Flight attendant interview: The pros and cons of speaking a second language and how it affects reserve

Dear Heather, I am hoping to become a flight attendant soon (have a face to face interview next week!) and have a question about reserve status. I speak Japanese fluently and was wondering how different things are for flight attendants who speak a different language. Are they on reserve for the same amount of time? Is anything different? – Natasha

For the first time in history being a flight attendant is considered a profession, not just a job. Fewer flight attendants are quitting, turnover is not as high as it once was, and competition to become a flight attendant has gotten fierce. Ninety-six percent of people who apply to become a flight attendant do not get a call back. In December of 2010 Delta Airlines received more than 100,000 applications after announcing they had an opening for 1,000 flight attendants. Even though it is not a requirement to have a college degree, only the most qualified applicants are hired. Being able to speak a second language will greatly improve your chance!

The only thing that affects reserve status is company seniority (class hire date). Seniority is assigned by date of birth within each training class. This means the oldest classmate will become the most senior flight attendant in your class. Seniority is everything at an airline, and I mean everything! It determines whether you’ll work holidays, weekends and when, if ever, you’ll be off reserve. So it’s important to accept the earliest training date offered.

While speaking another language doesn’t affect how long you’ll serve reserve, it will have an impact on your flying career.

PROS

1. MORE MONEY. “Speakers” earn more per hour than non-speakers. Unfortunately it’s only a few dollars on top of what a regular flight attendant is paid. Remember most flight attendants make between fourteen to eighteen thousand a year the first year on the job, so every dollar counts.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Flight attendant interview: The pros and cons of speaking a second language and how it affects reserve

  1. The secret is to speak a language that’s enough common that you aren’t obligated to just fly those trips. I was chummy with the other French speakers so I could pick up and trade when I wanted (thank goodness, senior enough to NOT have to fly only those lines). The Portuguese speakers were not so lucky.

    We were all dying to do Rio’s but I was ages away from holding one. They disappeared like hotcakes on the trade board. One Portuguese speaker told me how she was sick to death of Rio. One day she got a Frankfurt, a city I had the pleasure to visit 21 times my first year flying. Booooorrrring (although other German cities are another story). She was so happy! Then the Portuguese speaker on the Rio went sick and she was pulled out of briefing. Sorry!

    What bugged me was when we had another speaker on the flight and needed that language. For example, Arabic speaking passengers on board and we happened to have an Arabic speaker. “I’m not getting language pay for this trip. Sorry!” Hate. That.

    You were hired partly because of your language skills and are expected to help passengers with those skills. Enough said, and yes, I was happy to help French speakers even when I wasn’t the “speaker”.

  2. I find it a good idea to know another language. It really helps you when applying for a job as a flight attendant. I know it helped me a lot when i was in business class and the flight attendant was able to understand me and also talk with me as well.

  3. E

    Hi Heather,
    I’ve commented before, but I work for an airline and speak another language. I was only on reserve for 2 months because they really needed language speakers and even got Christmas off my first year (last Christmas). Since I can hold overseas, my per diem pay is much higher of those who are unilingual. Everything is still done by seniority, but overall, I’ve considered myself extremely lucky but having another language especially one the airline needs is definitely an asset.

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