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If you've flown on an airplane, you've seen flight attendants greeting passengers at the door and getting bags safely packed into the storage bins. A flight attendant instructed you on safety procedures and probably served you drinks and a meal.

The duties you see a flight attendant performing on a routine flight are a big part of the job, but flight attendants do much more. Before a flight they make sure the plane is ready for passengers. Flight attendants help people in emergency situations and answer questions during flights. Flight attendants often work long days, and those days can become much longer if there is bad weather or a problem with the plane. They usually are on duty for more than one flight per day, and often work nights, weekends, or holidays. Most flight attendants fly from seventy-five to eighty-five hours per month and spend another seventy-five to eighty-five hours working on the ground preparing planes or doing paperwork after a flight. Airlines usually have a maximum number of hours a flight attendant can fly in a month. Once the maximum number of hours is reached, a flight attendant will have the rest of the month off. Sometimes a flight attendant can have as many as ten days off in a row.

Usually flight attendants start their careers on reserve. This means that they have scheduled days off, and scheduled days on. They can get called at any time on their days on. They need to be able to get to the airport—ready to fly—within an hour or two. Most flight attendants live near the airport where they are based so that they'll be able to get there quickly.

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