So My Kids’ Grandmother Wants To Be A Flight Attendant…

Filed Under: Advice, Delta

I don’t really pay that much attention to the stuff going on with the Middle East carriers, at least outside of reading the headlines and a few of the stories that Ben posts here on the blog. It’s just not that interesting to me since I’ve never flown any of the those carriers, and frankly don’t have any burning desire to do so. I also haven’t explored much of that part of the world, aside from a long weekend trip to Bahrain (when United still flew there).

That said, I think I have at least a decent grasp of players and the animosity between the ME3 and US3. I read enough to know that the Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, is known for saying some outlandish stuff and seems to enjoy poking at his US counterparts any chance he gets.

But I took a greater interest when he said something to the effect of you are being served by grandmothers on American carriers. Because my mother-in-law had just informed my wife and me that she wants to become a flight attendant!

Becoming a flight attendant as a senior

I’ll admit that I was caught off guard by her announcement. She has been the director of a small preschool for as long as I’ve known her — about a decade — a career which she came to later in life at that, and with which I thought she was reasonably happy. So it was perplexing to me as to why she would want to switch to a service oriented field that involves lots of travel, late nights, early mornings, stressful situations, and working in a confined tube all day.

But then Tiffany convinced me that maybe it’s not such a crazy idea after all.

That it would keep her active, and motion is lotion and all that. So I’m trying to keep an open mind and be supportive. I also figure that after having flown well over a million miles on US carrier that I might have some insights into the profession, at least from the passenger perspective.

Delta is hiring

She has her eyes set on working for Delta, mostly because she and my father-in-law live in southeastern Michigan which is of course a fortress Northwest Delta hub. She has some friends that work for Delta and, importantly, Delta is apparently hiring. Of course, if it’s about proximity, Spirit has a large operation in Detroit as well. I don’t know if they are actually hiring, but based on my recent experience, there is no doubt that they need more help!

Anyway, I had the chance to chat with her about why she wants to be a flight attendant and she mentioned the health insurance and travel benefits since her three kids are spread out across three states and she figures this would enable her to visit them more often. I don’t know all that much about employee travel, but I’ve heard that it’s not quite as good as it used to be thanks to much fuller planes, so I guess I’m a bit skeptical of how much that is worth.

In terms of qualifications, her degree and experience in early childhood education has certainly taught her to be patient with people, to speak slowly, and not to get annoyed when people don’t listen to you. Come to think of it, maybe spending everyday with obnoxious, entitled, self-centered preschoolers isn’t a whole lot different than working the forward cabin on most US carriers. 😉

Jokes aside, perhaps the part that causes me to raise an eyebrow is the lifestyle. I don’t know any flight attendants personally, but it has always seemed like a fairly challenging job to me, both mentally and physically. I mean, I tilt toward the introverted side of things so having to interact with literally hundreds of people every day would probably have me hiding under my bed after a week. And you have to be nice to people, though perhaps not all the time.

Then there’s the physical side of the job. Obviously we’re not talking about doing construction work here, but you still have to be on your feet a good part of the day. I’ve got a ways to go to hit 60, but I still get tired of standing around.

Then again, as a former preschool teacher, she’s used to being on all the time and chasing little rugrats around a classroom, so maybe being a flight attendant will seem easy?

Bottom line

I’m really interested in your thoughts on my mother-in-law’s potential new career. Does she have a chance of getting hired, or are all of Al Baker’s grandmotherly flight attendants grandfathered into their positions, having flown with their carrier for decades? Assuming that she’s really serious about applying, what can she do or say to make herself a more attractive candidate? What else should she be considering?

I don’t think she reads my posts, but I’ll be sure to pass along any constructive advice. Or if you think it’s just a bad idea — don’t worry, you’re not alone — you can (politely) say that as well.

And who knows, you might just have another grandmother working your flight in the near future. Somewhere Al Baker is saying, I told you so.

What do you think about becoming a flight attendant later in life?

  1. As long as someone who wants to do the work can physically endure it, I don’t see why it would be a problem. I love the interactions I have with the FA’s with a little more life behind them…

  2. “Had just informed my wife and ME”

    You wouldn’t say “had just informed I” would you?

  3. Go for it…

    If she can live with the physical and emotional toll it takes to do the job, then why should she refrain from seeking it?

    I find the whole age debate odd because good manners and a service minded attitude has little to do with age. It all comes down to motivation. Health benefits and potential free travel sound nice but if odd working hours and the job itself doesn’t make her happy, her potential customers are not likely to be either.

  4. Honestly one of the easiest way to get the benefits of being an airline employee is to be a reservations agent. Typically you retain some control over your schedule by bidding and trading hours (just like a flight attendant), many airlines offer the option of being home-based, and you still learn a great deal about the industry. That’s not to say being a reservations agent is an easy job, because it has its challenges, but its a pretty straight forward way to start an airline career.

  5. My friend I’ve known since second grade has been a flight attendant for many many years she’s now 62 years old. Loves it

  6. @GrammarPolice You’re a police officer after my heart. Object of a preposition = use ME, not I. 🙂

    @Travis – tell her to go for it! You only live once and if she hates it, she can always quit!

  7. +1 @Garrett. Some of the best service I’ve ever had has been on flights where the FAs have had a little more life experience. Working as a flight attendent can be physically and mentally demanding (much like dealing with children can be). If your mother-in-law can and wants to do it, all I can add is:

    You go, girl!

    I do hope you’ll let us know if she decides to pursue it, and how she gets on.

  8. No matter what, she should go for it. As long as she is fit, able to carry out all of the safety aspects of the jobs, then why not.

    Good luck to her!

    ‘You’re never too old’: Granny reveals she’s travelling the world, meeting celebrities AND getting marriage proposals… after becoming an air hostess at 57

  9. I work in close proximity to a very *British* (try and guess) cabin crew training school, and have seen new entrants of all ages, from my experience passing through, and during flight I’d say age is nothing but a number and she should go for it!

  10. friend of mine just started working for American Eagle as a FA. He’s in his 30s. Not sure he exactly has what I would have expected to be the temperament for it. But I know he’s been pretty excited about it.

    I think your analogy of her pre-school experience being good training is spot on, no matter how tongue in cheek.

  11. Tell her to watch flight attendant training documentaries on YouTube or wherever before applying, just to make sure she knows what this job entails.

  12. I am 70 and a baby boomer. So go screw yourself if you think we are going quietly. I have a 20 year old granddaughter with less get up and go than many of my contemporaries. Age is a number and nothing else. That said, I would rather be in my J seat than slinging hash at 36,000 feet.

  13. You get free travel, but especially in the beginning, you have an unpredictable schedule with little say on when/where you work.

  14. I have three FA friends, all women. One is 33 and the other two are in their early 60’s. The older ones have decades of seniority and feel that if they had it to do all over again, they’d go into another profession, especially now since the best benefits have been eroded, such as pensions and flight privileges. The younger one says she is going to college part time and will leave the profession in a few years. Starting at 60 with no seniority your MIL will have a real crummy schedule and be on-call often. It’s physically difficult for my FA friends who are older because they fly mostly International long haul flights with long shifts and jet lag issues. They say senior FAs keep working because their pensions were drastically reduced or eliminated due to bankruptcies and mergers – they feel they have to work until age 70 to receive the maximum Social Security Benefit. It was once a great career back in the 70’s, not so much now. I recommend she talk to some older FAs before attempting to go in this direction.

  15. I’ve gone through FA Training and worked as an FA twice in my career…once for United in 2000 and once for Delta in 2007. With both airlines, my class and other classes consisted of trainees who were in their late teens or early 20’s or, were more mature in age and no one batted an eyelid. We were all as excited as each other to have been afforded the opportunity of pursuing our dream job. Admittedly, when you figure out that initially that dream job won’t pay much and you are at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to bidding, well…..that’s a different story. Good luck to your mother-in-law….if she really wants to do this then I say she should absolutely go for it!

  16. One of my friends is in her early 50s and she went to work for American Eagle almost two years ago. Started when all of her kids went off to college and she was an empty nester. She flies regularly through the college town where the kids are and gets to see them lots because she is off on weekends.
    I’ve noticed a lot of older grandmother types on regional flights.

  17. It’s 2017 and no one cares about an FA’s age… well except one guy maybe..

    Tell her to go for it!

  18. @Ben — If we’re going to be really pedantic about grammar, the way Travis was using “me” was not as the object of the preposition. There’s actually no preposition in that sentence.

  19. Imagine you were on a plane, and your MIL is acting as FA. Would you ask her for to bring you a glass of water? Would you ask her to assist you with carry-ons? In events of emergency, would you help her or she would be helping you? Can she treat her teammate with equality and no sense of self reservation despite the age difference?

    Just because someone said, “i want it” and another someone said, “you can have it” doesn’t always mean, “go for it!”

    Clearly she is interested at the perks of FA. Not because she was passionate about the job. This can only led to self-entitled and possibly rude FA. Demanding FA and didn’t understand about what hospitality is.

  20. 60 does not make you one foot in the grave. Or even unable to handle a professional lifestyle involving a lot of travel. I’m 50, travel 150K/year (actual miles flown, not bonus miles, etc). When I land, I go right to work, usually. I have late nights and long days with colleagues and customers. I don’t expect this to change over the next 10 years.

    I’m sure your MIL would be annoyed, if not insulted, at the idea that maybe she can’t physically handle this. If anything, she will probably be healthier with this lifestyle.

    As far as customer service goes, I find older folks are much more outgoing, friendly and service oriented than most younger folks. I bet your MIL will be a great FA.

  21. ” I don’t know all that much about employee travel, but I’ve heard that it’s not quite as good as it used to be thanks to much fuller planes, so I guess I’m a bit skeptical of how much that is worth.”

    I thought flight attendants were allowed to just drag anyone off the plane if they want to travel?

  22. This is so interesting. Tell me more about your personal life please. That’s what this is all about, right?

  23. @Ben – You said “Object of a preposition = use ME, not I.”

    Travis wrote “Because my mother-in-law had just informed my wife and…”

    What word is the preposition in Travis’s sentence?

    Sorry, completely off topic…

  24. I’m male, 61 YO and have been a flight attendant since 1978. I still enjoy the job! The hardest thing about being a flight attendant at this age (grandma/grandpa territory) is not the work so much as the long days and going to bed at 1am, WAY past my preferred bedtime. At this point in life, midnight is the New 3am!

    Sounds to me like she should be perfectly qualified, and Delta would be lucky to have her. Caveats:
    1. She is not guaranteed to be based in Detroit.
    2. You are correct….Flying around on passes ain’t what it is to be, but with some patience and flexibility, you can make it work for you!

  25. Hi Travis,

    From what I know of DL, odds are very slim that they would hire a 60 year old FA. But that is mainline DL. Tell your mum-in-law she might have greater success with their regional affiliates. I believe Endeavor Air has a base at DTW and she may very well have a chance with them. Maybe even a very good chance. Best of luck to her.

  26. A family friend — I always called him “uncle” growing up, even though he wasn’t of blood relation — was a successful lawyer. Trial lawyer, I believe. Anyways, he just quit one day around 50 and went to work for Delta. This would have been around 1997 or so. He worked through 2001 then was laid off, then rehired a year or two after that. He stopped flying around 2007 or 2008, when the market crashed again. He flew mostly international. Apparently, he said, Delta liked having a more senior flight attendant (particularly a male) post 9/11 on international routes. Plus, he said he could actually relate to some of the premium customers, as he used to fly as a passenger.

  27. Travis, I would encourage you to travel more to the middle east. It would be great to expose your kids to a different culture. Dubai has incredible water parks, beaches, good food, and amazing family hotels (atlantis i see you). Israel has the amazing history and incredible outdoorsy experiences (mud bath and floating at dead sea, camel riding in the Negev, Masada hiking). Just a thought, I think you’d like it. Plus Emirates is the best airline ive ever flown.

  28. schar –My oldest has been to both Bahrain, Israel, and 36 other countries spread across 6 continents. I’d like to think we’re doing pretty well in regards to exposing him to other cultures. 😉

  29. That’s so adorable! She should totally do it! If it’s her dream job or something she should definitely do it!

  30. I’m amazed no one on here has suggested she watch View From the Top for training tips:

    I worked with a former flight attendant and she loved it (she had to leave due to an allergy to a building material on new planes). The impression I get is that if you’re young (at heart) and not tied down, it’s a great job.

  31. I think she should go for it! She may decide it’s not for her, but who cares, she will at least have had a fun experience.

    A couple of things to keep in mind:
    1) Most airlines require that candidates be willing to be based in any city where they have a flight attendant base, they’ll ask in the first round interview if she’s willing to take an assignment at any base. The correct answer is an enthusiastic “yes!” any other answer or show of hesitation like “well I live near Detroit” or “I don’t want it to be too far from home” will pretty much be an automatic disqualification. Keep in mind the most junior bases are usually the expensive to live in cities (LAX/NYC/HNL), and the more senior bases tend to be the cheaper cities (SLC/CVG/DTW). She needs to make sure she’s ok with the idea she’ll probably be commuting for the first couple of years.

    2) In the group interview they’re looking to see if you’re paying attention to the other candidates and showing empathy to their answers etc. The way you pay attention to others and interact with them is almost as important (or maybe even more) than how you actually answer the questions.

  32. No idea how old Travis’ m-i-l is, but in the Middle East 30 year old grandmothers are not all that uncommon!

  33. If she wants to do this, I say go for it. I’m on my second career and working towards my third. Good tips from others about the interview and what to expect as a new hire.

  34. Anyway, I had the chance to chat with her about why she wants to be a flight attendant and she mentioned the health insurance and travel benefits since her three kids are spread out across three states and she figures this would enable her to visit them more often.

    ………..the above response would not get her hired. Cant tell you how many applicants say, I love to travel and meet people. WRONG! It’s what you can bring to the airline. Educate yourself on the correct interview responses! It’s extremely competitive, thousands are interviewed for those few positions. Youtube is a great resource for interview questions. Delta is anti-union for flight attendants. FYI.
    ………I know someone who worked for an airline. Retired for a few years and decided to come back to the occupation. She was hired by another airline, Jetblue.
    Interviewing is tough. Do your homework!

  35. I met a flight attendant recently who just works when she wants for the free travel. She’ll work routes to get where she wants to hang out. I imagine that kind of flexibility came with a price. (years at the job) I don’t like flying so I would hate it. I only like getting to places. I’m very physically fit and I would also not want to do it. If she wants it for the travel, you should probably help her with credit cards instead.

  36. I was late 40s when I interviewed recently in ATL for Delta. After application, the first interview is over the phone. If they like you, you proceed to the second interview in Atlanta. I had not interviewed for a job in many years and I was much unprepared for the interview process (much like her situation will be). She needs to find the types of interview questions ahead of time or she will not be prepared. There are only about 5 questions that start with “Tell me a time when …” The answers are awarded points and the higher scores go to the next level. They are more concerned with customer service history than with how old you are. Also, knowing a second language is almost a sure way to get hired.

  37. I think that Heather Poole’s, (who is a flight attendant and very active on Twitter (and wrote a book about being one!)) mother was a flight attendant as a second career later in life. It had always been a dream of hers. I think she’s retired now but might be worth reaching out to Heather if your MIL would like to talk to her mom!

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