American flight attendants: Getting admitted is harder than getting into Harvard

Every year, more than 100,000 people apply to become a flight attendant with an American airline, and less than 1,000 are accepted.

Delta Airlines’ acceptance rate is less than 1%, leading CNBC to say its recruitment process is more rigorous than Harvard’s admissions, at 4.6% in 2018.

“The first time I applied for a job, I wasn’t selected. Getting into this airline was unthinkable, but I persevered. I knew I wanted this job, this career, and didn’t give up until I got it. public,” Melissa Pittman told CNBC.

Melissa passed the interview on her second application, but that was just the beginning. Those lucky enough to be selected in that 1% must undergo an 8-week training course, pass a series of tests before being able to take off.

American flight attendants: Getting admitted is harder than getting into Harvard
Melissa read the notice to the passengers. (Photo: CNBC).

At the final stage of their training, flight attendants start working full-time but are placed on “probation” – performing in-flight duties, but not being allowed to make any decisions. Once the 6-month probationary period is over, they will take on more responsibilities.

Melissa works in New York, every trip starts and ends at one of the city’s airports. Receiving a flight from New York – Atlanta, Melissa was at the ticket counter an hour before departure time. With her was a crew of three other flight attendants: Sarah Motter, Shannon O’Brien and Niguel Modeste. The four of them had never flown together. “You never know everyone in the crew. The crew on every flight is different,” Melissa revealed.

This time, Melissa is the chief flight attendant, in charge of hosting a pre-departure meeting and communicating directly with the captain, as well as distributing announcements to passengers. Only experienced flight attendants are assigned this responsibility, they can also arrange their own flight schedule.

The crew couldn’t board the plane without carrying the “SkyPro” , a red device the size of a full-sized smartphone. It provides information on all flight safety procedures to flight attendants, identifying high-class passengers on board. “We live and breathe on this device,” says Melissa.

American flight attendants: Getting admitted is harder than getting into Harvard
Melissa and Sarah served in first class on the flight. (Photo: CNBC).

Many people still think that flight attendants are a leisurely profession, doing nothing more than serving passengers. Melissa denied: “The biggest misconception is that people think we are just powder-faced waitresses.” She gives a real-life example, when a passenger begins to have a heart attack or needs medical help, the first person they turn to is the flight attendant. The crew will know what to do, as they are trained to respond in emergency situations.

The crew must always be ready for the worst: from a fire, to an accident or an unpleasant passenger. During this flight, the most serious incident she had to deal with was when the plane entered the turbulent area.

“When the glasses of water are splashing, it’s moderate turbulence. If a glass of red wine is splashed, the plane has entered a high turbulence area, but for me it’s just a matter of dealing with it,” explains Melissa.

After landing, Melissa and the captain will stand on the front door of the plane to bow to each of the about 200 passengers. “Hello and goodbye, I must say these words 600 times a day,” she said.

At the end of the two-hour flight from New York to Atlanta, the crew had a four-hour break. Melissa and her colleagues will go to the city for a walk, take a nap in the flight attendant’s private room, exercise at the airport gym or eat. On other days, they might just have an hour’s break, then head straight for the ticket gate for the next ride.

Shannon O’Brien revealed that she likes to take advantage of scheduling flights in her free time: “Depending on seniority, we can choose the route we want or fly as many flights a day. It’s really nice to be able to schedule according to the schedule. based on his seniority”.

With five years in the industry, the best part of this job is that Melissa can hop on a plane and visit family and friends all over the United States on a regular basis. Previously, she used to work in an office, sitting still at a desk five days a week.

“Some people take the subway to go to work. I fly to work,” Melissa revealed that she always has to fly 5 and a half hours from home in Los Angles to work. In fact, thanks to her commute, Melissa can live anywhere she wants.

Sarah Motter, Melissa’s colleague, also capitalizes on this point. She took a 20-hour flight from Guam, where her husband was stationed in the US Navy. (Guam is a territory of the United States, in the western Pacific Ocean.) Sarah can stay at a colleague’s house in New York when needed.

However, the most difficult part for Melissa is being away from her children constantly, missing the holidays or important family occasions. “I couldn’t attend my son’s 18th birthday, but my kids are used to it. They know that holidays like family Christmas won’t happen on the night of December 24, but maybe it’s New Year’s Eve” , she confided.

However, Melissa and the entire crew said : “We are doing one of the most flexible jobs in terms of time in the airline industry. There are months when we have to work six days a week. But there are months when we can go to work one or two days a week.”

The pay of flight attendants is also a plus as they are paid from 23 to 54 USD an hour depending on seniority, according to The Points Guy.

American flight attendants: Getting admitted is harder than getting into Harvard
Melissa’s crew took a photo with reporters. (Photo: CNBC).

Melissa and her colleagues admit they can’t go back to their desk jobs after traveling the world, experiencing the work schedule of their dreams.

Formerly a model and working in the television industry, Melissa revealed she gave up a very well-paid position to come to be a flight attendant. “I’m here because of the long-term value that this job brings. And I want to go around, see the world.”

In the end, passion triumphed over all challenges. Melissa expressed: “Even on the most stressful days when the flight has technical problems, delayed due to weather, diversion for emergency, difficult passengers or any other problem, I still love my work. my job and decided not to trade it for anything” .