The History of the Flight Attendant Profession

The aircraft industry is not much more than 100 years old, and the history of flight attendants started in 1912. Ellen Church was the first female flight attendant and began flying in 1930. She made an impact on flight attendant requirements that lasted until World War II. She influenced airline companies to implement a plan requiring that all flight attendants be registered nurses. When WWII began, all of the nurses enlisted to help out in the war, so most of the airlines dropped that requirement in order to find workers. Throughout the past 100 years, the airline industry has made many different changes in its hiring regulations.

How Has the Flight Attendant Hiring Process Changed Over the Years?

In the US, there have been some very dramatic changes in terms of eligibility to work as a flight attendant. For many years, only females were allowed to hold this role, called a stewardess. Not only was the job limited to just women, but single women who were of proper height and weight. If you were hired by an airline and then got married, you were automatically terminated from your post. Even women who were divorced or widowed had a more difficult time becoming a stewardess. Divorced and widowed women might be considered for the position, but only if they did not have children. These rules changed throughout the 1970s and 1980s, opening up flight attendant positions to men and women regardless of their relationship status.

Previous Height and Weight Restrictions

The height and weight of each stewardess was fairly strict as well. Starting in the 1930s, a girl would have to be between 100-118 pounds and between 5’ and 5’ 4” tall. Additionally, she must also be between the ages of 20-26 years old. About three decades later, the New York Times ran an ad for an airline that listed requirements as: a single women, high school graduate, 20 years of age, height between 5’2” to 5’9”, and should weigh between 105-135 pounds in proportion to her height. In addition, she must have 20/40 vision without the use of glasses.

Today, there are still height and weight restrictions due to safety reasons, but the range is a bit larger than it was in the past. An acceptable height for anyone working as a flight attendant (for most airlines) is between 4’11” to 6’1”. Overall, your weight must be proportional to your height.

In order to maintain safety on board a flight, there will always be some regulations that other types of employers cannot equally “discriminate.” As for flight attendants, they now have the freedom to be married and have children without losing their jobs. There are sure to be more changes in the future that will modify the history of the flight attendants career.

The primary function of The Travel Academy is to provide the training and placement services needed to become a flight attendant. Please contact us today if you are interested in becoming a flight attendant.