“Well, Clappy the Kitten was going to be a movie star one day. But then she rang up too many bills on her Mastercard and had to get a job as a teller at the Hongkong Bank of Canada to pay them off. Before long she was simply too old to try becoming a star—or her ambition disappeared— or both. And she found it was easier to talk about doing it than actually doing it and…” 

“And what,” you asked.

“Nothing, baby.” I said, stopping myself then and there—feeling suddenly more dreadful than you can imagine having told you about these animals— feeling your head with these stories— stories of these beautiful creatures who were all supposed to have been part of a fairy tale but who got lost along the way.”

-Douglas Coupland

Flight Attendant Job Career Advice

Some people were just never meant for flight attendant life. Some have always been meant for it, but they can’t seem to overcome the hurdles in their life—either real or imagined— to make fly life happen. Here are some common (and legit) reasons some ignore that heart pull for a life in the sky with a few ideas on how to get past the things that hold one back.

1. Current income level

When I first became a flight attendant, I was a post-college, [technically] unemployed college graduate living at home with Mom and Dad. I was at a place in life where any paycheck would be better than what I had, so there was no debate over entering an industry where the monthly income begins at a level well below the poverty line. With many who have toyed with the idea of becoming a flight attendant, they are used to bringing in a monthly paycheck that is 3, 4, or even 8 to 10 times more than what they would make working as cabin crew initially.  It’s great to make a lot of money, but it’s sad when it becomes your “ball and chain.”

When thinking about taking a pay cut to become a flight attendant, you’ll have to figure out if you can live less extravagantly than how you might be accustomed to living. You will need to take a look at your budget and give up that evening out or that five-star hotel vacation. I believe that some experiences are worth more than a dollar amount, and so with being a flight attendant, the experiences that you will have through flying may bring more into your life ultimately than what you buy with the money that you currently make. (That being said, the bills still have to be paid).

Flight attendants thinking of switching airlines also go through this— the debate over whether to start over and make less money—again. They know what it’s like subsisting on ramen noodles and living paycheck-to-paycheck. The thought of going through the struggle of “no money” is sometimes more than most can handle.

The best advice I can give is to always keep your life simple. Don’t get too stuck with ‘things.’ Always make an effort to live within your means, so that when great opportunities arise, you can snap them up quickly. It’s like this— when you fly standby, everyone that knows anything knows to pack light. This is so that one can easily change the destination when a flight is canceled or when it’s full. Pack light in your life so you can easily make a switch when the time presents itself and you want to take on a new adventure.

2. Mortgages, credit card debt, monthly bills

They say money doesn’t buy happiness, but one cannot deny the fact that not having dollars isn’t exactly the happiest of states either. When one is under a mountain of debt and bills, the equivalent cashflow or greater usually needs to be deposited into the bank every month. Obviously, this limits ones’ options when considering a job switch. It’s more simple to make a job change when there are no mortgages, puppies, bills, or boyfriends holding you back (more on love later).

None of the above mentioned are bad. At some point, we have all had bills and babes in our lives that keep us. It’s fine if that’s where you are in life, but if you do want to make a change, take a careful look at your life and examine if what you have now is actually bringing you the joy and happiness that you once dreamed of, or to the place in life that you hoped you would be someday.

Sometimes the best way to tackle change and debt is with small, incremental steps. Deciding today that you want to be a flight attendant may not make you one tomorrow, but it can begin the process so that when the transition from groundling to sky queen happens, it will be much more of a graceful change.

3. A very important relationship

In relationships, compromise happens. To make a relationship healthy and happy, it must. But, that often means, that someone comes before your own desires and your own career. For a relationship to last within aviation, the significant other who isn’t flying must be supportive. That support cannot be forced. Otherwise, you will watch you relationship slowly decay. Many drop their dreams of becoming cabin crew because of a relationship. Many in fly life maintain great relationships even though they fly. Sometimes the success of a relationship is simply due to the timing. Sometimes it’s just not right for someone to jump into being a flight attendant. Don’t give up your relationship because you want to fly, but don’t let a relationship hold you back. I believe dreams and love and fly life can coexist happily.

Communication with your significant other is so important when deciding to become a flight attendant. Listen to their concerns. Hopefully, they will listen as well. Trust within your relationship must exist for this thing to work. If there isn’t trust there already, maybe it’s time you take a look at that relationship anyway.

4. Responsibilities as a parent, provider, or caregiver

There is someone in your life who needs you more than the world needs you to be a flight attendant. That’s ok. That doesn’t mean you will never be one. Know where you stand in your world and know who you are in your regular environment. Know who needs you and know what you need. My mom became a flight attendant in her 50s, and although I would have loved growing up with free flight benefits, traveling the world, it wasn’t something that she wanted in her 20s and for her family. It can be a great way to raise children, but for some it’s just not right.

You may be the one offering emotional support or taking care of someone with ill health. You may be the sole financial provider. If that’s who you are, you might have to wait on flight attendant life. Is there anyone else in your life that can take the role that you have taken? Could the situation be just as good, or better than it is now, so that you can have the chance to be a flight attendant? Have you placed on yourself unnecessary expectations? Figuring out your next step begins with figuring out where you are before you step.

5. You are a straight male who has a misconstrued belief that only gay men become cabin crew.

Not just gay men become flight attendants. Stop falling into stereotypical gender rolls. It’s 2015. Of course, there is a majority demographic that works as cabin crew, but don’t let your sexuality or anyone else’s effect what you do with your life and influence your dreams so much.

6. The daunting unknown

There will always be ‘what ifs’ in life. It’s scary not knowing what to expect or what will happen, but don’t let the daunting unknown deter you from becoming a flight attendant. I told myself once, around when I first began flying, that if the only reason I didn’t want to travel somewhere in my free time was because I would have to go alone, that was not a legitimate reason that I was allowed to base a decision off of. If the country wasn’t safe to travel alone to, then that was a different story. I chose then and continue to make decision by considering the unknown, but not always letting it deter me. Face the unknown and make it into an adventure. It’s so fun when you do that. 

7. A lack of savings in the bank

When you become a flight attendant, you will have approximately two months of training where you are either making no money, or very little money. The first year of flight attendant life you can also expect to not make much. It helps so much to have savings in the bank, and the lack-thereof often deters many from becoming flight attendants. The good news is that airlines will ALWAYS be hiring, so if you don’t have the savings today, start putting away $10-$50 per month (or more if you can), so that in a few months to a year, you can have at least $2000 dedicated to your barbie boot camp and first year fly life days.

8. Your current comfort level

Life is so comfortable, it’s hard to think of shaking that up. To be honest, usually the first year of fly life is anything but comfortable. My first year at my second airline, I cried about 5 times a day for the first 5 months I worked there and that’s with 5 years of flying experience, knowing what the lifestyle brings. Any change is hard to deal with, but let me promise you that it gets better and it’s worth it. I’m glad I felt that discomfort because it got me to a different place, one that has granted me new experiences, new friendships, and incredible personal growth. Sometimes you just need to jump, otherwise, you’ll never know if you will be able to fly.

9. Your level of education and current career trajectory

Someone told me last week, “Oh my goodness. I think it would be so cool being a flight attendant. I want to do that!” I then asked, “What do you do?” “I’m a physician.” Ok—so I get that. You can’t exactly just drop everything to traispe around the world as cabin crew. You have invested so much time and money into your current career. You are doing good things in the world and making an important impact. That being said, I work with an architect, ER Nurse, paramedics, Physician Assistants, and many Master Degree holders and PhDs. Don’t let your degree or current career trajectory completely deter you from becoming a flight attendant. Airlines like seeing someone who is educated. They like medical personnel. Maybe you can still work in your career field and become a flight attendant. Maybe you just need to wait a little bit and become a flight attendant later in life. It’s a huge consideration to make a career change, especially to a career where pay and scheduling is initially crap, but if fly life is an adventure you always wished you had, consider this: do you want to live your life in wishful wanting or glorious living? 

10. A lack of a support system

Becoming a flight attendant and being one takes a support system. It can be lonely and you will need people in your life to call, who understand you, who will listen to your chaos. You can’t go into flight attendant training without rely on someone emotionally or even financially. Creating a community of people who love you and care for you will contribute to your success in not just flight attendant life, but in all areas of life. I have been blessed to have too loving and supportive parents who let me be independent, but are there in the pinch when I get stuck flying standby or simply need to cry everything out sans filters. I have really amazing friends all over the world and my colleagues have been a support as well. You—this blog community—has been one of the most positive and encouraging aspects of my fly life. I can’t thank you enough for keeping me going when I just don’t know how to handle everything. The love and support from strangers and friends is an incredible gift. Lots of love to all of  you.

11. Your Own Self 

Often, why most don’t become flight attendants or don’t do the things that they really want to do in their lives is simply because they haven’t gotten out of their own way. Don’t let your own-self hold you back from your dreams. I know that I struggle with self-doubt and insecurities, and every day I have to battle that. I have to place positive thoughts and people into my world who counteract any negative beliefs that try to take my peace and steal my purpose. Fight your doubts. Believe in yourself. Keep working towards what you want. Be kind to you. You deserve so much goodness. Get out of your way so that you can capture all of the blessings that life has to offer.

People have many reasons why they do and don’t become flight attendants. Overall, if this is a lifestyle that you would like to experience, take a look at your current place and where you are in life. Set some goals for yourself. Foster a positive community. Be nice to yourself and work for what you want. I’m proud of you. I started my fly life when I was not the happiest or hopeful individual, and over the years, I have been transformed. Even if you don’t think your life will transform, I know it will. So, when you doubt, think of me and know that I am thinking of you, hoping for the best for you and believing that you can have whatever it is in life that you want. 

Kara Mulder God Wins

About the Author

Hello, I’m K. J. Watts, but my friends call me Kara. I fell into the sky and have worked as International cabin crew, on private jets as a corporate flight attendant, and earned an FAA Private Pilot Certificate. Over a decade ago, I started this blog, which developed into a love for writing and a debut memoir based on Flight Attendant Life. A California native, I now live in Sydney, Australia, where I enjoy spending time with my husband, writing, and surfing.

  1. Hey, I’m Hannah . I woke up today after a week of the stomach flu and breaking up with my boyfriend struggling with my nails-on-a-chalkboard sales job and thought, I’m unhappy maybe I want to be a flight attendant. Your blog, besides being super informative about the flight attendant life style, has been so positive and motivating . I feel like I have a super badass friend telling me I’m awesome and that I’m capable off my dreams.
    Like even if this isn’t something I pursue ill always be able to come to your blog and get a little moral support . Thanks for being so kind with your words!!

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