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The Foundation for Flying: An Exclusive Interview with a Flight Attendant in Training

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Photo by Kim Hye Min

“Thank you for flying with us!” This phrase is almost background noise for any seasoned traveler. But do we ever forget that there’s someone behind the saying? Someone who has worked and studied all the way to your plane door? Have you ever imagined what kind of person dreams of being a flight attendant and what they have to do to become one? Kim Hye-min (김혜민), from Ulsan, Korea, longs for the opportunity to make your flying experience the most comfortable that it can be. Her desire to meet and understand all different kinds of people has led her to pursue a career as a flight attendant, and she has been training for about two years to make her dream a reality. Welcome to an interview with Kim Hye-min, a flight attendant in training. Please enjoy your trip.

Q: Why do you want to be a flight attendant? What attracted you to the job?
A: I love meeting and talking with new people! Coming to understand people from other countries is especially interesting to me. I feel that flight attendants’ work is so special because so many people fly to see the people they care about, so, as a flight attendant, I really want to help them and make their trip more enjoyable and comfortable! I want to be a person who leaves a good impression on others.

Q: What did you have to do to apply to be a flight attendant? What qualifications did you need to have? (Were there any qualifications that were unique to becoming a flight attendant in Korea, specifically?)
A: In Korea, extroversion is very important, unlike in other countries. Height, appearance (a neat and tidy image), and physical strength are also important. The most important part of the application process, however, is the interview. When preparing for the interview, I focused on having a good smile and a confident and kind voice. Overall, I did image training for the interview because I wanted them to see me as a clean and comfortable person!

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Photo by Kim Hye Min

Q: What kinds of classes do you take? What do you learn?
A: We have an image training class, a working class, a basic in-flight training class, a tourism class, an English class, an English-speaking class, and an inflight practicum where we practice in-flight service! We learn how to completely embody the attitude of someone in the service industry. We also learn judo so we can subdue dangerous passengers in an emergency! A flight attendant’s first responsibilities are making sure that everyone is safely inside the plane and that everyone has a comfortable and enjoyable trip! So first we learn everything we need to know in order to provide comfortable travel and various services for our passengers: how to provide a joyful smile, a kind voice, and in-flight meals; how to do in-flight broadcasts; the make of the plane, the number of passengers it holds, where the exit rows are, the airline code—things like this are essential to study and memorize! Another important role regarding safety is learning and memorizing how to act in case of an emergency escape. You need to know how to use emergency tools and how to perform CPR and AED.

Q: What does a typical day look like for you during your training?
A: It depends on how many classes I’m taking, but typically I attend class four days a week. Each class day, I spend six hours a day training and learning various things! Since I make my own schedule, I choose my own days-off, so I rest for about one day a week.

Q: What is it like learning other languages? What languages do you have to study?
A: I have studied English and Chinese! It’s really fun because I love learning things about other countries. I diligently studied Chinese for three semesters, and it only got harder! Since studying both languages at the same time is too hard, I want to focus on studying only English later on in my training.

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Photo by roman ska

Q: What can passengers do to make a flight attendant’s job easier?
A: When you fly on a plane, there will be many inflight broadcasts, so if passengers will just follow the instructions on the in-flight broadcast that would be the best! Also, on the off chance that an emergency takes place, it would be so good if passengers could do whatever they can to help their flight attendants!

Q: So far, what influence has your flight attendant training had on you?
A: I feel so much closer to achieving my dream of being a flight attendant. Ever since I first started image training, I have felt this way: being a flight attendant is a flashy job, but mere appearances aren’t everything. I want to be a flight attendant because I want the responsibility of providing service and safety for all passengers. “Being a flight attendant is a flashy job, but mere appearances aren’t everything . . . I want the responsibility of providing service and safety for all passengers.”

For so many travelers, the plane door is the beginning of the journey, but for people like Kim Hyemin, the plane door marks the end—the goal. It is the realization of a dream, the evidence of a job well done. While the oft-heard phrase, for you, might just be a dull hum as you exit your plane, Kim Hye-min has been waiting for years to stand between you and your destination, and—uniform pristine, smile wide and welcoming—proudly announce the stereotypical slogan, “Thank you for flying with us!”
—Magda Pfunder