How Much Do Flight Attendants Really Make
Article by Heather Poole
"Friendlier service doesn’t cost a thing."
That’s what one travel writer said, after complaining about an experience on board a flight recently. But as a flight attendant with years of experience, my first thought was: Yes. It does.
Whenever I speak to people about what I do for a living, most seem to assume the money is pretty good. I did, too, before I became a flight attendant.
Despite the reputation of the job, there’s nothing glamorous about life as a flight attendant, especially in the first few years. New flight attendants who work for major carriers start out making $18,000-$20,000 a year. Flight attendants at smaller airlines and regional carriers? They make even less.
The airlines won’t tell you that, though. Ask, and they’ll refer to some stat about the median annual wage: $40,000. Sounds so much nicer, doesn’t it? Something else they won’t tell you is how long it takes to make that kind of money working a regular schedule, or the kind of flying it takes to get there when you have less than 10 years with a carrier.
“I took this job to spend what little money I make on vacations I can't afford,” joked a new hire, who works 120 hours a month, after she saw me tweeting about flight attendant pay.
"But flight attendants barely work," is what I hear all the time. Don’t let the hours fool you.
A hundred and twenty hours a month may sound reasonable for your typical job on the ground, but in the air, it's insane. Working "80 hours" a month — a more regular schedule for flight attendants — actually means working many, many hours more.
We’re only paid for time in the air. That flight attendant greeting you at the boarding door, helping you find a place for your bag, guitar, crutches, wedding gown, emotional support pig? They're not being paid.
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