Being a flight attendant is one of the most in-demand jobs out there. As a matter of fact, the ratio for applicants and for vacant spots is extremely high. There are 13 to 45 applicants all vying for just one spot judging by the applications received by U.S. airlines. Crazy, right? If that’s not competition for you, I don’t know what is.
With that many people clamoring to have a flight attendant job, you’re probably curious on how much a flight attendant job pays. If you want to know, the median salary in the U.S. for flight attendant jobs is $20.45 per hour. While profit sharing and bonuses can go as high as $3,000.
Annually, most flight attendants make anywhere over $55,000 to more than $86,000 as of May 31, 2016. The bottom 10% on the other hand, earns around $43,000. While those in the top 90% earns way over $100,000.
However, entry-level flight attendants stand to make only around $18,000 to $20,000 a year if you’re working for a major carrier.
Take note that flight attendant salary is dependent on a number of things. Factors such as seniority and how much hours you work per month are important. The more hours you work or the more senior your position is, the bigger your earning potential.
Flight Attendant Salary by Employer
Every airline has their own pay scale that they abide by. If salary is one of the top deciding factors for you when it comes to choosing the airline you want to work in, it pays to have an idea of the typical salary range airlines offer. Here are some of the major airlines in U.S. and their respective salary range.
- Delta Air Lines Inc — $30K-$58K
- Southwest Airlines Co — $30K-$62K
- American Airlines — $29K-$81K
- United Airlines, Inc. — $22K-$52K
- US Airways Group Inc. — $38K-$79K
- Frontier Airlines — $39K-$70K
- Alaska Airlines, Inc. — $35K-$43K
- Delta Air Elite — $28K-$50K
- Delta Airlines — $30K-$79K
- JetBlue Airways Corporation — $33K-$95K
- Virgin America — $44K-$56K
- ExpressJet Airlines — $14K-$40K
- Republic Airlines — $39K-$56K
- Skywest Airlines, Inc. — $48K-$61
From this list, the top companies in terms of having the highest flight attendant salaries are JetBlue, American Airlines, US Airways Group, Delta Airlines, and Frontier Airlines, to name a few.
Southwest is particularly noted for its high salary. But even for them, it’s highly likely that no entry level cabin crew stands to make more than $50,000 a year. Moreover, they are known to base their salary on total flight times and distance. Their flight attendants are guaranteed around 80 flights.
Areas Where Flight Attendants Earn High
According to BLS, Texas pays the highest flight attendant salaries. The yearly average wage for Texas flight attendants is about $53,000. While other high-paying states for flight attendants are Florida, Tennessee, California, and Wisconsin.
Florida pays about $50,770 and Tennessee, $49,470. California comes a close second with $47,490 and Wisconsin with $46,420.
For top-paying metro areas, New York takes the spot. In fact, the Nassau County-Suffolk County in NY has a yearly average wage of $69,370. While other high-paying metro areas for flight attendants include cities like Dallas-Plano-Irving in Texas.
In California, San Diego and are Carlsbad the cities that pay the most. If you’re in Florida, Miami-Miami Beach-Kendall have high flight attendant salaries. Lastly, airlines in the Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land in Texas also pay handsomely.
Flight Attendant Salary by Experience and Location
Salary as a flight attendant also depends on experience. Entry-level are those with no experience or have worked as much as five years in the industry. A mid-career level is those who have 5 to 10 years of experience under their belt. Experienced level flight attendants have anywhere from 10 to 20 years of experience. While in late-career level are those who have notched more than 20 years of cabin crew work.
If you’re in the beginning stages of your career, you can make around $38,000 annually. For those in mid-career level, expect to make an average of $49,000 a year. Once you’ve reached a decade or two of service, the median salary goes to as much as $70,440 as of Jan. 30, 2017.
In terms of location, the top cities hiring for flight attendants are Newark in New Jersey, New York, San Francisco, and Atlanta. The pay difference in the first two cities is around 9 and 8 percent higher, respectively. While in Atlanta, the pay difference for flight attendants is at -10%.
Benefits and How to Bump Up Your Flight Attendant Salary
There are a number of excellent bonuses that come with the job.
Work before check in and check out of a flight is paid. This is for the pre and post-flight preparation. However, this is usually constrained from 30 to 60 minutes of paid time for both.
Another good thing about being a flight attendant is that there are per diems granted. You can use this for meals to offset your living expenses. This is great when you’re not onboard an aircraft or when staying overnight at a hotel. Your meal allowance will largely depend on how long you’re staying at a hotel or layover is.
For example, a 12-hour layover for a domestic flight might bring in a lower per diem rate compared to a 24-hour international flight. The more meal periods you’re bound to have, the higher the corresponding per diem rate is. Your meal allowance is also affected by the strength of the local currency. If you’re currently in a country with a better currency then that means you’ll be able to exchange for them at a higher rate.
In countries such as U.S. and Canada, per diems are considered tax-free. So whatever you receive is yours to keep if you’re employed by an airline in the said countries.
Other airlines, however, such as United Airlines, have a flat rate that they impose for their meal allowances. As of February 2013, their per diem rate for domestic flights is $1.95 and $2.50 for international flights.
The good thing about this industry is that it very much values career seniority. This means that the longer you stay on the job, the bigger your salary will be. This is mainly due to the fact that you can pick premium routes. Premium routes are usually long international flights to a popular destination so it pays well.
Another thing that can spell a higher salary for you is the aircraft’s size. The bigger an aircraft, the more passenger it has which means more work for you. This goes for flight attendants and pursers. For instance, a purser on a B777-200 is paid more than pursers working on an Airbus 319.
Managing a crew of nine versus a crew of just two or three is definitely more demanding. That’s why it warrants a different pay scale for most airlines.
Get Promoted as a Purser
Another excellent way to increase your salary is to get promoted as a purser. Many flight attendants do after garnering enough experience on the job.
However, this also means you’ll have new challenges and responsibilities to handle. Pursers are usually in charge of managing the crew at a specific aircraft. You’ll be leading the team to make sure everyone’s doing the job in assisting the passengers.
Pursers are also known as service directors. Many airlines require at least one to two years on the job before being considered as a purser.
As of 2011, purser on small aircrafts earned around $50 per hour. On the other hand, pursers on bigger aircrafts earned about $67 per hour. More than just the higher salary, pursers are also paid the standard per diems as well as night premiums along with other expenses flight attendants get.
Other Factors that Affect Flight Attendant Salary
As previously mentioned, flight attendant salary is influenced by a number of things. Depending on a cabin crew’s seniority, an aircraft’s size, and your additional skills or job responsibilities, you can pretty much boost your salary beyond the basic rate.
One of the foremost factors that will affect your pay in the long-term is seniority. This is based on your date of hire. The more senior you are in the company, the more you have a choice in your flying routes and schedule. Conversely, newbies are less likely to get quality, high-paying flights.
Size of Aircraft
There are also airlines who have varying pay scales depending on the size of the aircraft you’ll be working in. This is especially true for pursers who are in charge of a bigger flight crew.
Moving Up to More Responsibilities
Speaking of pursers, you might want to consider being one as you move along in your career. Pursers have more responsibilities than a typical flight attendant. They are the ones who manage a cabin crew team during a flight. It has a lot more duties and obligations, but it also pays more as a result. At Air Canada, pursers earn around $50 per hour of work.
Having Other Languages Under Your Belt
Skills such as knowing additional languages will also indirectly affect your salary. Know Dutch, Italian, or any other such language? You’ll certainly have an edge over others when it comes to being assigned premium flight routes. This is known as “speaker pay.” It will likely add a few dollars to your per hour rate as well. Even if you’re not in a senior position, you can be easily placed on these flights.
Being well-versed in more languages means the higher the chances of you getting hired. This is on top of having a better pay. The only problem with this is that you may be stuck flying the same routes for a while. This is until you reach seniority status or if you can trade schedules with fellow speakers taking the same flight.
In total, you can get around $21,000 a year if you’re classified as a bilingual flight attendant.
Turning in Extra Hours
The average hours worked of a flight attendant is anywhere from 80 to 90 hours a month. While the maximum is around 100 hours. There are a lot of reason why airlines sometimes require their cabin crew to work extra shifts such as when another flight attendant has called in sick. Cabin crews who pick up extra shifts are often rewarded through draft premiums, which is a way for airlines to encourage their employees to cover extra shifts.
For every year of their service, flight attendants are often offered a standard raise.
These are just some of the way you can pad your basic salary as a new flight attendant. It has been claimed that if you’re able to fulfill most of these, you can earn as much as $80,000 a year as a flight attendant although it happens rarely. More than the income, you can also enjoy a host of benefits you can easily use to travel.
Flight Attendant Perks and Benefits
A lot of people say that being a flight attendant is not about the salary, but the travel benefits that come with it. That is definitely true if traveling is one of the most important things in your life right now.
For one, you’ll be able to get discounts on hotels, air travel, car rentals, local events, and partner brands, just to name a few. You can then use your travel passes to commute where you are based or where you want to live. This way, you can choose to work in a place that’s closer to your family or one where the real estate value is within your budget. It’s all really up to you.
Another good thing is the work hours. Compared to a traditional employee working 40-hour work weeks, flight attendants work a total of 6 months out of the whole year.
How to Become a Flight Attendant
If all this talk about flight attendant salary is something you’d want for yourself then the next best thing is to know how to become a flight attendant.
The first step to becoming a flight attendant is to send an application. You can do this online as most airlines prefer online applications. Alternatively, many major airlines also conduct open days in major cities where you can drop off your CV for the first step of assessment.
Open days are often published months in advance. It’s like an open session where you’ll get to know more about the airline, such as their salary, benefits, and training program, to name just a few.
Aside from passing your CV, you have to fill out some forms and submit photos of yourself. There’ll also be assessments such as a reach test to ensure that you reach the minimum height. For males and females, this will be done without any shoes on.
To give you an idea of the common height standard of airlines, Etihad requires its flight attendant to be able to reach 210 cm standing on tip toes while Emirate and Qatar Airways require 212 cm.
You’ll also be interviewed by the recruiters and then if you pass the initial screening then they’ll call you back.
In events such as these, it’s important to give the best impression and come in proper attire. If the required dress code is business or corporate attire, make sure to come in those.
Flight Attendant Training
Once you’ve passed the screening and recruitment process, you’ll then undergo flight attendant training. There are independent flight attendant schools who provide this kind of training but are usually paid. The training phase usually lasts anywhere from four weeks to 2 1/2 months.
During training, you’ll be taught a number of things about flight safety, customer service, grooming, aviation terms, and other related subjects.
To make sure you pass the training with flying colors, remember to study and do any assignments given to you. Be a good team player, interact, and get along with others. Many airlines value flight attendants who work well with others so ensure that you highlight this aspect of your personality.
Other crucial aspects that will also be discussed are grooming, personal hygiene, and customer service. As the representatives of your chosen airline, you’ll be the face of the company every time you interact with the passengers. This is why many airlines include a part of their training program teaching their newly hires how to look good and spruce up their appearance.
Airlines such as Emirates go as far as requiring their flight attendants to have a strict makeup, skincare, and hairstyle routine.
Once you pass training, you’ll then be on probation for six months. You’ll be qualified to fly and assist passengers on flights. After getting through the probation period, you’ll now be able to enjoy the benefits that come with the job. Expect to receive travel passes, meal allowances, discounts, and much more.
If you want to become a flight attendant, focus more on the lifestyle—not the salary. Starting out on the job means you’ll have a small salary. So you really have to like that aspect of the job as well. You’ll often be sharing crash pads with other flight attendants as well as pilots if you want to save on housing expenses.
Just make sure you join one that’s represented by unions for better job security. Although the starting salary is low, having the leisure to say you’ve travelled around the world is more than enough benefit for many!