It’s a belief that’s as pervasive as it is today as it was then, especially among Filipinos: If you’ve got beauty and height, then you’re a shoo-in to become a flight attendant.
The problem with this misconception is that it is antiquated. Worse, it’s a belief that continues to set so many young people for disappointment.
Ms. Maan Tuazon-Guico, Director of WCC Aviation’s Flight Attendant School, said it’s sad how many young people are made to accept the idea that all they need is beauty and height to fulfill their dreams of becoming a cabin crew.
“Straight out of high school, many young people apply in airline companies believing that their physical attributes are enough to land them the job. Truth is, only a handful will get through the initial screening. The number will continue to dwindle down if they fail to pass the training,” she said.
She explained that the myth about height and beauty can be traced to the early years of Pan Am flight attendants, where tall and pretty female cabin crew were hired to provide glamour as part of the airline company’s marketing stunt during the 1960s.
Ms. Tuazon-Guico said that while airlines still look for a specific height range, the requirement has less to do with looks. It’s in fact needed for more practical reasons.
“Height is required for the actual performance of the job. Airlines want flight attendants who are tall enough to, for example, reach the overhead safety equipment. Many airline companies especially in the US have even scrapped the weight requirement. They only ask the cabin crew to have a weight that’s in proportion to their height,” she said.
One also need not have to look like a super model to become a flight attendant. What airlines need today are cabin crew who maintain proper grooming and are in good health.
“Healthy body trumps the pretty face. Being a flight attendant can be physically demanding. You are required to be strong enough to open emergency doors, attend to passengers in cramped spaces, and be on your toes during 10-to-15 hour flights,” she said.
More than height and beauty, airline companies are looking for other things from aspiring FAs. For instance, fluency in English and other foreign languages is considered a bigger advantage. Employers also put a preference for people with experience in customer and hospitality service, as well as those who are good swimmers.
Ms. Tuazon-Guico said the ongoing trend among airline companies is their preference for applicants who already took third-party cabin crew training prior to applying for the job. The problem in the industry is that after the initial screening, companies invest in training the cabin crew. When a trainee fails to pass the course, this represents an automatic loss in their investment, she said.
“When an applicant comes in and tells the employer that she already took the necessary course on personality development, aircraft familiarization, safety procedures, customer service, and even in-flight food service, her chances get a big, big boost. In a way, the applicant is telling the potential employer that she has what it takes to pass their in-house training and money will not be wasted on her,” Ms. Tuazon-Guico explained.
She said, instead of promoting misconceptions about what are needed to become flight attendants, people should start educating young people about these real-life requirements for cabin crew service.
“Being a flight attendant is a wonderful career. Instead of feeding young minds with passé information, we should support them by teaching them the real stuff that’s needed to achieve their dreams. A correct mind set and proper training, more than mere looks, should enable them to really reach their goals in becoming flight attendants,” she said.
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