The Secret Life of a Flight Attendant

Is the mile high club a real thing? Yes, especially on the Las Vegas flights. 

Do you get to sleep during the flight? Yes, on flights over 8 hours there are bunks above the passenger cabin with beds that where we can sleep. 

These are just some of the most questions I got during my time as a flight attendant. I’ve been in university for the past 6 years, and for 3 of those years, I paid my tuition by working 30,000 feet in the air. I lost my job due to the Covid-19 pandemic, but I had some amazing experiences and lived the wildest lifestyle, and I am here to share all of my secrets, including how I balanced flying around the school while being in school. 

There is no hard and fast rule to becoming a flight attendant. Generally, its beneficial to have a second language or a medical background, but also its luck of the draw. Applying with the right airline at the right time and having a recruiter who sees potential in you is really all it takes. There are also some limitations such as medical fitness tests like auditory and visual tests and having a valid passport in the country you are based in. But for me, it was a lot of luck that I got hired into my position. 

Balancing university and a flying career can be tricky, especially with the jet lag! I took two semesters off to go through training, start flying, and figure out what that lifestyle was like. I would work 75-80 hours of flying time a month, so every minute that the airplane was moving counted towards that. Things like pre-flight security checks, delays, and layovers didn’t count towards that time. And on average, I worked 8 – 15 days a month which left me plenty of time for school and a second job.

There are some things I would recommend considering before jumping into flying while attending university. First, be honest with how good your time management skills are. If you don’t thrive well under pressure and can’t finish your assignments now, it will only get more challenging as you have to deal with things like jet lag and unpredictable flying schedules. There were times where I had to work on the beach while in Hawaii for a layover because I had a paper due that night. Or I had a flight delayed so I had to run to my midterm while still in uniform to make it in time. It takes a lot of self-discipline to this, but the payoff is well worth it in my opinion, like getting to see the world. 

The second consideration is if there is a way of navigating your degree that allows the most flexibility. For me, I chose to attend Simon Fraser University because I knew they had a fair number of distance education courses that I could take online, allowing for a more flexible schedule. I also only enrolled in two or three courses at a time as I knew that would be more manageable than a full timetable. 

Third, how important is working a co-op or internship to your degree or career? As a Communications major, I knew that to enter the field it was important to have some previous relevant work experience. Because of this, I was going to either quit or ask for a leave of absence from my job so that I could time to gain the necessary experience. Before I ever got to that point though, the pandemic ended my career as a flight attendant, so I never had to make that difficult decision.  

Other helpful hints to balancing school and a career as a flight attendant are always bring your laptop, notebooks and anything else you may need with you no matter what. The number of times I got stuck in another country or flights really delayed and I just brought out my books and started studying in the airport or the hotel is countless. Also, make sure you know when things are due especially when you’re crossing time zones. 

My three years as a flight attendant while attending university were a whirlwind of a time. I got some great experiences like snowboarding in the morning in Vancouver and then by evening sitting on the beach in Hawaii. I sometimes miss my life back then. But I am so glad I stuck to my degree and kept going throughout my flying career as now, I have something to fall back on as the airline industry has been hit hard by the pandemic. 

So, for all of you out there looking for a way to afford travelling while in university, maybe try flight attending out once the world opens again to travel!