Flight attendant jobs with smaller airlines. Is it for you?


Most people who have the dream of flight attendant jobs only consider a position with a major airline. There are valid reasons for this – major airlines go to more destinations and more far away places, typically offering the highest pay and the largest benefit packages. There is also a certain amount of prestige attached with belonging to a major air carrier. But there are some real assets connected with working for a smaller airline.

Maybe you have been unable to find employment with one of the major airlines. Obtaining a job with a major airline is quite competitive. This arena is most challenging and airlines have a certain image of the employee they want. Or perhaps you are not able to relocate, and can only work for an airline with crew bases in your area, or maybe you simply prefer the idea of working for a small company.

You may also realize that there are just some qualities of a certain airline that you favor over another. Whatever the reason, it can be very rewarding to be working for a national or regional (sometimes called “feeder”)carrier.

Medium-sized carriers are referred to as national airlines. They serve a smaller region than a major airline and larger than a feeder or regional airline. National airlines usually operate within the confines of North America and possibly Central America, Canada and/or the Caribbean. Airlines that are classified as national airlines include companies such as AirTran, Midway, Spirit, Frontier and JetBlue.

If you are not interested in flying global routes for a living, these airlines still offer reciprocal pass benefits on major airlines, so it is very likely you would have the opportunity to fly internationally during your off-time. Most national carriers also offer abundant benefit packages and the pay, even though somewhat less than that of the majors, can rapidly increase.

For those of you who prefer more of a family atmosphere, the smaller scale regional or feeder airlines offer big advantages also. These airlines provide connecting service to major airlines through hub cities by flying to smaller towns that major airlines are unable to service.

Flight attendants for regional airlines usually have a lot of regular customers, that is, people who fly the same routes throughout the week. These are usually business travelers who are frequent flyers. They provide flight attendants with the pleasure of seeing familiar faces every day.

Most regional airlines have limited seating of fifty or less, and only one flight attendant is required per fifty people. Many flight attendants have found that they enjoy being a one-person-show. They are in charge of their passengers on their own, performing their inflight duties autonomously.

This gives them a chance to creatively provide their own brand of service to passengers, without having to negotiate with other flight attendants on inflight matters, and is considered to be the best of all worlds for some independent folks. Regional airlines usually have competitive pay within the industry and enjoy benefits with other larger airlines as well. And yes, you can still travel the globe for huge discounts!

The charter airline is another choice of a flight attendant career with a smaller company. Charter airlines work with groups who actually “lease” or “rent” a flight to go to a particular destination of their choosing. Some clients of charter airlines include the military, other airlines, vacation tour groups, athletes, rock stars and celebrities.

In most cases these airlines fly to anywhere in the world and flight attendants can be gone for extended periods of time. Flight attendants for charter airlines also have the benefit of globe hopping as an everyday part of the job. Charter airlines are great if you want to see the world right now, and your first trip may be to an exotic locale!

The opportunity to move “up the ladder” and grow in the company is usually greater and faster when you are employed by a smaller airline, as there are fewer people ahead of you. Since these airlines operate on a smaller scale, it is possible to form lifetime relationships with more people within your company, and some folks enjoy this closer camaraderie. Airlines such as these offer you the ability to limit your range of travel to a specific area. They follow the same FAA regulations and hold to the same safety standards as the larger carriers.

When applying for a job with a smaller airline don’t assume that just because they are a smaller company that the hiring process will not be at all competitive – smaller airlines can be very picky, as their hiring needs are for fewer people.

These positions are competitive as well, so keep up your edge when interviewing and don’t let down your guard. It is wise to keep an open mind when applying for an airline job, and don’t exclude the medium and small airlines. It is wise not to hold out for a job with a major carrier only. A smaller company may be just the right fit for you, so consider the complete realm of possibilities before you decide for sure.

---By Wendy Stafford, a former flight attendant and president and senior recruiter of Airline Inflight Resources, a professional recruiting company devoted exclusively to airlines. She can be reached by e-mail at jetfa@cfl.rr.com.

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