I realized pretty early on in my search for a sustainable career that I would never be about that 9am-5pm work life.
I couldn’t stand the monotony of a repetitive (or if you’re normal, we’ll call it ‘stable’) schedule.
When a Southwest flight attendant friend casually suggested seeking out a flight attendant position, the more I thought about it, the more that the clouds parted for me, and it all started making sense. I didn’t have to 9-5 my way into retirement if I didn’t want to! 🙌🏼
But, the first question that came to mind was, am I qualified to work at Southwest?
Here are the official flight attendant requirements that can be found on Southwest website:
Now, let me delve into these various requirements.
Table of Contents
First, we have the very standard (yawn, boring), technical requirements:
To be hired by Southwest, a candidate must be at least 20 years old at the time of the application, and a federal background check is required for all candidates – this is pretty straightforward, so hopefully no confusion there.
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A candidate must also have authorization to work in the United States as defined by the Immigration Reform Act of 1986.
This is when the candidate fills out one of those I-9 forms and provides the proper identification documents.
Which leads us right into specific identification needed – a valid, unexpired passport!
This is a very important, required item that must be carried by flight attendants at all times.
Southwest is largely a domestic airline, but does have a few international flights sprinkled throughout the system and you never know when you might accidentally end up in Cancun (ok ok, not too often, but it could happen! 😎)
Education requirements for the job are High School Diploma or GED with the preference of a college degree or coursework – pretty standard.
Okay, we squashed all the monotonous and technical information… “What about my polished appearance and shining personality?” You may ask. Let’s start with the physical stuff.
Yes, candidates must have a well-groomed appearance. 💅🏼 This is the interview of a lifetime! Nearly 30,000 resumes have been submitted during a hiring period in the past, so I recommend that interviewees grab a pack of Altoids and dress to bring their A-game.
While weigh-ins are considered archaic among US airlines and no longer a thing, size is still important, and not for the reasons one may suspect.
Southwest hires all shapes and sizes and does not discriminate based on these concepts as long as candidates maintain the following requirements: Candidates must be able to pass a “Physical Performance Standards Test” (PPST) on-site to prove they can physically perform all job functions required for the position.
This includes the following:
- Lifting 50 lbs to shoulder height 🏋️♀️
- Walking and fitting comfortably down the aircraft aisle
- Fitting through an overwing exit door
- Being able to securely strap into the flight attendant jump seat.
When I interviewed, I had to do all of these things in a special flight attendant trainee cabin that they had set up for candidates.
As for your shining, snowflake personality? ❄️ Yes, queens and kings, bring it! And in full force. Southwest wants to know who they’re hiring.
Not the, “I love people and I love to travel!” (*cringe*) part. Yeah, yeah, we know – we do too!
But let’s try to infuse a little creativity and personality into it, okay?
Just like with any long-term relationship, it’s important to ensure compatibility.
Southwest will be wondering… Who are they? What does this person love? What inspires them to get out of bed in the morning? It’s vital that the candidate’s core values align with the company’s core values.
While having customer service experience is a plus, having a genuinely pleasant personality and positive attitude will be the winning ticket.
Compatible flight attendant candidates who “Live the Southwest Way” should be able to express and giving examples during the interview of the ways they possess Southwest company values:
- Warrior Spirit – work hard, desire to be the best, and be courageous
- Servant’s Heart – put others first and live by the Golden Rule 🏼
- Fun-LUVing Attitude – be a passionate team player, and have fun
Just like Southwest likes to make their employees feel special, they also want to feel special. A great piece of advice I received from another flight attendant before my interview was not just to focus on why I want to be a flight attendant, but why I work for Southwest.
It actually got me wondering why, as well! The company has always had such a strongly positive connotation to me since my family traveled on them quite a bit when I was a child, so it just seemed like a no-brainer.
But I realized I might have needed a little more than that for the interview, so I started digging.
While it’s not a requirement to read these, I would say they helped me to better understand the company and their foundational values so I could get into the proper mindset for the interview (also, name dropping these books during the interview definitely wouldn’t hurt. Wink, wink. 😜)
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Other Helpful Tidbits
1) Tattoos and Piercings
When I started with a different airline about 8 years ago, tattoos were completely forbidden to even dream about, let alone have on our body in order to be qualified for a flight attendant position.
Since then, tattoos have rapidly gone from taboo to wisely accepted cultural fad.
Most airlines have kept up with this by allowing flight attendants to have tattoos.
They must not be offensive and must adhere to certain size requirements, but if they don’t, certain uniform pieces may be able to cover what isn’t allowed to be visible.
Two ear piercings are okay, but that’s it.
All other visible body and facial piercings are a no-go.
2) Do I have to move?
Nope. Relocation is not required.
However, candidates can not expect to receive their first choice in base right off the bat.
Many flight attendants commute to work by flying (free) into their base to start their trip.
It sounds excessive, but how much different is it really than a long car ride to commute to work? (And the gas/jet fuel is included!)
3) Drugs and Alcohol
“Marijuana is legal in my state, so it must be okay!”
I know, bummer dude. Not even for medical use. 🌿
The flight attendant position is considered a safety-sensitive position and falls under the rulings of the U.S. Department of Transportation, which sports a stricter set of rules since we carry the sole responsibility of maintaining a safe environment for ourselves and passengers on the aircraft.
Being intoxicated on the job is also a huge no-no.
Drug and alcohol tests are completely random and can happen at any time of our duty day, and candidates can expect a guaranteed drug screening before leaving for flight attendant training.
Failing a drug or alcohol test is a very fast way to score a free one-way ticket out of a flight attendant position. 💨
4) Flexibility is Key
Flight attending is a career that gets more and more flexible as the years go by, as our schedules are based largely on seniority.
And since this is a highly sought-after position, and a career meant to last a lifetime, Southwest has a LOT of senior mamas and daddies.
Expect that Tammy-Jo from Dallas, TX who has been with the company for 37 years is going to be living it up on her Punta Cana trips, and a new flight hire flight attendant will likely be on a 3 am reserve call for at least the first 6 months during probation.
I wouldn’t recommend that a new hire expect to have weekends off or be based in their preferred base at the beginning. It can definitely happen, but better to set the expectations low and be pleasantly surprised when a few things work out in your favor.
To sum it up, to be considered for the Southwest flight attendant position, candidates must meet technical and physical requirements but also must be overall compatible with the company values.
After all, this is meant to be a lifetime partnership. If I could give a new candidate advice, I would pass on what a senior flight attendant told me when I was considering applying for the position: “It’s not a job, it’s a lifestyle! Enjoy the process, and be yourself.”
Southwest is the “LUV airline ” for a reason and let me tell ya, I felt it in that room when I got to hug my interviewers on the way out the door! 💛❤️💙