LCCs revive female flight attendant aspirations

by Yoshihiro Nakajima

Kyodo

Becoming a flight attendant is the dream of many young women, but the rigorous standards and high competition often thwart their plans.

The expansion of low-cost carriers, however, is making it easier to pursue that dream because LCCs’ requirements for the job are lower than major airlines.

Eri Otsubo, 33, became a flight attendant for Peach Aviation Ltd. last September, achieving a goal she had given up on when she was in university.

She didn’t even try out for the job because she didn’t feel she was attractive enough, opting instead to enter a major securities company. After getting married, she quit and gave birth to a daughter who is now in kindergarten.

After coming across Peach’s website one day, she found the LCC was soliciting applications for flight attendants. Suddenly, the dream that had lain dormant in her mind suddenly came alive.

Otsubo got hired after trying to show her “real” self in the job interview, discussing her employment history and child-rearing experiences. Some days she reports to work before 6 a.m. and gets home around 1 a.m. the next morning. This is all possible thanks to her husband’s help in caring for their daughter and doing the housekeeping.

Sayaka Nagai, 25, was a police officer until becoming a Peach flight attendant last year. Since she had always wanted to join the police force as a child, she was happy working at a police station near Tokyo Station.

But Nagai could never quite forget another of her ambitions — working in aviation — and had regretted never taking up the challenge.

Nagai is now happy because both her current and past jobs “are the same in terms of protecting the safety (of the public),” she said.

After entering Japan last year, LCCs have been in a rush to secure flight attendants to match their rapid expansion. Peach has eliminated age and nationality requirements to facilitate recruitment, while AirAsia Japan Co. hires without regard to educational background.

Among AirAsia’s recent hires is a woman who used to work at an overseas hotel and a former junior high school teacher, while a former etiquette instructor is among the cabin crews hired at JetStar Japan Co.

Peach in fact hired about 280 flight attendants in its first year of operations, and JetStar plans to hire 480 by the end of 2014.

Flight attendant jobs used to be a buyers’ market dominated by industry leaders Japan Airlines Co. and All Nippon Airways Co. The market shrank markedly after the bankruptcy of JAL’s predecessor, Japan Airlines Corp.

But LCCs’ aggressive recruitment will “activate the market and increase the number of aspirants,” said Yoshihisa Akai, head of Japan Aviation Management Research.