Behind the perfectly ironed uniforms and flawless makeup is a long evolution of the profession and history of fighting for equality. The flight attendant career has gone through a lot of developments in the past century. Here’s how this job became as demanding yet interesting and sought-after as it is now!
It used to be a man’s world
Despite the fact that most flight attendants today are women, the job used to be exclusive for men. The first flight attendant in history was Heinrich Kubis, who attended passengers in 1912 on the DELAG Zeppelin LZ 10 Schwaben.
When the stock market crashed near the end of the 1920s, the sons of entrepreneurs did this job, and they were called “couriers” and “stewards” then. Their jobs mostly consisted of helping passengers with baggage, serving food and drinks, and getting them on board.
Flight attendants had to be registered nurses
It was only in the 1930s that the first female “stewardess” was hired. At 25, Ellen Church, a pilot and registered nurse, saw and filled the need for nurses on planes and was then hired by United Airlines.
Since then, being a registered nurse became one of the minimum requirements for being a flight attendant. It was believed to help ease people’s anxiety over flying.
Physical requirements were very specific
Although it was one of the few jobs available for women, being a flight attendant came with strict requirements. Only petite single women aged 20 to 26 years old were hired. You had to be 105 to 135 pounds with a height of 5’2” to 5’9”. Anyone who gets married, pregnant, or even slightly heavier gets terminated.
Nowadays, the height, weight, and age requirements are more lenient, but some airlines require a minimum height requirement to be able to reach overhead compartments or a maximum one to avoid it being too cramped. All airlines, however, have a fitness test to pass.
It was easier to get into Harvard than get hired as a flight attendant
When the Civil Rights Act of 1964 removed all age, gender, and race discrimination, the number of applicants skyrocketed and competition became fierce, especially among the more coveted airlines.
The United States alone has 120,000 flight attendants. Less than one percent of applicants actually get hired, while Harvard – one of the most prestigious universities in the world – actually has a higher acceptance rate of five percent.
A single job posting can reach hundreds of thousands of applicants, so it’s important to equip your resume with the best skills and hiring potential. Eton College not only offers complete training under the Flight Attendant Preparation Program, but also helps students answer interview questions and train them in an in-house mock cabin!