We all observe them as they glide swiftly through the airport with their uniforms on at a brisk pace dodging through the crowds like fish in the sea. When we board the plane they greet us with a smile even though they have probably had a long day already and it is only 8am. They point out the emergency exits and pour diet cokes but beyond that their lives are somewhat mysteries. They are, of course, flight attendants.
I myself never thought I wanted to be a flight attendant. After all, they just seemed tired and grouchy most of the time and I wasn’t sure if I could hold my tongue every time a passenger decided to blame me personally for a weather delay. To be fair, after seven and a half years of flying, I still don’t think I’m always cut out for that. However, my flexible schedule, my ability to travel for work or play whenever I want and my freedom to run my own company from anywhere in the world, strongly outweighs the long days, 3am alarm clocks and constant rotation of hotel room beds.
When I’m asked what I do for a living, I still pause each and every time. It’s a lengthy and detailed answer for me and it is for so many of my peers in aviation. I can answer in a variety of different ways, I can answer that I am a fitness business owner, a registered yoga teacher, a writer, an entrepreneur and a flight attendant. Despite the fact that I run my own company called Inclusion Health which brings yoga and fitness to people of all backgrounds, people often skip right over that and zone in on the fact that I’m a flight attendant. People are fascinated by the mysterious lives of us globetrotters. I get questions like, “Do you sleep on the airplane?” “Do you have to pay for your hotels in different cities?” “Do you get your own hotel room?” “When you travel on vacation do you have to work the flight?” “Do you get frequent flier miles?” And on and on it goes. In short, we get all our hotels and transportation paid for during our work trips just like everyone else on a business trip and we don’t need miles because we fly whenever we want for free. Which brings me to my point of why being a flight attendant can be one of the best side hustles out there.
Let me backtrack a little bit, I graduated college and was faced with the realization that many of my friends and loved ones lived scattered across the country. I also had been bit hard by the travel bug while studying abroad and I was nowhere near finished seeing the world. For me personally, and like many others, the idea of being locked up in an office didn’t sound too appealing. Climbing a corporate ladder just to get my two weeks PTO a year so that I could spend thousands of dollars on airfare sounded like my idea of a slow death sentence. So what’s a girl to do?
Become a flight attendant, that’s what. I began to make my life and work look and feel exactly like I wanted it to. I say that being a flight attendant is one of the only jobs that can work for you instead of working for it. Getting hired at a good airline is not as easy and many people think. For whatever reason, and despite the countless lives flight attendants save each day, we get the reputation of being ditzy or dumb. Quite the contrary, most flight attendants have at least undergraduate degrees and other careers. I have had the privilege of pouring coffee and sharing jump seats with past or present real estate agents, firefighters, nurses, lawyers, school principals, personal trainers, massage therapists, photographers, actors, therapists, authors, make-up artists, business executives and just about every kind of entrepreneur you can imagine? That’s right, your flight attendants not only can save you from a burning plane, give you CPR and restrain a violent passenger but they also have whole lives, careers and businesses outside of their flying schedule.
Let me explain some logistics. After you pass the competitive process of getting hired as a flight attendant you also have to pass training on emergency, medical and service procedures. But for all you savvy, intelligent and driven women, this will be no problem for you. It won’t be a breeze like some might think but it is possible for those that set their mind to it. For the first few years of flying you are on what’s called reserve. This can be a challenge because you are basically on call. Each airline works a little differently but overall you don’t have a ton of control over your schedule. When you’re called on certain days, you have to head to the airport and fly to wherever the airline needs you. But even during reserve we have flight attendants who are pursuing degrees through online programs and study during flights and layovers. I personally taught fitness classes on my days off and worked remotely for non profits while I flew. This does take dedication and time management but as we know, education and jobs are becoming more accessible from anywhere so it is possible to be flying around the country and pursuing another career along the way.
Once off reserve you are able to really have some freedom in your schedule and the longer you work for an airline the more seniority you gain which leads to even more flexibility. I now am able to run my company on my layovers or select the days off that I need to be somewhere else for Inclusion Health. I designed my website, media kit and logo while laying on the beaches of Hawaii and Florida. I plan our events from coffee shops around the country and take calls as I walk around new cities and explore landmarks. I select layovers in cities that I have arranged meetings in and I even met the founder of Career Queen, Lauren Berger at a networking event while on a layover in New York City. Working as a flight attendant is also an amazing way to network with a huge variety of people. Your pilots, fellow flight attendants and gate agents are always changing so it’s a great way to sell or promote your brand or company. Not to even mention the countless passengers that you have the opportunity of chatting up and passing along your information to while they’re flying.
The best part is, the freedom and accessibility to travel, especially if you’re like me and your career needs you to be in a lot of different places. I have used my flight benefits to fly to different cities around the country and to even do some events in other countries. My ability to jump on a plane and fly anywhere allows me to have clients and partnerships anywhere in the world. In reality flight attendants don’t make much money at all. Most of us don’t get paid during boarding, deplaning, delays or time spent just waiting around in the airport. We get paid a small amount of per diem while on our layovers and get paid a modest hourly rate when the plane is moving. All in all, I don’t think most of us get into being a flight attendant for the money. We do it for the freedom, the flexibility and the ability to make the whole world our playground. If you organize your time well and stay patient you are able to have this job be the avenue to so many other things you want out of life. So if you’re looking for a way to see the world, organize your own schedule and be able to pursue another career, come join us in the friendly skies and see where it can take you!
Born and raised in Seattle, WA, Alexis now lives in sunny Los Angeles where she works as the Social Media Manager for Intern Queen. Aside from work, you can find her doing hot yoga, visiting friends in Seattle, or re-decorating her apartment. Say hi on Instagram!