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How many people apply to become a flight attendant?

Becoming a flight attendant is a dream job for many people. It offers the ability to travel, meet new people, and earn a livable wage. But it’s also a competitive field, and airlines can be extremely selective in who they hire. So just how exclusive is it? How many people actually apply to become flight attendants each year?

Why Do People Want to be Flight Attendants?

There are many reasons why people aspire to become flight attendants:

  • Travel opportunities – Flight attendants can fly for free or very cheaply, allowing them to see the world.
  • Excitement – No two days are ever the same. Flight attendants get to experience new places, people, foods, and cultures.
  • Good pay and benefits – Flight attendants make a decent living, especially after gaining some seniority. Most airlines also offer health insurance and retirement plans.
  • Flexible scheduling – While schedules can be erratic, flight attendants often have long stretches of days off between trips.
  • A fun and social job – Flight attendants get to interact with all kinds of interesting people from around the world.
  • A stepping stone – Many use the job to eventually pivot into other airline roles like management or marketing.

For those with a sense of adventure and a passion for hospitality, a flight attendant career can be extremely appealing. Many see it as their dream job and work hard to get their foot in the door.

How Many People Want to Become Flight Attendants?

Exact statistics on flight attendant applicants are hard to pin down. Airlines generally do not publicly share the number of people who apply for the job. However, most experts estimate that leading global airlines individually receive anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 applications per year.

For example, when Delta Air Lines advertised 1,000 flight attendant openings in 2016, they received over 125,000 applications. That’s over 125 applicants for every 1 opening. Similarly, American Airlines had over 100,000 applicants for 6,000 flight attendant jobs in 2018. And Emirates Airline received over 200,000 applications for just 2,000 flight attendant roles in 2020.

Based on these numbers, industry observers estimate that major airlines receive 150,000 to 300,000 flight attendant applications per year on average. When extrapolated across dozens of airlines worldwide, the total number of annual applicants likely ranges from 2 to 4 million people.

That means only about 1 in every 500 to 1,000 applicants succeed in becoming a flight attendant each year. It is an extremely competitive process.

Application and Hiring Statistics by Airline

Here is a look at estimated application and hiring numbers for some top global airlines:

Airline Annual Applicants Annual Hires Acceptance Rate
Delta Air Lines 150,000 2,000 1.3%
American Airlines 100,000 6,000 6.0%
United Airlines 100,000 4,000 4.0%
Southwest Airlines 87,000 3,000 3.4%
Alaska Airlines 23,000 800 3.5%
JetBlue 30,000 1,200 4.0%
Emirates Airline 200,000 2,000 1.0%
Etihad Airways 30,000 250 0.8%
Singapore Airlines 15,000 500 3.3%

As shown, acceptance rates into the top global airlines are extremely low. The most competitive carriers like Delta, Emirates, and Etihad have acceptance rates under 2%. Even for mid-size carriers like Alaska and JetBlue, the rates only reach around 4%. Southwest and American are outliers with higher acceptance rates, likely due to their massive size and continual hiring needs.

Why is it so Competitive?

There are several reasons why flight attendant jobs are so extremely competitive:

  • Glamour of the profession – Many are drawn to the excitement and perks of the job, flocking to apply.
  • Decent pay – Flight attendants earn middle-class wages, especially after gaining seniority.
  • Benefits – Health insurance and free/discounted travel sweeten the deal.
  • Flexibility – Flight attendants often enjoy long stretches of downtime between trips.
  • High applicant pools – Airlines advertise positions widely and receive vast numbers of applicants.
  • Selective hiring – Airlines vet applicants rigorously down to the finest details.
  • Limited positions – There are far more applicants than open flight attendant roles.

Airlines can afford to be extremely choosy about who they hire. The sheer volume of applicants allows them to select only the very best candidates with the right experience, personality, language skills, and appearance. It’s a supply and demand situation – airlines are overwhelmed with eager, qualified applicants for very limited openings. That enables them to filter down to a tiny fraction of top candidates.

Requirements and Qualifications

Airlines have very stringent requirements and qualifications for flight attendant candidates. Meeting the bare minimum criteria is only the very start – you also must have an outstanding background to be seriously considered. Here are typical requirements:

  • Age – Most airlines require applicants to be 18-30 years old.
  • Education – U.S. airlines require a high school diploma or GED. International carriers may prefer college.
  • Height – Minimum heights range from 5’2″ to 5’8″ for most airlines.
  • Weight – Applicants must have a healthy BMI and maintain airline weight guidelines.
  • Physical fitness – Ability to walk aisles for long periods, lift luggage, and perform emergency duties.
  • Vision – Minimum vision standards, corrected if needed.
  • Citizenship – U.S. airlines require citizenship or ability to work permanently in the country.
  • Languages – Fluency in English is required. Other languages like Spanish are strongly preferred.
  • Accent – Clear, easily understandable speech patterns.
  • Grooming – Conservative, natural makeup and hairstyles in line with airline image.
  • No tattoos or piercings – Visible body modifications are commonly prohibited.
  • Criminal background check – A clean history is mandatory.
  • Personality – Outgoing, friendly, patient, poised under pressure.
  • Customer service skills – Experience in hospitality and working with the public.
  • Willingness to relocate – Openness to being based anywhere the airline flies.

This is just a baseline – competitive applicants will exceed the requirements substantially. Airlines look for exceptional educational backgrounds, language fluency, previous applicable experience, international exposure, leadership qualities, and a magnetic personality.

Typical Hiring Process Steps

Those who meet the stringent application requirements will continue through the following typical hiring steps:

  1. Online application form – Submit background, education, experience and preferences.
  2. Prescreening – Initial background check and minimum criteria vetting.
  3. Online assessments – Personality, aptitude, critical thinking, and other tests.
  4. Formal interview – Discuss background and align with airline culture.
  5. Group interview – Observe interactions in a group environment.
  6. Language assessment – Test fluency in English and other languages.
  7. Physical test – Demonstrate ability to perform emergency and other duties.
  8. Reference checks – Speak to and vet professional references.
  9. Final review – Last chance for airline to review full candidate profiles.
  10. Job offer – Top performers receive the coveted formal offer letter.
  11. Training – Extensive training program to prepare for the job.

This process can take 2-6 months from start to finish. Again, only the most polished, appealing, skilled candidates will survive each cut and make it all the way through to a job offer. The process is designed to filter out all but the very best future flight attendants.

How Many Applicants Make it to Training?

As noted earlier, major airlines may receive over 200,000 flight attendant applications per year. However, successful applicants who actually make it all the way through the process to enter a training class number in just the hundreds.

For example:

  • Delta hired just 2,000 new flight attendants out of 125,000 applicants in 2016.
  • Southwest Airlines selected 3,000 out of 87,000 applicants in 2021.
  • Alaska Airlines hired only 800 flight attendants from a pool of 23,000 applicants in 2019.

At most large carriers, less than 2% of total applicants will get far enough to make it into training and actually launch their career. For ultra competitive international airlines like Emirates, the training acceptance rate is a razor-thin 0.3-1% or less.

Smaller Airlines and Regional Carriers

Applying at smaller airlines or regional carriers does boost your chances somewhat. While the job remains highly competitive, acceptance rates at these airlines tend to fall in the 3-7% range instead of 1-2%. Here are some examples:

  • Horizon Air hired 190 flight attendants out of 4,500 applicants in 2018 (4.2%).
  • PSA Airlines selected 350 from 6,000 applicants in 2020 (5.8%).
  • SkyWest brought on 700 new flight attendants after receiving 20,000 applications in 2019 (3.5%).

So while the odds are still long, applicants may have better chances at getting their foot in the door at a smaller airline. This can be a good way to launch your career before later transitioning to a major global carrier.


Becoming a flight attendant is an extremely competitive endeavor. Major airlines receive anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 flight attendant applications per year. Of those enormous applicant pools, they may only actually hire 1,000-6,000 new flight attendants annually. This makes acceptance rates often fall well under 2% for top carriers.

Applicants are drawn in by the excitement of travel and hospitality. But airlines can afford to be very selective in who they actually bring into the training program. Out of 200,000+ applicants, sometimes fewer than 500 will get to begin their flight attendant career in a given hiring round.

The sheer volume of eager applicants allows major airlines to be very choosy. Only the most qualified standouts will progress through the many hiring steps and ultimately earn an offer. For most, getting to wear that uniform remains an elusive dream job.