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Do you have to swim to be a flight attendant?

Becoming a flight attendant is a dream job for many people. The ability to travel, meet new people, and get paid for it seems almost too good to be true. However, the job does come with extensive requirements and training. One requirement that often gets asked is – do you have to know how to swim to become a flight attendant?

Quick Answer: Yes, You Need to Know How to Swim

The short answer is yes, flight attendants are required to know how to swim. It is part of the training and a necessary safety requirement in case of emergencies.

Why Do Flight Attendants Need to Know How to Swim?

There are a few key reasons why being able to swim is a mandatory requirement for flight attendants:

Water Landing Emergencies

Perhaps the most obvious reason is in case of emergencies that require a water landing. While rare, planes can be forced to ditch into a body of water for various reasons like engine failure, fuel exhaustion, or other systems failures. In these scenarios, flight attendants must be able to help passengers evacuate the aircraft and survive in the water until rescue teams arrive. Being a skilled swimmer can mean the difference between life and death.

Swimming Ability Demonstrates Physical Fitness

Airlines want flight attendants who are physically fit enough to handle the demands of the job. A minimum swimming requirement demonstrates applicants have an appropriate level of cardiovascular endurance, strength, agility, and mobility. People unable to swim at least 25 meters may not meet the other physical standards required.

Part of Training Curriculum and Testing

Swimming is baked into the flight attendant training curriculum. Trainees must pass a swimming test that involves skills like treading water, donning a life vest, and swimming a minimum distance. This ensures attendants are prepared if an emergency water landing situation arises. Some airlines even conduct periodic in-water training drills to keep attendants’ skills sharp.

What Are the Specific Swimming Requirements?

While the exact swim test details vary somewhat by airline, most have similar requirements that flight attendant applicants must meet:

Swimming Requirement Details
Tread water for 10 minutes Demonstrate ability to keep head above water without touching bottom or side walls for an extended period.
Swim distance of 25-50 meters Swim at least 1-2 pool lengths without stopping to show endurance.
Retrieve items from bottom of pool Sinking items simulate aircraft debris that must be recovered.
Don life vest in water Practice emergency water landing skills by putting on vest while floating.
Exit pool unassisted Hoist yourself out of the water without using ladder or steps.

In addition to the swim test, attendants receive training on using flotation devices, operating slide/rafts, assisting others, and survival skills in the water.

What If You Don’t Know How to Swim?

Since swimming is a firm requirement, flight attendant applicants who don’t know how should start lessons immediately. Any local community pool, YMCA, or swim school can provide beginner swimming instruction. Focus first on comfort being in the water, floating, basic strokes, and building endurance to meet minimum distance standards.

Beyond basic swimming, be sure to practice treading water only using your legs, swimming in regular clothes, and pulling yourself out of the pool unassisted. These skills will mirror what’s required during flight attendant pool tests and water landing emergencies.

Other Physical Fitness Requirements

While swimming ability is critical, it’s not the only physical requirement needed to work as a flight attendant:

  • Strength to lift heavy luggage, up to 70 pounds in some airlines
  • Ability to stand and walk for long periods
  • Capability to perform basic maneuvers in confined spaces
  • Emergency exit row duties such as opening heavy doors and handling slide/rafts
  • Physical dexterity for actions like serving food/drink and providing first aid
  • Meeting minimum height standards, often 5’2″ to 6′
  • Fitting into provided safety harnesses and equipment

Flight attendants also must pass routine medical exams to remain fit for duty throughout their career. Maintaining good overall health and fitness is key.

Other Flight Attendant Requirements Beyond Swimming

In addition to physical fitness tests including swimming, flight attendants must meet other requirements for the job:

Education and Experience

– High school diploma or GED required at minimum; college degree preferred
– Customer service experience is a plus
– Foreign language skills may be desirable for international airlines
– First aid, CPR and AED certifications are a benefit


– Complete 3-8 weeks of intense classroom and hands-on flight attendant training
– Pass Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) certification exams
– Demonstrate competence in evacuation procedures, emergency protocols, and inflight services
– Refresh skills every year with recurrent training

Other Attributes

– Exceptional communication and interpersonal abilities
– Able to exude a sense of calm and confidence in stressful situations
– Capability to work as part of a close-knit team
– Professional, poised demeanor and appearance
– Flexibility and adaptability to handle dynamic situations
– Ability to provide excellent customer service on diverse passenger flights
– Comfort working in an aircraft environment


Being able to swim is an absolute requirement for flight attendants for safety reasons. Treading water, completing swim tests, and demonstrating physical fitness in the pool is mandatory. While airlines look for applicants with a diverse set of skills, physical capability is the foundation needed for this demanding, in-flight safety role. Aspiring flight attendants who can’t swim yet should start swim lessons immediately to open future opportunities in aviation.