Source: Rocky Mountain News
Author: Chris Walsh
One hopeful shows up late to class. Another forgets to complete his physical. A third fails too many tests.
They all get booted - and that's just during the first week of training.
Next Thursday, the Travel Channel will begin airing a reality series about the rigors of becoming a flight attendant, featuring nearly 40 candidates recently accepted into Frontier Airlines' six-week training program.
The series, called Flight Attendant School, aims to show viewers there's much more to the job than serving "peanuts and Pepsi," as one executive at Denver-based Frontier puts it during the first episode.
The carrier hopes to gain national exposure - and possibly new customers - through the show, especially after rival Southwest Airlines garnered a huge share of headlines this week by launching service from Denver.
The Travel Channel reaches 82 million households nationwide, giving Frontier an opportunity to reach a massive audience.
"This is such a huge thing for us to have large national exposure for our training program," Frontier spokesman Joe Hodas said. "This gives us the opportunity to build some name recognition outside Denver."
But the show's debut comes at a bittersweet time. Pam Gardner, a popular executive at Frontier who plays a huge role in the show, died unexpectedly from a blood clot last week. As Frontier's vice president of in-flight services, Gardner led the airline's flight attendant training program.
The show is mostly filmed at Frontier's headquarters just a few minutes from Denver International Airport. But it also includes footage from other areas around town, including a house in the Reunion development where eight of the candidates lived together throughout the training.
The show's first episode leaves viewers with the clear impression that getting a job as a flight attendant, at least at Frontier, isn't as easy as it looks.
Hundreds of candidates apply, but only a fraction are selected for admission. Of those that make it to the program, roughly one-third don't survive the process, a trainer says at one point during the show.
Flight attendant hopefuls must master two dozen tests, memorize tedious in-flight safety demonstrations and learn a host of skills, such as exterminating fires, administering CPR and handling violent passengers.
Candidates are kicked out of the training program if they're late to class once, even by just a few minutes, or for failing more than two tests.
The experience is more than just an extended job interview for those involved, and emotions run high.
During the intro to the first episode, set to a modified version of John Denver's Leaving On a Jet Plane, one candidate says she'll feel like a failure if she doesn't make it through. Later in the show, another hopeful talks about wanting to make her parents proud.
GRB Entertainment, involved in such reality TV fare as The Princes of Malibu and Growing Up Gotti, produced the show, which will run in back-to-back installments on Thursdays.
Frontier was chosen over other airlines because the carrier has created a friendly, relaxed corporate culture, the Travel Channel said. And its management was willing to open up its training process to the world.
"For this series to work, we needed to find a partner that would give us the access we needed around the clock," said James Ashurst, a Travel Channel spokesman. "Frontier gave us that access, and we think it worked out great."