On the job: Day in the life of a flight attendant


Aimee Teyssier

To understand careers and their implications with more clarity, this article will dive into the specifications of being a flight attendant.

Thirty-six thousand feet in the air, we sat down with Southwest flight attendant Brooke Pierce. Literally. We were in our seats (the seatbelt sign was on) while Pierce knelt in the aisle between us. 

We got to learn everything a flight attendant’s job entails, from Paris to poor manners. As we soared through our flight, Pierce highlighted what made her gravitate to this career. 

Pierce took the first steps to become a flight attendant immediately after high school. She started five days before her 19th birthday, and 10 years later, her passion for flying has yet to descend.

“After graduation, I wanted to get out of the house and travel. My parents told me I needed to figure out what I wanted to do with my life. I put two and two together and came up with flight attending,” Pierce said.

At cruising altitude, Pierce walks through the aisles, passing out snacks. But Pierce is much more than a glorified waitress; she’s constantly surveying for a host of possible safety issues. 

Pierce is a first responder, but she is not usually fighting fires or capturing criminals. Instead, she’s protecting traveling passengers. 

“Just last week, we had a woman who couldn’t breathe, so we had to give her oxygen immediately,” Pierce said.

To become a first responder and facilitate her acceptance into an airline, Pierce attended the Airline Academy. While this is an optional step to becoming a flight attendant, Pierce found it to be a valuable experience.

“The Airline Academy helped me in the long run because it connected me with airlines. Once I made those connections, I got an interview with an airline and went through their training. The training is pretty much safety, safety, safety,” Pierce said.

According to the Airline Academy website, over 65 airlines have hired Airline Academy graduates, and the academy has an 85% confirmed placement rate with an airline.

“The Airline Academy was absolutely wonderful. I was fresh out of college with no work experience, so this was definitely the right choice to get me the flight attendant job,” said flight attendant Rebecca Tynes in a testimonial on the Airline Academy website.

Now that she’s hired, Pierce’s schedule looks far different than it did as a trainee.

Pierce is in and out of boarding gates all day. Whether it’s a red eye across the country or a two-hour flight, her work schedule isn’t like your typical 9 to 5. 

“Most flight attendants’ schedules are three days on, four days off. Some flight attendants work their time, but I have a mortgage and things to pay for. So I actually end up working six days on, then a couple of days off, and then another six days,” Pierce said.

Demanding work schedules like Pierce’s foster close-knit relations among the flight attendants.

“We tend to become a small family in three days. A lot of the time, we fly with different flight attendants for every trip. But then we also have friends who we can pick up trips with. In October, I picked up two trips with one of my friends, which was very nice,” Pierce said.

However, all airlines are different, and each has its own policies regarding picking trips.

“With my last airline, I had certain benefits that let me travel overseas. My best friend is from France, so I’ve actually been there about 10 times. I’ve been to Brussels, Australia, Thailand,” Pierce said.

But being a flight attendant, with its jet-set allure, isn’t always like sitting in first class with refreshments abound. 

“A lot of passengers are a little on the rough side, and many flight attendants don’t want to deal with jerks and rude people in enclosed spaces. Some days are better than others, but, despite that, I still love my job,” Pierce said.

These taxing overtimes make flight attendants privy to running out of fuel. Fortunately, Pierce has found ways to avoid burning out.

“Most flight attendants stick to their schedule, which gives them time off and helps them avoid burnout. We also can take time off if we choose,” Pierce said.

Time off allows flight attendants to tend to their life on the ground. When Pierce is not in the air, she loves to spend time with her family: her parents and dog.

“My parents recently moved in with me because they retired, which we had planned to do. It works out nicely because they watch my dog while I’m working,” Pierce said.

As much as she loves her job, Pierce relishes the moments when she’s home with her loved ones before her few days of break pass and she’s back at the airport again. There are more passengers to assist and more destinations to fly to.

“Once, a flight attendant came by my seat when I was very airsick. I said I felt nauseous and claustrophobic — the stuffiness and recirculated air were really getting to me. She reassured me that it was normal to feel this way and handed me an airsick bag,” said Emily Hamanaka, a junior at Carlmont. “She was very helpful.”

And, with that, ladies and gentlemen, Scot Scoop welcomes you to the end of one day in Pierce’s life as a flight attendant. The local time is 3:46 P.M. For your safety and the safety of those around you, please remain seated with your seat belt fastened and keep the aisle(s) clear until we are parked at the gate.