have four kids at home.

Without a doubt, there's a unique story behind every pair of those little metal wings. So if you think you're not right for this job, I'm here to tell you that you're wrong.

Is it right for you?

I graduated with a degree in public relations. I was not especially excited about this by the end of my four years, but I saw the merit in finishing what I'd started and am glad I did (though I probably didn't need to accrue that much debt just to take to the skies).

During a less enthused portion of my studies I watched "United States of Tara," a lesser-known gem from Showtime starring a young Brie Larson.

In the show, she doesn't know what she wants to do after high school so she becomes a flight attendant. I think I always remembered her portrayal because it wasn't like seeing a flight attendant from the typical passenger's perspective.

Upon my graduation, I wanted to do anything that wasn't fluorescent lights and computer screens. When I asked myself what do I really want to do, the only answer I kept coming up with was travel.

So I figured I'd bypass the jobs that would allow me to travel for work and go straight to one where the work was traveling.

How to land (get it?) the job.

Unlike traditional jobs that start with one-on-one interviews, most airlines start the interview process in large groups and whittle down to a manageable number of candidates.

Some airlines start with a video or phone interview before any in-person interviews, and some major airlines will reject a candidate two or three times before letting you through to the next step.

Don't be discouraged if your journey starts with rejection. It's all part of the process.

The video interviews are frequently you recording yourself answering randomly selected questions. The questions are in the moment because they want your answers to be.

How you respond in a semi-stressful situation like an interview is a great indicator of whether you'll do well in unexpected situations in the air.

I did video and phone interviews (which had humans on the other end) with multiple airlines before the in-person interview that would lead to my job.

My group interview was with about 100 people. Sitting out in the hotel lobby before everything started was one of the most interesting parts of the experience.

Every type of person you could think of was in attendance: young, old, male, female, painfully outgoing and dangerously shy, all skin tones, all levels of presentation and all nervously mingling while surreptitiously scoping out the competition.

Don't assume the interview only starts at the designated time. It's also common for airlines to plant employees in with the candidate pool to look for the good and bad.

They're in the crowd looking for things like genuine friendliness, ease of getting to know strangers, personal hygiene and more. Basically, bring your "A game" the whole time. And of course, be yourself. This is primarily a safety job, but most often it's customer service -- if you have to work hard at being friendly you'll be doing double duty all day.

In the group interview, we were given a rundown on general company requirements, such as height range, allowable tattoos and first-year pay (which is dismally low and a major deterrent to some candidates). They open with this info to not waste anyone's time if they had something like a face tattoo or a towering stack of bills.

Next, we went in front of the panel of recruiters one by one to read inflight announcements and answer a random question. This is where being painfully outgoing is preferential to being dangerously shy. If you can't talk in front of these people, they won't think you can talk to the large captive audience you'll have on a plane. 

After the group interview, our 100 was cut in half for one-on-one interviews. Being a flight attendant is a high-security position, so the interview is as much about your suitability with the company as it is about your past. They'll do a background check, give you a drug test (upon hiring) and require you to extensively list your employment history.

In my interview, I spoke with three recruiters individually and then went on my way. I received confirmation later that month. For charter and regional airlines it's normal to hear back this quickly, for major airlines this process can take months.

Be patient if this is what you want, and pursue as many options as you can because every airline is different.