If you want to become a flight attendant, you might be wondering if you will have to pass a drug test.

In short, yes, anyone who wants to become a flight attendant will have to pass a drug test.

Additionally, flight attendants get drug tested randomly, post-accident, under reasonable cause, when returning to duty, and after certain intervals after a failed drug test.

Drug tests are administered by the DOT (Department of Transportation) and regulated by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration).

Airlines will also have their own drug testing programs.

There is much, much more to learn about the drug testing policy for flight attendants, though, including when and how often flight attendants get drug tested, how the process works, what happens in the event of a failed drug test, what drugs are tested for, and more.

When and How Often Flight Attendants Get Drug Tested

Flight attendants get drug tested pre-employment, but there are several other scenarios whereby a flight attendant may be required to take a drug test.

  • Pre-Employment: Anyone who wants to become a flight attendant will need to pass a drug test before being hired.
  • Post-Accident: If a flight attendant is believed to have contributed to an accident or cannot be completely discounted as a contributing factor, they must undergo a drug test. This must be taken no longer than 32 hours after the accident.
  • Random Testing: Flight attendants may undergo unannounced and random drug tests. A scientifically valid random method is used to ensure that random drug testing will truly be random.
  • Reasonable Cause: If there is a reasonable belief that a flight attendant is using drugs, they may be required to take a drug test. Reasonable cause is based on a change in appearance, behavior, speech and smells associated with drug use. A hunch or guess is not reasonable cause.
  • Return-to-Duty: If a flight attendant has already failed or refused to take a drug test, in order to return to duty, another drug test must be taken.
  • Follow-Up: Any flight attendant who has previously tested positive for drugs must undergo six drug tests within the first 12 months following their return to duty. This may continue for up to 5 years.

Flight Attendants Take a Urine Drug Test

The DOT drug test uses urine collection to test for the presence of drugs.

Each donated urine specimen is divided or split into two bottles.

Bottle A is tested by the lab while bottle B is stored in the event that the tester wants to challenge the results of bottle A.

a urine sample being tested for drugs

This is known as split testing.

Airlines will also almost always use urine collection to test for the presence of drugs, though hair, blood, sweat, and saliva tests can also be administered.

Drugs Flight Attendants Are Tested For

In line with DOT drug tests, flight attendants get tested for the following 5 drugs/metabolites:

  • Amphetamines (including methamphetamine, MDMA)
  • Cocaine metabolites
  • Marijuana metabolites/THC
  • Natural Opiates (including codeine, heroin, morphine)
  • Phencyclidine (PCP)

Airlines may also test for other drugs/metabolites.

No Exceptions for Weed

Whether weed is legal in the state or legally permitted for medical use makes no difference.

The FAA have not cleared marijuana use in any capacity for flight attendants.

A nugget of weed on a table

This is because the role of a flight attendant is first and foremost to ensure the safety of passengers onboard.

When under the influence of any drug, whether legal or not, it can impact how a flight attendant can perform their job.

What Happens if a Flight Attendant Fails a Drug Test?

What happens to a flight attendant if they fail a drug test depends on whether they are still part of the application process to become a flight attendant or have already been hired.

During Application Process vs. During Employment

If an aspiring flight attendant fails a drug test during the hiring process, they will not be hired.

If someone who is currently working as a flight attendant fails a drug test, they will immediately be pulled from their job.

This is due to Federal regulations.

The failed drug test will also go on their permanent record with the DOT (Department of Transportation).

If a flight attendant fails a drug test, they can return to duty as long as they have:

  • Undergone an evaluation by a Substance Abuse Professional (SAP).
  • Successfully completed any education, counseling or treatment prescribed by the SAP
  • Provided a negative return-to-test duty.
  • Upon return to duty, they will be subject to follow-up testing as prescribed by the SAP.

Even though the DOT offers a way back to working as a flight attendant if the above requirements are fulfilled, airlines have their own internal policies.

So this does not mean that an airline will take a flight attendant back, or they will be able to work for a new airline if the above requirements are met.

Seniority and many years of excellent performance can help a flight attendant’s case, though.

A Flight Attendant May Be Permanently Disqualified

As mentioned, the DOT offer flight attendants who have failed a drug test an opportunity to return to duty as long as certain requirements have been fulfilled.

It is then up to the airline to decide if they want to hire or rehire that person.

However, if a flight attendant has two DOT drug test violations, they will be permanently disqualified from working as a flight attendant, regardless of an airline’s internal policy.

Refusing to Take a Drug Test

If a flight attendant refuses to take a drug test, it is treated the same way as a failed test.

In other words, if a drug test is refused, it is assumed that the flight attendant is refusing because they know that they will fail.

False-Positive Results Are Possible

False-positive results are possible, though uncommon.

This is also why split-testing is used for DOT drug tests, as the tester can challenge the results of the original test if necessary.

Keep in mind that while over-the-counter products like herbs and homeopathic remedies can result in false-positives, this cannot be used as an excuse.

What someone puts in their body is considered to be their own responsibility, regardless if it results in a false-positive.

It’s Pretty Hard to Cheat the Drug Test

While it is possible to cheat a drug test, it is very hard to do so.

In some instances, the tester will be required to submit a collection under direct observation.

At very least, a collector will ensure that there is no chance of tampering and the correct person is taking the test.

Additionally, if in an attempt to pass the drug test, a person drinks lots of water or eats certain foods, this can raise a red flag and result in additional drug testing.

Flight Attendants Face Alcohol Restrictions

Flight attendants can drink alcohol outside of working hours if they want to.

However, certain guidelines should be met:

  • Must be of legal drinking age
  • Must not consume any alcohol within 12 hours of the start of their shift
  • Must not drink on any flight they are on duty for.
  • Must not drink when in uniform, even if not on duty at the time
Patricia is a senior flight attendant with over 20 years of experience working for a major U.S. airline, primarily on international long haul flights.
Patricia is passionate about sharing her knowledge and expertise about the unique lives flight attendants lead, offers valuable insights on what it takes to become a flight attendant and what the job entails.
Patricia has been quoted or mentioned in major publications, including Newsweek.