In this chapter, I will discuss what to expect, while attending initial flight attendant training.
If selected for training, what to expect, pay, training, roommates, exams each day.
Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable. Remember this every day during training. Remember this at any time while on duty during your airline flight attendant career.
During initial flight attendant training, the material will cover between 150-200 different topics. Yes, it is a lot to learn! But you can do it!!
Before you arrive to attend the initial flight attendant training, the airline may send you a “Welcome Packet”, or “Study Packet”. Be sure to read all the information.
Before I attended initial flight attendant training with Comair, and Chautauqua Airlines, each airline sent me a “Study Packet”.
This packet, had information on our accommodations during training, dress code, conduct policy, and a study guide. The study guide included over 100 airport/city codes (ATL-Atlanta, CVG-Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, YYZ-Toronto, etc……..)
The study guide mentioned, during the first day of class, an exam would be given, on airport/city codes. So, I made sure I studied and memorized all the airport/city codes.
If you are invited to attend flight attendant training, you may be away from home for a month, or longer.
Most airlines will pay for your flight to/from training. However, if you live close enough to drive to the training location, I highly recommend driving your car to training. This will allow you to take time away from training (and even from your roommate(s)). The training is intense. You will need to find ways to relax and reduce the stress.
While I attended flight attendant Training with Comair, I lived 90 minutes away from the training location. So, I was able to be home in my own bed each night.
When I attended flight attendant training with Chautauqua Airlines, I was still living near Cincinnati. The drive from my house to the Chautauqua Airlines training location in Indianapolis was approximately three hours. So, I drove my car to the Chautauqua Airlines training location in Indianapolis. Twice, I was able to drive home for a day, on our days off, in between training class sessions.
If you do not live close enough to be able to drive to initial flight attendant training, most airlines will pay for your flight to/from training.
Since you will be away from home for a month or more, I highly recommend having a family member, friend, girlfriend, Wife, husband, etc…Drop you off at the airport, to save money on airport parking expenses.
Once you land at the training location airport, you should be met by airline personnel, the hotel van, or bus, to take you to your initial flight attendant training hotel. It should not be necessary for you to pay for a cab, or rent a car, to take you to the initial flight attendant training hotel.
If you are invited to attend initial flight attendant training, in a location not within driving distance of your home, you will need to stay in a hotel, or possibly an apartment.
Most airlines will arrange, and pay for, your housing during training. However, during initial flight attendant training, most likely a roommate (or roommates), will be assigned to share your hotel room/apartment with you.
For those airlines which will not pay for your housing during initial flight attendant training, the in flight instructors, or in flight managers should have information on temporary housing.
My advice is, once you have been invited to attend initial flight attendant training, try to set up your housing situation as soon as possible. Then, if possible, ask to get in touch with some of your classmates to see if any of them would be willing to share the apartment, hotel, or house with you during training.
You may be able to rent a house for the 4-6 weeks and have several roommates sharing the house, and the cost of rent with you. There are some long term, hotels which offer 2-3 bedroom “suites”.
However, the cost of this type of housing can cost $300 or more per week.
However, a long term hotel might be preferable as compared to trying to rent an apartment or house for the 4-6 weeks of training.
If you are fortunate enough to be with a roommate you already know, that will be to your advantage. However, for most flight attendants in training, your roommate(s) will not be someone you knew previously.
Roommate issues are common when attending initial flight attendant training. However, unless the roommate situation is extreme, a safety issue, or health issue, it is not likely you will be able to change roommates. Or, have a room to yourself. The reason the airline arranges for double/triple occupancy during initial flight attendant training is, to save money.
Even if you do not like, or get along with your roommate(s), your focus must be learning the material, passing all the exams, and preparing for an airline flight attendant career. If your roommate(s) are people you like, that makes it easier.
However, once training is over, you may or may not see your roommates very often. So, even if your roommate situation seems unbearable, it is only temporary.
Once you pass training, and begin working trips, you will always have a hotel room to yourself. You will not have a roommate at any time while staying in a hotel while working a trip. Again, the airline pays for your hotel room anytime you are working a trip.
While attending initial flight attendant training, while the airline may pay for your hotel room, most airlines will not provide you with free or paid meals. You will have to pay for meals during training.
While attending initial flight attendant with Chautauqua Airlines, we stayed in a hotel room (suite) which had a microwave oven, small stove, and refrigerator. So, I was able to cook my meals in my hotel room during training. While I often dined at restaurants, on those long training days (or long study days and nights), I was able to save money and time by cooking meals in my hotel room. However, I was glad I drove my own car to/from initial flight attendant training.
Most airlines now do not pay you during training. You may receive a small “Per Diem” amount, possibly $25 per day. But that’s all. Even then, you may not receive a paycheck until you actually graduate from training. This means, it may be 6-8 weeks, before you receive a paycheck.
When you do receive your first actual paycheck from working flights, often, the airline will deduct money to pay for uniform, luggage, or union dues.
Therefore, before you decide to pursue a career as a flight attendant, or accept the invitation to training, you need to save enough to get you through those first two months. It is not easy. You may have to ask family members or friends to help you.
While in training, you will be watched very closely. Not only during class but even outside of class.
The flight attendant instructors will be watching how you conduct yourself, how well you interact with other students, and of course, how neatly you look and dress.
When the instructors tell you to do something, do it. Do not argue. Just smile and do what you are told. Again, you will be watched (and judged) by all your instructors, in flight managers/supervisors, and anyone associated with your airline. Pay attention during class.
Be sure to arrive early to your class time. Every time. Be sure to come back from breaks, lunch, dinner, etc….early. Do not walk into the classroom, or training facility late. Arriving late could mean you will be excused from training, and sent home.
While attending initial flight attendant training with Comair, and then Chautauqua Airlines, I made it a habit of coming back into class at least 5 minutes early from any break. During class, we were allowed to leave the classroom, if we needed to use the restroom. But I rarely left the classroom to use the restroom. I did not want to miss anything which was being discussed or taught by the in flight instructors.
Comair: Comair was owned by Delta Airlines. Comair and Delta were the largest employers in the greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky region.
While we flew under the name of Comair, we were known as a Delta Connection.
April 2000: Out of over 300 applicants, I was one of 53 invited to the Comair Flight Attendant Training.
Comair’s Headquarters and Training Facilities were located in Erlanger, KY. Very close to the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).
Training was just over 4 weeks in length. Since I lived about 90 minutes from CVG, I did not have to stay in a hotel during training.
For me, I felt this was an advantage. I did not have to deal with roommate issues. For the most part, I studied alone.
The classes were held six days a week. Instruction time was about 6 hours per day. On the sixth day of each week, the class ended by 12:00 PM.
On most days, we had an exam. We had to pass each exam with a 90% or better. If we received a score of less than 90%, we were allowed one re take. Meaning, we were allowed to re take an exam once. If we received another score of less than 90%, we were excused from training and sent home.
So, this placed a lot of pressure and stress on us. But this is how all flight attendant training is conducted, for all US Airlines. I cannot speak nor have knowledge of flight attendant training for foreign airlines.
Here is a partial list of what we learned during the 4 1/2 week Comair Initial Flight Attendant training:
Alcohol/Illicit Drug testing
Scheduling of flight attendants
Flight attendant rest requirements
Flight Deck Restrictions
Galley care safety
Passenger use of portable electronic devices
Opening/closing aircraft doors
Alcoholic beverage service
Pets/animals on board
All emergency equipment on board the aircraft
In flight duties
Preparation for landing duties
During the 4 1/2 week training, most of the training was held inside classrooms. However, we also received training on board the CRJ 200, and the CRJ 700.
This was held inside the hanger at the CVG airport. The training would be conducted, on planes which were currently out of service.
When training was held on the air crafts, we learned evacuation drills, emergency procedures, and how to open and close all the doors on the aircraft. This allowed us to become familiar with the differences between air crafts. While training took place on board air crafts,.
We also had hands on instruction on fighting fires (with the Halon Fire Extinguishers), using the PBE (Protective Breathing Equipment), the AED, becoming CPR/First Aid certified, and the proper use of all the emergency equipment available to flight attendants. As well as FARs (Federal Aviation Regulations).
Comair’s instructors were pleasant, but tough. Their job was to teach us how to become successful, and be prepared. However, the Comair In flight instructors did not take any flack or BS from students. They expected us to be on time, every time. Being late, tardy, or unprepared, was not tolerated. We were not assigned or provided with uniforms during training. So, we were expected to dress business casual. We could, however, wear jeans, or even shorts, during evacuation drills, or practicing with the emergency equipment.
During training, we would break for lunch, usually a 45-60 minute lunch. Breaks were given every 2 hours or so. But again, we were expected to be in our seats, ready to resume, on time, every time. This was actually good training, to get used to how critical it is, to be on time when working flights. While the top priority is always safety and comfort. Being on time, is a critical aspect of the airline industry.
The material taught during training, is not difficult. The difficult part is, absorbing so much, in such a short period of time.
I would compare the 4 1/2 week initial flight attendant training, to a 16 week college semester. Since there is so much to learn, I would advise anyone going through training, to put everything else on hold. Do not attempt to work another job.
If you are married, or in a relationship, you may have to sacrifice time with that person, in order to focus your energy solely on training. While this is challenging for many, it is a prerequisite to what it will be like working in the airline industry.
You will be away from home for several days at a time, on a regular basis. The divorce and separation rates within the airline industry are extremely high. Wives, husbands, boyfriends, girlfriends, etc…sometimes have a difficult time accepting the fact you will not be home every night. I can speak from personal experience.
During class time, the instructors will be spending much of the time teaching out of the FAM (Flight Attendant Manual). You will be expected to learn the FAM forward and backwards. As long as you learn (and memorize) every aspect of the FAM, you will do well in training. Of course, you will also have to pass all the exams, including evacuation drills, knowing how to operate all the available emergency equipment, first aid/CPR, security procedures, and more. It is a very intense 4-8 weeks. It is not easy.
There may be times during training, when it becomes overwhelming. Or, stress begins to set in. This is to be expected. It happens to just about everyone.
If you find working as a flight attendant is not for you, this would be the time to move on. Before you invest any more energy and time into the wrong career, this would be the time to resign from training. However, if you can get through the initial training, and graduate, you will look back upon this experience as one you will want to remember. You will also make friends during training. While the training is intense, you will also have fun too.
If you have a positive attitude, you will do well. But keep in mind, your goal is to pass the exams, know the material so you can begin your airline flight attendant career with confidence.
During training, while it is important to interact with the other students, it is not a popularity contest.
Some students may want to “go out on the town” to relax, or reduce stress. Do not feel obligated to “join the crowd”. If you need that time to study, or relax on your own, that is ok.
While in training with Comair, I lived close enough to be able to be home every night. So, I never spent much time with other students outside of class.
In addition, students have different ways of studying. Sometimes it is good to be a part of a “study group”. This will help you and your fellow students, provide feedback, and compare notes. Since there is so much to learn, it is possible to overlook or ignore aspects which are important. Other times, it may be best to study with one other person, or study alone. Study the way which works best for you.
On most days during training, you will have an exam. Most exams have between 20-100 multiple choice, or fill in the blank type questions.There is also a 100+ question final exam. The exams are not open book exams! You have to know the material.
Very few essay type questions. However, there were a few scenario type questions. In which several questions were based on a story or scenario. The exams were usually timed. So, you only had a certain amount of time to get through the exam. However, most of the time, the exams were given near the end of each class session.
In order to pass an exam, you have to score a 90% or better. Anything less than 90% is considered a failure. While this may seem harsh, Comair and Chautauqua Airlines, both allowed 1 or 2 exam retakes. So, if you failed one exam, you could take the exam again, and if you passed, you were allowed to remain in the class. However, if you earned less than 90% on the retake exam, you were excused from training and sent home. That was tough seeing people leave, after failing the retake.
Yes, I had to do a retake exam, while going through initial flight attendant training with Comair. This was an oral exam. We had to explain out loud to an in flight instructor, all the features of the on board emergency equipment. For some reason, I could not remember certain details. Thankfully, I passed the retake exam.
Interestingly enough, however, we had only about 10 minutes of training, in how to properly conduct a beverage/snack/meal service. This was the same while I trained with Comair, and later when I began training with Chautauqua Airlines.
One more note about your initial flight attendant final exam…..there are no re takes. You must pass the final exam with a 90% or better score. However, the final exam contains questions on all aspects of the 4-6 week training.
If you have passed all previous exams, (even with a re take) you should do fine on the final exam.
During training, three important events will take place:
1. You will be fitted for your flight attendant uniform. There will be uniform personnel who will tailor make your initial flight attendant uniform(s). For men, it’s quite simple. You will be fitted for shirts, jacket, pants and an overcoat.
For women, it’s much more extensive. Women wear a variety of different uniform combinations. However, the colors for men and women will be the same.
With Comair and Chautauqua Airlines, we wore navy blue pants, and jacket.
White shirts. I always ordered 2-3 each of long sleeve, and short sleeve shirts. And 3-4 pairs of pants. 2 ties. I would order 2 jackets and 1 overcoat.
We had to get black colored shoes on our own. With Comair, all graduates from flight attendant training were provided with one “roller board” (suitcase), free of charge. However, with Chautauqua Airlines, we were not provided with a free roller board bag.
The airline will not pay for your uniform. The cost of your uniform will be taken out of your paycheck. With Chautauqua Airlines, we were allowed to break up our uniform payments into six (6) easy monthly payments.
In some of the larger airports (Detroit, Atlanta, Minneapolis), there are airline crew retail stores. These retail stores are stocked with pilot and flight attendant uniforms, luggage, and accessories. www.crewoutfitters.com
The prices in the crew retail stores were the same as compared to the online airline crew uniform sites. So, anytime I needed something and had time, I would stop in at one of the airline crew stores. There used to be an airline crew retail store in Cincinnati, but it closed down a few years ago.
With Chautauqua Airlines, we used M & H Uniforms: www.mandhuniforms.com. In order to use this site, we had to be a current airline
flight attendant or pilot. We also had to authorize through our personnel department to create a user name and password.
For men, the shirts (short or long sleeve) cost approximately $26-35 each.
A pair of pants cost $69-80. Double Breasted Overcoat: $140-160.
For my first uniform order with Chautauqua Airlines, I ordered:
1. Short Sleeve Shirts (2)
2. Long Sleeve Shirts (4)
3. Pants (3 pairs)
4. Ties (2)
5. Double Breasted Overcoat (1)
6. Blazer/Jacket (1)
7. Tote/Overnight Bag (1)
I did not order a roller board/suitcase, since the roller board/suitcase I used while working with Comair, was still in excellent condition.
My initial uniform cost was large. However, I wanted to order enough shirts to get me through the first few months.
Every six months or so, I ordered new shirts or pants.
Every year, Chautauqua Airlines would provide us with a “uniform allowance”, of approximately $200.00. I would use this allowance to order shirts, pants, etc…..
Once you order your initial flight attendant uniform, you should receive your order at your home. It is unlikely you will pick up your uniform at your base crew room. There was a time when uniforms could be sent to your crew base, but that no longer seems to be an option.
The uniforms need to be dry cleaned as often as possible. For this reason, always order enough uniform pieces to ensure you have enough to get you through a trip. Some dry cleaning places take 2-3 days get clothes dry cleaned.
Never begin a trip, with a dirty uniform. Or, a uniform that has clearly not been cleaned. Always carry 2-3 clean shirts with you during any trip.
Most hotels do offer dry cleaning service, but it can take several hours. Or, the dry cleaning service may only be available on certain days. Some hotels provide coin operated washing machines and dryers.
Along with your roller board (suitcase), you will also be required to bring an overnight bag with you. This overnight bag must contain your FAM (Flight Attendant Manual). Your overnight bag must also contain a flashlight.
The overnight bag can be the size of a small duffle bag, preferably with wheels. You can order overnight bags through the airline crew uniform company, or on line. The overnight bag has to be black in color.
I always carried my laptop computer in my overnight bag. I also carried snacks, and other essential items, just in case, for whatever reason, my roller board bag was misplaced or damaged. More than once, my roller board bag was either damaged, or the wheels fell off.
One time we were in Minneapolis on an overnight. My roller board bag had wheel issues. As we were heading out of the terminal to catch the hotel van, one of the wheels on my roller board simply came off. Thankfully, there is an airline crew retail store inside the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport. I took the bag over to the store to see if they could repair my roller board bag.
The store personnel determined it would take too long to get the wheels replaced. So, I bought a brand new roller board bag at the Minneapolis airline crew store. The cost? The cost of a new roller board/suitcase in 2012 was $230.
2. Approximately half way through training, we selected our crew base preferences.
With some airlines, there may be several crew bases. With Comair, we had crew bases in (CVG) Cincinnati, Atlanta (ATL), New York (JFK), and Orlando (MCO). ,
When I was hired by Chautauqua Airlines, we had crew bases in:
Buffalo, Cincinnati, Corpus Christi, Richmond, Columbus, Indianapolis, Louisville, St. Louis, and Houston. Since I was living near Cincinnati, I put Cincinnati down as my first choice. My last choice was Corpus Christi.
Near the end of training, you will be assigned to your first crew base.
With Chautauqua, I did not receive Cincinnati as my first crew base. Instead, yes, I was assigned to the Corpus Christi crew base.
You may not receive or be assigned the crew base of your choice. Crew base assignments are calculated based on that crew bases particular needs, as well as seniority.
If you are able and willing to move to your airline’s crew base, this will allow you to avoid the challenges of a “commuter”.
Some airlines “require” new flight attendants to relocate to their assigned crew base. The relocation expenses are not paid for by the airline. This means you would have to find a new place to live and move at your own expense.
Some airlines only allow “new hire” flight attendants 3-4 days to relocate after initial flight attendant training has been completed. Four days is not much time to get back home, pack, find a new place to live, and move. Then, be ready to begin your airline flight attendant career. Without question, moving is often a stressful time for anyone. Then, being required to relocate in only a few days, is a challenge.
My advice would be, to contact anyone else in your initial flight attendant class, who is also being assigned to your new crew base. Maybe two or three other people would be willing to share an apartment or house. Or, possibly sharing a short or long term hotel room, until you can find a place of your own.
When you are assigned to your initial crew base, you may be assigned to a base a long way from home.
Also, with most airlines, you will begin your flight attendant career, on reserve. When I began my flight attendant career with Comair, I was only 3 people from the bottom of the entire Comair flight attendant seniority list.
When I was hired by Comair, Comair was conducting new flight attendant training classes every month. So, within a year’s time, I moved up the seniority list rather quickly. So, do not worry about starting your flight attendant career near the bottom of the seniority list. If you do a good job and stay with that airline, you will be able to transfer to the base of your choice.
Initially, you may have to relocate (at least temporarily), to a base far from home. If this is the case, try to contact other flight attendants in that base, or at least your base supervisor. Ask them for advice on housing. Some of the larger crew bases will have “crash pads” available.
Crash Pads are essentially houses which have been rented out, for the use of pilots and flight attendants.
If you can find an available crash pad, the cost will usually be far less as compared to renting an apartment, or house on your own.
However, a crash pad is simply a place to rest or sleep. You may have to share a room (and bathroom) with one or more other people. Privacy may be difficult to find. Also, you will have to find transportation to take you to/from the crash pad. For me, however, when I was displaced to JFK (New York) by Comair, I decided to find motels which offered airline crew rates.
Comair had decided to expand their New York (JFK) flight crew base. Even though I had been with Comair for over six years, I was still relatively low on the flight attendant seniority list. At first, Comair attempted to find flight attendant “volunteers”, who would be willing to transfer from Cincinnati to New York. When almost no one volunteered, Comair then decided to “displace”,
200 flight attendants from Cincinnati to New York. Very few flight attendants accepted being “displaced”. Most of the 200 displaced flight attendants resigned from Comair, rather than accept being based in New York.
Comair went up the seniority list, to find 200 Cincinnati based flight attendants, who would accept the displacement to New York. Eventually, my name/number came up. I had to decide whether or not to even attempt being based in New York.
I already knew about the high cost of housing, near JFK. At that time, I had a very nice house, about 90 minutes from Cincinnati. So, I had no intention of actually moving to New York. Instead, I decided to attempt to “commute” to/from New York.
Unfortunately, the airline crew rate hotels near JFK were close to $100.00 per night. So, yes, I did try a crash pad near JFK.
The cost of the crash pad was $550 per month. I tried the crash pad for two nights. On the second night, I arrived at the crash pad, to find out, there were no spare beds available. So, I had to leave, take a taxi, and go back to JFK. I spent that night on a chair inside the JFK Airport. I never went back to that crash pad.
Then, like many flight attendants, I attempted to sleep inside the JFK Comair Crew Room. There were plenty of chairs and a few sofas. However, there were so many flight attendants there, I had to sit on the floor. It was at that moment, I realized I had to move on, and leave Comair.
I flew back to Cincinnati the next day. I advised my base supervisor I was leaving Comair. I had to turn in my FAM, and ID Badges.
So, reluctantly, I resigned from Comair. It was sad to leave. I had made many friends. But for me, I could not see myself spending night after night attempting to sleep on the crew room floor at JFK.
So, my career with Comair came to an end. Immediately, I began to contact other regional airlines, applying to work as an airline flight attendant. Within 2 months, I had four firm offers to attend flight attendant training.
I had offers from Go Jet, ASA Airlines, Midwest Airlines, and Republic Airways. After careful consideration, I chose Republic Airways. Specifically to work for Chautauqua Airlines, which was one of three airline affiliates, operated by Republic Airways.
3. IOE. (Initial Operating Experience)
An IOE is a flight or series of flights conducted at the end of flight attendant training. You will be assigned to a trainer or a very experienced flight attendant who will fly with you, to work one flight, or possibly several flights. The purpose is, to test all your flight attendant training to see if you are actually prepared and ready to work flights on your own.
While working your IOE, You will need to be in full uniform. At this point, you should have received your ID Badge. Or, at least your temporary ID Badge.
You will need to have your ID Badge out, and visible. I always wore a lanyard around my neck, with my ID Badge. That way, my ID Badge was always visible.
You MUST have your ID Badge visible at all times when working, or while on duty.
You will need to show your ID Badge when going through airport security.
Some airlines require employees to “swipe” their ID Badge at a door/gate to enter the airline crew room, or to access restricted areas of the airport.
Anytime you meet with your flight crew, or during the crew briefing, the captain will look at your ID Badge to be sure you are the correct flight attendant for that flight. The captain and first officer will also show you their ID Badges.
Never, ever, ever leave home or the hotel without your ID Badge! If you lose your ID Badge, it is very likely you will not be able to work that flight or trip. However, if you do lose your ID Badge contact the crew scheduling department immediately. Also, contact the captain and/or the first officer working that trip. You will also have to contact your base supervisor or in-flight supervisor.
I have known flight attendants who lost or misplaced their ID Badges while working a trip. Most of them were required to remain at the hotel until a temporary letter or ID Badge could be sent to allow him/her to either continue working the trip or be able to return to their base.
Depending on where an ID Badge is lost, the flight(s) may have to be canceled, or delayed. If the ID Badge is lost while you are at home, or at your base, a reserve flight attendant may be assigned to work that flight or trip. Which means you would lose out on working that flight or trip, resulting in a reduced paycheck.
So, again, treat your ID Badge just like your driver’s license, passport, cash, and credit cards. Try not to lose or misplace your ID Badge.
Also, you are required to carry a current passport with you at all times. Even if you are not scheduled to work an international flight. All flight attendants are required to have a current passport with them at all times while on duty.
During your IOE, at first, your IOE instructor may ask you to watch him/her conduct a flight from beginning to end. Usually, you will sit in the first row of seats.
The IOE instructor/flight attendant may have you doing some, or possibly all the PA announcements.
The IOE instructor/flight attendant may “quiz” you on certain aspects of working a flight.
You may also be asked to prepare and conduct a beverage/snack service on your own. Possibly on the first flight, but most likely on the second IOE flight, your IOE instructor/flight attendant, may ask you to conduct/work an entire flight on your own. This may include, all PA announcements, greeting passengers, opening/closing the main cabin door, doing the passenger count, briefing exit row passengers, and conducting the beverage snack service.
Be sure you arrive early for your IOE flight assignment!! If you are late to your IOE or do not show up in time to work your IOE flight(s), it is possible you may be released from training and sent home.
My IOE Experience with Comair:
After completing (and passing) the initial flight attendant training, I was assigned to work an IOE (Initial Operating Experience) trip. This was my first “trip” with Comair. An IOE is the last step before being released to work flights on my own.
Due to scheduling conflicts, I went on my IOE, approximately two weeks after graduating from the initial flight attendant training with Comair.
At the time, Comair had a crew base in Orlando. So, I was flown to Orlando to meet with my IOE Instructor. Her name was “Alice”.
We were scheduled to work 5 flights over two days. The first two flights, I would simply observe, and watch everything the instructor did during the two flights. Then, I was scheduled to work the final three flights. The IOE instructor would observe, grade my performance, and either give me a passing or failing grade.
When I arrived into Orlando to meet with the IOE Instructor/Flight Attendant (Alice), IOE instructor, I could not locate Alice anywhere. Alice was supposed to meet me at the gate in Orlando. However, she was not there. I was not provided with the instructor’s phone number. So, I called the Comair inflight supervisor in Cincinnati.
Finally, the inflight supervisor was able to reach my IOE instructor. Apparently, Alice thought we were meeting the following day. About 3 hours later, the IOE instructor arrived. Since it was too late to work the scheduled two flights, the IOE instructor made arrangements to begin our IOE the next day. I spent that night in a hotel near the Orlando Airport.
The following morning, I met with Alice, (the IOE instructor) near the Delta Airlines Ticket Counter at the Orlando Airport.
On this day, we were scheduled to work three flights. For the first two flights, I would simply observe. We flew the CRJ 50 seat aircraft, requiring only one flight attendant. I was seated an aisle seat, in the first row of seats.
It was my observation, Alice was less than happy to be working that day. Maybe Alice had issues outside of work. However, I found her to be very abrupt, not friendly, or helpful. From what I understood, this IOE instructor had been with Comair for over 10 years.
During our initial conversation, the IOE instructor said, no one can match or exceed her expectations as a flight attendant.Alice said, she was the best flight attendant Comair has ever had. Then Alice said, “I do not pass any new hires, on the first try”.
When I heard that, I had a difficult time focusing or paying attention to anything else she had to say. While I knew an IOE could be difficult, it was apparent I had been assigned the most difficult Comair IOE instructor.
The first flight of the day was, Orlando-Cincinnati. About a two hour flight. According to my schedule, I was to work the third and final flight of the day, Orlando-Nashville, while the IOE instructor observed me.
During the first flight, just after we reached 10,000 feet, the IOE instructor told me to give the beverage service announcement. While I had the announcement memorized, I had printed out all the announcements, just in case I needed it. I admit, I was not quite prepared at that moment to give the beverage service announcement. Again, I was told I would simply observe for the first two flights of the day. But the IOE instructor, Alice, had different ideas.
I picked up the phone, hit the “speaker” button and began to give the beverage service announcement. I had the printed announcement in my other hand, just in case I needed it. Then Alice stopped me, and said to put the printed announcements away.
I was able to get through my very first beverage service announcement. However, after I was done with the beverage service announcement, Alice picked up the phone, and gave her version of the beverage service announcement. Her announcement was much shorter ,and left out some details. For example, the IOE instructor’s announcement left out the part thanking the Delta Sky miles (frequent flyer)passengers.
Being new, I kept my mouth shut and just tried to get through this flight. Sounded easy, but it was not.
As the IOE instructor completed her version of the beverage service announcement, I sat back down in my seat. Alice ordered me to get out of my seat and “get moving” on preparing the beverage cart. At that moment, she told me I would be conducting the beverage service by myself. Alice said, she would be observing.
So, this was a change of plans as to what I was expecting. However, I felt I was prepared to provide a good beverage service. Keep in mind, however, during the four weeks of initial flight attendant training, we spent a grand total of about 10 minutes on conducting a beverage/snack service. So, this was all new to me.
I prepared the ice drawer, made sure the coffee makers were operating and making coffee, then began my very first beverage/snack service.
This Orlando-Cincinnati flight had 45 passengers aboard. Not quite a full flight. I began my beverage service in the rear of the passenger cabin. This is what I was taught during training. In addition, in our FAM, it said for us to begin our beverage service in the rear of the passenger cabin. As soon as I began to roll the beverage cart down the aisle, the IOE instructor asked where I was going? I responded by saying I was beginning the beverage service in the rear of the cabin. The IOE
As soon as I began to roll the beverage cart down the aisle, the IOE instructor asked where I was going? I responded by saying I was beginning the beverage service in the rear of the cabin. The IOE instructor told me that is not the correct way. She told me, she always starts beverage service from the front of the passenger cabin.
Her explanation was, this is where many of the Delta Sky miles passengers sit. Alice immediately mentioned to those passengers sitting in the first three rows, thatI was new flight attendant. Alice told these passengers, this new flight attendant, did not realize how important our Delta Sky miles passengers are to Comair. I was not sure if it was intentional or not, but Alice seemed to be attempting to embarrass, or humiliate me.
It took all my inner strength not to say anything to the IOE instructor. After the IOE instructor gave her mini speech to the Delta Platinum, Gold, Silver, Elite, Medallion, etc….members, the IOE instructor allowed me to begin the beverage service.
I managed to get through my first beverage service, without any more comments or feedback from the IOE instructor.
However, Alice let me clean up the galley, collects trash from passengers, and prepare the catering supply list. Meanwhile, Alice sat in her seat, reading a book. When I attempted to sit in the jump seat, just to take a short break, the IOE instructor told me to get up and get moving to continue to collect trash from passengers.
For the rest of this first flight of my IOE experience, I was on my own. The IOE instructor did not say a word. I did all the announcements.
Once we landed in Cincinnati, we had about an hour between flights. However, we had to change aircrafts. So, I had to take my bags off the aircraft, and proceed to our gate. We were working the flight from Cincinnati back to Orlando. I was secretly hoping this IOE instructor would be replaced with a different IOE instructor. Unfortunately, this did not occur.
Alice barely said a word on the flight from Cincinnati to Orlando. I did it all, including making all the announcements, conducting the beverage/snack service, cleaning the galley, etc……..Meanwhile, again, the IOE instructor sat in the first row of seats, and read her book. She did not offer any help or assistance in any way.
When we landed in Orlando, it was a quick turn for the flight up to Nashville. Thankfully, we did not have to change aircrafts.
During the time between flights, Alice left the plane, and then was nearly the last person to board for the flight to Nashville.
Once again, I worked the Orlando-Nashville flight by myself. Alice continued to read her book.
When we arrived into Nashville, Alice did not assist, or help me in any way. She stood inside the jet way until I came out. Then, Alice said she was meeting a friend here. So, Alice would not be going with me to the hotel. This was fine by me.
The next morning, I met Alice at the gate in Nashville. The first thing Alice said was, “You will not be receiving a passing grade. You have failed to meet or exceed my expectations”. Then, Alice said, “You can work the flights if you want, but nothing will change my mind”.
I honestly felt this was a test. A test to see how badly I wanted to work as an airline flight attendant. I kept waiting for Alice to tell me this was a joke. However, Alice was completely serious.
As difficult as it was, I decided to go ahead and work the three flights. Thankfully, all three were short flights.
After the final flight of the day, Alice had very little to say. Alice did say, she felt I was not anywhere near close enough to be able to work with Comair. I was not sure how to respond, or what to think. I do remember, going home and wondering if my flight attendant career with Comair, was over.
I was able to fill out a feedback form on my IOE experience. I took this opportunity to express my thoughts, and explain what took place during the IOE with Alice. It was my opinion; I was not the only flight attendant who had “failed” an IOE with Alice.
At this point, I felt I was in limbo. I contacted the inflight supervisor in Cincinnati. All she would say was, she would get back to me soon. So, for a week, I stayed home.
In the meantime, I began applying with other airlines. I even drove up to Detroit to attend a flight attendant “open house” with Pinnacle Airlines. It appeared as though I would not be working with Comair.
Finally, I received a call from the Comair inflight supervisor. She told me to report the next morning, to meet with a different IOE instructor, named Frank. I was told it would be a one day trip, working 4 short flights. So, at least I felt I had a chance to overcome the IOE experience with Alice.
As soon as I met Frank, I immediately felt better and more confident. Frank assured me, I should have no trouble passing the IOE experience.
Frank let me work the first flight, by myself, without any input from Frank. The first flight was a very short flight from Cincinnati to Lexington. Flight time was approximately 20 minutes. Not enough time to even attempt any type of beverage or snack service. On flights this short, all I could do was, hand out mints to passengers.
After I completed working the Cincinnati-Lexington flight, Frank asked me a few questions in regards to the flight attendant emergency equipment and questions about the proper procedures for preparing a flight for an emergency evacuation or landing.
Frank said, “Brian you know all of this very well. You did a great job working this flight. There was no reason for me even being asked to go with you for a second IOE experience.” I worked the return flight from Lexington to Cincinnati. Then, after all the passengers had left, Frank said, “You can go home too. You passed with flying colors. You will be a great flight attendant with Comair.” So, I did not have to work the other two IOE flights that day.
While I was very thankful for the kind words and encouragement, Frank asked me exactly what happened during my IOE with Alice. So, I explained what took place during my IOE with Alice.
I can recall Frank telling me, “Alice has a reputation of not passing any new flight attendants on their IOE”. While this gave me some comfort, I asked Frank why Alice is an IOE instructor. All Frank said was, it was time for Alice to retire. A few days later, I found out Alice had been suspended from her IOE duties, and eventually left Comair.
Chautauqua Airlines IOE
When I passed the flight attendant training with Chautauqua Airlines, in April, 2007, I recall not having my IOE until after I had been on reserve for about 2 weeks.
I began my career with Chautauqua at the Corpus Christi crew base. I remember being home on my days off. Then, getting a call from the inflight supervisor, informing me, I would finally have my IOE.
My IOE with Chautauqua Airlines, was a one day trip, working on Delta Connection flights out of Cincinnati. At that time, I was still living near Cincinnati. So, I was able to drive to the airport to work my IOE trip.
My IOE with Chautauqua went smoothly. My IOE instructor passed me with a 100% score. So, unlike my IOE with Comair, I had a very pleasant IOE experience with Chautauqua Airlines.
Training With Chautauqua Airlines:
The Chautauqua Airlines Flight Attendant training was held at the Republic Airways headquarters, located in Indianapolis, IN.
The classrooms were inside the large Republic Airways building.
Republic Airways had three divisions within their company: Republic Airways, Shuttle America, and Chautauqua Airlines.
All three operated flights as contract carriers. With Chautauqua Airlines, we flew for American, Delta, US Air, Continental, United, and for a short time, Frontier. However, unlike Comair which was owned by Delta Airlines, Chautauqua Airlines was not owned by American, Delta, US Air, Continental, United or Frontier.
Republic Airways bid on the contracts to fly regional flights for those major air carriers.
For example, when I flew flights for American, I would make a PA announcement, “Welcome aboard American Connection flight 3987, operated by Chautauqua Airlines”. The air crafts had the American Airlines’ colors, but on the main cabin door, it read “Operated by Chautauqua Airlines”.
With Chautauqua Airlines, we flew the 50 seat Embraer 145 Regional jets, Embraer 140 Regional Jets (44 Seats), and even the Embraer 135 regional jets, which seated 37 passengers. In addition, when we flew Continental Express flights, we flew the 50 seat CRJ (Canadair) 200 Regional jets.
Since all of these air crafts seated 50 or fewer passengers, only one flight attendant is required. For me, this worked out very well.
I enjoy working independently. While it was not easy at times, I felt comfortable and confident being in charge.
When the pilots closed the cockpit door, I was in charge of the cabin. It was up to me to deal with whatever came up. The pilots will NOT come back to help. Not even during an emergency. Their job is to fly the aircraft. The cockpit door is securely closed and locked.
Here are some of the topics covered during the initial flight attendant training with Chautauqua Airlines:
1. CPR/First Aid techniques
2. Evacuation drills
3. Using all the emergency equipment: Halon Fire Extinguishers, POB, PBE, First Aid Kit, AED, Pin (to open up oxygen masks from above passengers),
Grab And Go Kit (To deal with bodily fluids), etc…You will be required to know the location of each piece of equipment on the aircraft.
4. How to open/close all doors on the air crafts.
5. How to deal with on board emergencies.
6. How to deal with air turbulence. Also, cabin decompression, Hypoxia.
7. Security procedures.
8. Dealing with Unaccompanied Minors (UM’s).
9. FAR’s (Federal Aviation Regulations).
10. How to handle physically challenged passengers. Try to seat these passengers in an aisle seat. But not the bulkhead. The reason is, the arm rests on bulkhead seats cannot be moved or raised. Also, physically challenged passengers cannot be seated in an exit row. This includes passengers who carry a Portable Oxygen Bottle with them.
Passengers who require a seat belt extender, cannot sit in an exit row. Exit Row passengers must be at least 15 years old. If there is a question in regards to the age of exit row passengers, ask to see ID, or ask their parents. UM’s cannot sit in an exit row.
FAM (Flight Attendant Manual). This is the bible for flight attendants. This is your guide. Read it and refer to your FAM often.
During training, you will be expected to learn and memorize just about every page in the FAM. Not easy. But during your flight attendant career, your FAM will be able to answer many questions and resolves issues which may come up. Your FAM is one of your required duty items.
Make sure before you leave for a trip, your Flight Attendant Manual is up to date with any changes or bulletins. Bulletins come out periodically with updates or changes. Most of the updates are in regards to airline/airport procedures or FAA requirements.
Usually, the bulletin pages are in a different color to stand out in your FAM.
Every year or so, you may be required to replace many of your FAM pages. Sometimes, an entirely new FAM manual will replace your current FAM. If this happens, you will receive the new FAM, pages, or any bulletins in your V-file in the crew room.
A V file is your personal file folder, located in a file cabinet again, usually in your crew room. The crew room is often located below the main airport terminal, in a room somewhere in the airport terminal, or even off site.
In Cincinnati, our crew room was located in a room, in an unused part of the airport.
In order to gain access to the crew room, we had to swipe our ID Badge and enter a security code. The security code changes periodically.
While I worked with Chautauqua Airlines, again our crew room was located somewhere in the airport terminal. Usually in a room, not too far from departure gates. The crew room always had a security code which must be entered, before access was granted.
The initial training with Chautauqua Airlines was approximately 4 1/2 weeks long. Classes were conducted in the classroom, as well as on the air crafts. We also did “hands on” training with the Halon Fire Extinguishers.
In my Chautauqua Airlines’ initial flight attendant class, we started out with 48 students, with 27 actually graduating. While the graduating number seems low, the fact is, it is common for people to leave initial flight attendant training for various reasons. In addition, some students were unable to maintain a passing grade of 90% or better.
During the first day of training, each of us had to stand up, tell everyone our name, where we are from, and a brief back round. Then, the instructors handed out our FAM’s (Flight Attendant Manual).
The instructors with Chautauqua Airlines were excellent! In comparison with my initial airline flight attendant training with Comair, the instructors with Chautauqua were all helpful, professional, but tough when necessary. The instructors with Chautauqua, expected all students to pay attention, show up on time, dress appropriately, and adhere to the classroom etiquette.
Here is an example of what can happen if one of the students was not acting appropriately:
There was a woman in my Chautauqua Airlines’ initial flight attendant training, who simply did what she wanted when she wanted. She was consistently late coming back from breaks or lunch.
One day, she got up in the middle of class, left the building went to McDonald’s. Then, came back into the classroom, sat in the back, and ate her meal. This took place after our morning break, and well before our lunch break.
This student took her time, eating her meal, but not paying any attention to the instruction taking place. When the student was done with her meal, one of the instructors asked her to go out to the hallway and wait. A few minutes later, one of the instructors went out to the hall to talk with this student.
A few moments later, the student came back into the classroom, collected her belongings, and was escorted out of the building. She was released from training.
The instructor came back into the classroom, to tell us what had taken place. She reminded us we are here to train for a career as an airline flight attendant. Disrespect would not be tolerated.
The training with Comair and Chautauqua Airlines was essentially the same. However, there were differences in regards to the location of emergency equipment on board each aircraft, as well as, slight variations to the emergency evacuation procedures.
There had been changes in regards to conducting CPR, and other first aid treatments. While it did help me to have had previous flight attendant training with Comair, I still had to learn the material, and memorize the entire Flight Attendant Manual.
While you are in training, take as many notes as possible. From my experience, whatever material the instructors discuss during class, will likely appear on an exam. However, as I mentioned, you will be expected to learn just about every page of your Flight Attendant Manual.
The 4 1/2 week initial flight attendant training is intense. The key is, to remain focused on studying for each exam. Try not to look ahead into other aspects of training.
We had an exam just about every day. You had to earn a 90% or better score on each exam. Any score less than 90% was considered a “failure”.
During initial flight attendant training with Chautauqua Airlines, we were allowed one” re take exam”. If we failed the “re take exam”, we were released from training and sent home.
Our first exam was, to name or recognize over 100 airport/city codes. Before we arrived to begin training, a “Welcome Packet” had been mailed to each of the students. In that packet, was a study guide for the airport/city codes.
We were informed, during the first day of class, an exam would be given on the airport/city codes. So, there was no excuse not to be prepared for our first exam. However, two students failed the first exam. Both students were able to take the “re take” exam.
One of the students did pass the re take exam. The other student did not pass the retake exam, and was released from training.
Most of the exams had between 20-80 multiple choice questions, or “fill in the blank” questions.
There were very few essay type questions. However, in a few exams, there were “scenario” type questions. Exam questions would be based on a customer service scenario or story. You would have to go back and forth between the questions and the scenario. Those questions were the most time-consuming.
Thankfully, however, the initial flight attendant final exam did not contain any scenario questions.
The initial flight attendant final exam consisted of 100 multiple choice questions. The final exam contained questions covering the entire 4 1/2 week initial flight attendant class. As difficult as it may sound, if you did well on the previous exams, the final exam can be relatively easy. I was one of the very few initial flight attendant students to have earned a perfect, 100% score on my final exam.
Everyone has their own way of studying. Some people like to study with other students. Some, prefer to study alone.
I preferred to study alone, but when it came to practicing our PA Announcements, and our evacuation drills, we formed several study groups. I wanted feedback on how well I did, and how I could improve.
For many students, the emergency evacuation drills are the most difficult aspect of training. For this reason, I practiced the various commands of each emergency evacuation drill as often as possible.
The emergency evacuation drills were conducted on board one of our air crafts. The aircraft was located inside, or right next to one of the aircraft hangers. We were able to practice our evacuation drills on board each of the air crafts at least once.
At that time, Chautauqua Airlines operated the CRJ 50 seat aircraft, EMB 135 (37 passengers), EMB 140 (44 passengers, and EMB 145 (50 passengers).
Each of these air crafts had variations on the main cabin door, the galley door, and the location of emergency equipment.
We had to conduct an emergency evacuation drill on at least two of these air crafts. Each of us was timed and evaluated during each emergency evacuation drill. We had to sit in our jump seat, and when prompted, begin our emergency evacuation drill.
I tried to be the first, or one of the first to conduct our emergency evacuation drills. I was confident I would do well. I wanted to get it over with, then sit back and watch everyone else have their turn.
The emergency evacuation drills were conducted at night. Due to the lack of availability of air crafts, we had to conduct two separate evacuation drills, on different nights. The second evacuation drill started at 11:00 PM. We were not finished until after 1:00 AM.
Then, we had to be in class that same morning, beginning at 9:00 AM. So, this was actually good practice to deal with a short night of rest.
When working an actual trip, the minimum amount of rest between duty periods is 8 hours. I worked many trips when our flight crew had exactly 8 hours of rest between duty periods.
One word about the evacuation drill exercises……Take these evacuation drills seriously. When it is your turn to give your evacuation drill, yell out the commands clearly. Do not skip any words or phrases.
There are several types of evacuation commands, depending on the type of emergency. You will be expected to know all the commands, and phrases for all the emergency evacuation drills.
In addition to being tested on the emergency evacuation drills, we also had to open and close the main cabin door, galley door, and over wing exit doors, on each aircraft. There were two different types of main cabin doors: “Plug” doors, and “Air Stairs” doors.
The plug doors required the flight attendant to pull the door closed. Plug doors do not have stairs attached. Aircrafts utilizing plug doors, require a set of stairs (or ramp) to be placed next to the opened plug doors, to enable passengers to board and leave the aircraft.
Air stair doors are closed by first pressing the “Door Button”, located on the front panel. Then, locking the door by pulling the handle into the locked position.
CPR/First Aid Drills:
During initial flight attendant training with Comair, and Chautauqua Airlines, we were tested on our ability to conduct CPR on adults, as well as children. We also had to show our ability to assist babies in placing the infant life vest over their head, and attach it to their bodies, in case of a water landing.
The CPR/First Aid drills included an adult “dummy”, a baby “dummy”, along with the AED, one way valve, and face mask. When using the face mask to administer CPR, the one way valve helps prevent the victim from spitting, or throwing up in your face.
Each of us were tested in our ability to administer CPR the correct ways, help people who have stopped breathing, and use the AED properly.
During training, you will likely receive information on the different health insurance plans. Some airlines have reduced the medical benefits. Meaning, you may have to pay more for health insurance.
In addition, at some point during training, you will have a visit from your Union Representative. He or she will explain the advantages of being a union member. While you are not required to join the union, having access to your union rep will be valuable, especially during your initial days, weeks and months.
As an airline flight attendant, I was be a member of the Teamsters Union. While I was with Comair, we had a union representative in our crew room virtually all the time. You will also receive a copy of the union contract. Read this contract very carefully.
The flight attendant contract explains in detail, what your exact duties are, your pay scale is, how to deal with calling in sick, vacation time, overtime, details of being on reserve, dealing with your scheduling department, flight cancellation protection, and so much more.
If you do not understand something in the contract, or need more clarification, do not hesitate to contact your union representative. That is why he or she is there. To help you.
1. Most airlines will pay for your flight to/from your initial flight attendant training location.
2. Most airlines will pay for your accommodations during your initial flight attendant training. For those airlines which will not pay for your flight and/or accommodations, as soon as you are invited to attend the initial flight attendant training, ask your recruiter, or in flight manager for information on temporary housing.
Or, view the list provided in this manual for long term hotels.
3. In regards to flights, book your round trip airline ticket as soon as possible. If you live close enough to drive, I highly recommend driving to your initial flight attendant location.
4. If the airline sends you a “Welcome Packet”, which may include information on your first exam, be sure to carefully review all the information. As I mentioned, when I attended the initial flight attendant training with Comair, and Chautauqua Airlines, during the first day of class, we were given an exam on airport/city codes.
5. Early is on time. On time is late. Late is unacceptable. Try to be early to class each day, and be back in class early after each break.
6. The training is intense. Try to find ways to relax, or reduce stress as often as possible.
7. While it is important to interact with other students, it is not a popularity contest. During training, some students may “go out on the town” to relax and release stress. Do not feel obligated to join “the crowd”. If you feel you need that time to study, or relax alone, do what is best for you.
While attending initial flight attendant training, I will be available via e mail, to answer any questions you may have.