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This will have to be a text-only post, as there was really no way to discreetly take photos of anything I experienced. But talk about a recon mission!
I found a link to apply for the US Airways flight attendant position while trolling Craigslist as part of my side hustle gig. I clicked through out of curiosity. The application was quite short, and I thought for an instant that it could be really cool. After all, this was before American started to devalue and I knew the position would soon be part of the “new American.” And I think about the travel industry so much anyway that I was like… why not work for the travel industry? Five minutes later, I’d applied.
Like most job applications, I expected it to go into a gigantic black hole and never hear back from anyone ever again.
Until I did.
They invited me to do a video interview via email.
Here is the email:
We’re excited to invite you to the next step in our Flight Attendant selection process!
This will be a video interview that will help us get to know you better. Below are a few tips to help you prepare for the interview:
- Find a quiet place and pay attention to your background
- Take advantage of the initial ‘test’ question to ensure that your audio (speaking) volume, clarity and lighting are good – Please be sure to confirm that the audio and video are working before completing the interview, as we will not be able to review interviews without these components, and will therefore not be able to move you forward in our recruitment process
- Dress in professional business attire for your interview
- If your computer does not support video or you do not have a web cam, you can open the link using a smartphone or tablet and will be prompted to download an app which will allow you to complete the video interview
We are excited to learn more about you, so please complete your interview as soon as possible.
So, I did it. It only took about 10 minutes. I threw on a button-up and a tie and recorded the first thing that came to mind. The questions were:
- Why do you want to be a flight attendant?
- Describe a time you handled an irate customer.
- Describe a time when you did not get along with a colleague.
The responses were limited to 2-3 minutes, different for each question.
The invitation to interview
The day after I submitted my video interview questions, they called me and asked if I could go down to Charlotte, NC for the day. I said yes.
They told me they’d be sending flights, free of charge, and reminded me to bring my passport and to adhere to professional dress code (shave, suit & tie, nice shoes, etc.).
The call only took a few minutes. A few days later, I got an itinerary in my email to go down to Charlotte. 6:30am flight. Oy. And getting back at 8:30pm. It was going to be a long day.
I woke my ass up at 4am, called a car service because there was no way I was going to brave the
wonderful MTA at that time. 20 minutes later, I was at JFK and checked in with US Airways. I tried to apply my American FF number, but was informed I’d get NO miles for the ticket because it was comped and in a special fare bucket. Drat!
The flight down was quick – less than 2 hours (a little over an hour in the air).
I got out at Charlotte Douglas, grabbed a coffee at the US Airways Club, put on my tie, and walked out to the employee shuttle. There was a long line of other hopefuls/applicants, and we all instantly started chatting, comparing our home airports, wake up times, and overall impressions thus far.
A few minutes later, we boarded the shuttle and were driven about 10 minutes to the US Airways campus, which was huge, and full of several industrial-looking buildings. From the beginning, it was all extremely regimented.
We got into a line to get our name tags. They told us exactly how to attach them. We walked down a long hallway and were led into a room. The whole way, we were greeted by employees from HR, who gave us a look over. Before we were permitted to go into the next room, we had to show our passports and provide the expiration date. No passport, you were sent back to the airport immediately.
We sat in long tables at random in the next room, then were divided into groups. The first group was led away (which I was in), while the other group stayed to complete a different part of the interview process.
The whole time, there were members from HR on the fringes of the rooms, in the hallways, everywhere, watching us. There was no way I was going to risk taking any photos. In fact, they told us to power down our phones and watched us as we pressed the power buttons. Then, they made us leave our bags and coats in a room and we were led to the next module.
First, they made us sit down in a jump seat and buckle up, followed by removing emergency equipment from an overhead bin, replacing it, and closing the bin. Fair enough.
Afterward, we watched a brief video about US Airways, saw a slideshow about the requirements and benefits of the FA position, then watch a video about the US/AA merger.
Then came the part where people started to be eliminated (if only on paper). We all got up, one by one, in alphabetical order, and had to address the entire room, HR reps lining every spot against the wall, armed with notepads and writing furiously. It was set up to be nerve-wracking, and it was.
We each had 60 seconds to give three qualities of a GREAT flight attendant.
Some people seemed rehearsed, others stumbled big time, and others did their best. I think(?) I did fine.
It went on for.ev.er. The whole time, they kept encouraging us to drink water and coffee. So I did. I was a little jittery, TBH.
Directly after that, they broke us into groups of about six and told us imagine a survival scenario. In it, the captain of the flight had died, and we were the survivors. We only had 12 items of survival gear in a -25 degree environment. We were asked to rank them in order of importance.
The items were:
- A chocolate bar
- A bottle of whiskey
- A 20’x20′ piece of canvas
- Extra clothes
- An ax
- A pistol
- A can of Crisco
- A map of the area
- A compass
- A ball of steel wool
- A lighter with no fluid
- One copy of a newspaper
I don’t remember the exact ranking, but I do know that my group got the best score. Yay!
They told us what the top 5 items were. If I had to guess again it would be:
- An ax
- A pistol
- A ball of steel wool
- A lighter with no fluid
- Extra clothes
The LEAST useful items were the compass and map. You should not separate, and those items encourage a false sense of protection.
After that exercise, they brought in lunch, which was a nice touch. The HR reps all left to deliberate while we ate.
Right after lunch, they came back in to read a list of names. If your name was called, you stayed to interview some more. If not, back to the airport.
My name was not called. I went back to the airport on the shuttle bus and checked in to go home.
Two days later, an email came that said something like “thanks for your interest.” I was not hired to be a flight attendant for US Airways, although the interview experience was absolutely fascinating.
- The US Airways campus was very, very corporate. There were photos of their destinations and hubs, banners announcing new flights, and logos of all the other airlines they’ve gobbled up over the years. There was already some American signage in there.
- The HR reps watched us from the moment we entered until the moment we left. Everything was being observed. Talk about big brother. Those people saw every breath we took.
- In conversation with other applicants, I learned that becoming a flight attendant is quite a fascination among some people and that US Airways is actually a fantastic place to work, just behind Delta in terms of employee satisfaction.
- They told us there were 200,000 applicants for the FA position. There must’ve been only ~100 people chosen to actually interview. Of those, about a dozen were asked to stay to interview some more.
- The training period, if selected, if 4.5 weeks at the Recruitment Center in Dallas, TX.
- I was told over and over by other applicants that the interview process was “a game.” One I did not know I was playing! Apparently, there are tips and tricks, down to stature, gait, and accessories, that are supposed to give you an edge in the process. I was thoroughly myself. Guess I’m not FA material without a little help!
- Getting seniority is tough. We were told we’d be on call for 2-10+ years and that that was one of the better reserve times in the industry, down from 15+ years. WOW.
- Everyone at US Airways was unfailingly professional. And man, they sold it hard. I found myself desperately wanting the job after their presentation lol.
Let me know if I missed any pertinent specifics, or if you’d like to know anything more about the process.
Sorry for the text-only entry. I’m sure if I took even ONE photo, they would’ve asked me to delete it and would’ve WATCHED ME DO IT, then sent me back home.
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