Advantages and Disadvantages of Being a Flight Attendant

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North America » United States
August 23rd 2016
Published: August 23rd 2016
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Many people interested in becoming a flight attendant ask me what it's like.. it gets overwhelming answering the same questions over and over again. It's a lot of information to discuss so I'm just going to write it all here. Any questions after reading this, let me know!

To be a flight attendant (FA), the requirements are...

• Must be at least 21 years of age
• Must have a passport
• Must have a high school diploma
• Must be a US resident
• Must be willing to relocate

What helps you to get the job....

• Having any type of medical background
• Having any type of leadership background
• Good referrals
• Resume with key words such as reliable, leader, team player, responsible, time management, and independent.
• Speaking more than one language
• Luck, lots and lots of luck

Let's talk about the benefits.. because that's why most of us do it.

My airline is the best to work for from what I hear. I believe benefits can vary but for the most part, each airline has similar benefits.

1. If you're a flight attendant, you fly for free within the US. Not only can you fly your own airline for free, but you can fly other airlines for free. It's an agreement between airlines for commuting purposes.

• The catch is that it's Standby, that's important to understand. You won't be given a seat to go anywhere you want. You are given the opportunity to go where you want and you have to plan accordingly with flight loads to get there. If there are seats available after all confirmed passengers are boarded then the gate agent will begin to clear the standby list. The standby list for my airline goes by hire date. The longer you work for us, the higher you are on the list. I've only worked as a FA for a year, and I have had little issues with standby. My advice for a new hire would be not to fly standby in the summer time and/or the weekends. That's when flights are usually full. PS- You get first class when it's open too 😊

2. Your parents fly for free within the US. If your grandparents are your legal guardians or you have a stepmom or stepdad, they can receive the benefits. Now if you have 4 "parents", I have no idea, I know at least 2 can get the benefits but not sure how it works for all 4. This part of the benefits is what made me want to be a FA. My parents have sacrificed so much for me over the years and I always thought about how I could repay them. I thought by the time I had money to buy them something nice, they'd be too old to enjoy it. They love to travel, so why not give them free flying! They love it, we went to Paris for my moms birthday this year and I just sent them to Chicago last weekend to see a concert. Our conversations use to be so general, now all we talk about is when we should go to the Greek Isles or when we can take a trip to the west coast.

3. You get one travel companion. Travel companions don't fly for free, they fly for a discount. My sister is my travel companion. Within the US, the price for one way can range in between $30-$80. The further the distance, the more you pay. If you have a domestic partner, then they receive your travel companion pass and they get to fly for free. So if you're having a hard time getting someone to commit, just use your pass as leverage. I'm joking but people totally do it.

• If you have kids, they travel for free too. They travel free until they are 20 something then they lose their benefits.

• we also get 8 buddy passes a year. You can give these passes to anyone but most of us don't. It's discounted but still standby, and it's just a hassle. We recommend to only use them internationally.

4. You and your parents only pay taxes when traveling outside of the US. It all varies, I went to Thailand and my roundtrip fare was $80, but London's roundtrip is around $200. Your travel companion has to pay taxes and then some. Roundtrip for London would be around $500 for your travel companion. Places like Aruba and Cabo roundtrip fares are around $150.

5. We have health benefits. I'm not on our health benefits because I'm under my Dad's until I'm 26. I've been told our health benefits are good and haven't heard any complaints from co-workers. There are different plans with different price ranges, you would have to do your research and see what you're willing to pay.

6. FLEXIBILITY!!!! This is why I can say "I LOVE my job". My whole life with school, sports, jobs, there was never any flexibility. When you have to be in class, the gym, at the office, at the same time every day for most of your life, you kind of just want to disappear and not have to report to anyone.

• You must work a minimum of 45 hours if you want to keep your health benefits.

You can work as many hours as you want. Saving up for something big? Work 200 hours! Want to live paycheck to paycheck? Sure, work 60 hours a month. Maybe you have another job that you make more money from and just fly for the benefits, cool then do the 45 minimum. Me, I fly 110 hours a month to live comfortably. They will schedule you for around 80 to 90 hours a month unless you request for less or more. We do have work rules, but you can wave them per month if you're looking to fly as many hours as possible. Work rules include 3 days off every 10, 1 day off every 7, and 24 hour rest after international.

We BID for our days off. It's all about seniority and working the bid system to get what you want. I bid for days off, if I don't get them then I go on our Facebook page and/or email FAs asking to swap trips... out of the year, it will work in your favor 50 percent of the time. If you think you will have Christmas, Thanksgiving, or any other big holiday off, then you're wrongly mistaken. I spent Christmas in Boston with my roommate last year sitting on standby. It sucked, but I had a late Christmas with my family and made up for it. If you're family oriented like me, or a homebody like me, you're going to have to sacrifice for a few years before you can fully commit to your family again. It's worth it, at least to me. Also, we bid for two weeks paid vacation. You can split the weeks up. Don't expect to get any summer weeks vacation since it goes senior. Mine were in May and I spent my vacation in Cabo.

• There's not a fixed amount of days you have to work within a week. There are 1 day trips, 2 day trips, 3 day trips, and 4 day trips. Sometimes I have 5 days off in-between my trips, or I'll have back to back 3 day trips. It all depends on what you bid for and how the system works for that month. I had 15 days off this month, I bid so I could have time off for a wedding and then someone picked up a trip giving me more days off. Go me! 😊

7.We get paid well! I started at around $23 an hour and within 3 months of working, we received a raise. It went from $23 to $27. After 6 months of working, you are allowed to work Flight Leader which pays $3 more per hour. Also if you fly international, you receive around $2 more per hour. Plus, you get paid a per diem for every hour you're away from base, which adds up. On average, I'm away from base 50 hours per trip. The per diem is around $2-3 an hour. There are other incentives we have such as getting paid when we receive top ratings on flight surveys. We also get paid a percentage for any sales during flight or if we sell the airline's credit card. It all adds up, we have our own debit card where the money is transferred to each month. I receive around $70-$120 extra from the incentives each month.

You receive a raise each year for 12 years. The top pay right now I think is around $62 an hour. I'll hit that when I'm 35. I expect more raises between that time though.

8. PROFIT SHARING!!!!! I really look forward to February 14th of each year. Not for the lovey dovey-ness but for the $$$ my company gives me. They give you a check for basically 20 percent of your annual income. It will be taxed, but it's still a good sum of change. The best thing to do with your profit sharing is to put it into your 401 K each year. If you have debt to pay, I suggest you pay it off and then begin to put it into your 401K.

9. Retirement, yes, after retirement of X amount of years... I think 20, you keep your travel benefits. You don't keep your seniority though, that's why there are so many older flight attendants. No one wants to be top 10 percent of the seniority list and drop down to the bottom 10 percent. It's a hard life to give up. Also, you never have to retire! There are flight attendants in their 90s still working! The job keeps you young. As long as you pass the annual evaluation of emergency procedures, you're good to go for another year.

• We do have a 401 K, I put around $100 in my 401 K each paycheck. When I start making more and have more money saved up, I'll add more.

10. I have met the greatest people with this job. My friends at home are great, but they don't have the same mentality as me. My co workers all live the same life style as me and want the same things out of life as I do. I have made so many friends out of this job. It doesn't feel like working when you're with your girlfriends. You can buddy bid so you and your friend get the same trips, or you can just swap onto their trips. They can travel on their off days with you too!

11. PSSH...ALMOST FORGOT! NO BOSS, I repeat, NO BOSS!!!!!! If you do your job, make it on time everyday, you will never have to see or speak to your manager. But if you take advantage of the system and don't do what is asked, then yeah, plan to have a few phone calls and meeting with your manager about reliability.

Disadvantages..... meh

1. Talked about it before, you won't be spending holidays at home until you're senior enough to hold them off.

2. You most likely won't live where you want to live. Our bases are ATL, NYC, DTW, MSP, SLC, LAX, SEA, BOS, MDO... and some others. But some are bigger than others and the smaller ones don't accept many flight attendants. I live in Philadelphia and uprooted to move to Boston. I love it, but FAs who have to leave their kids or significant others behind in another state, sometimes can't make it work. Some FAs try the commuting life, but that's a job in itself and you have to mentally prepare yourself for the extra hours you're going to put into your time for work. I refuse to commute, unless I decide to go somewhere out west and just want to test myself a little with a new experience.

• When I was hired we had 3 options, DTW, MSP, and BOS. I was like no way in hell would I ever live in DTW or MSP, so I chose Boston. I love it! I've talked to FAs who moved to MSP and DTW for the job and I've heard good things about both locations. You just have to make the most of it and stop holding on to your old life.

3. Working with the public (UGH). This job will open your eyes to many things that you have never experienced in your little bubble. You meet the 10 percent of people that you didn't even know existed. There are a lot of crazies out there and they tend to travel! It begins to weigh on you and your spirits. When I started it really didn't bother me but the more you deal with it, the more you lose hope for humanity. To be fair, for every 1 negative customer, I have 10 positive customers that make my day. This job makes you purely focus on the good knowing that the bad can bring you down if you feed it too much attention.

4. Health can be an issue. There's a lot of germs you're working with and the air makes your skin and eyes react as if you're living in a desert. If you work international, the time zones can make it difficult to live a healthy life style. You tend to eat at the wrong hours and you begin to feel scattered brain because of how sleep deprived you are. If I don't get my 8 hours of sleep for more than 1 night, I can feel it physically and mentally. That's why I stick to domestic, time zones are a 1-3 hour change, you're not in the dry environment for 6 to 8 hours, and you're not touching the same sick person's stuff continuously for such a long duration.

5. Relationships can be hard. If you knew the person before being a FA, then great because they know who you are before your "never at home" life. It's hard to meet someone who is secure enough with themselves that they aren't questioning your travels and they aren't taking advantage of it when you're not around. This job is hard if you're looking for a real relationship, but there are love stories out there so don't lose hope.

• This job has for sure given me more opportunities to meet guys. When I fly, I have no interest in flirting with anyone. When a guy asks me a really random question, I just assume they're dumb and I answer it and walk away. But then I'm like oh, he was probably just trying to start conversation...or is he just dumb? idk, oh well. But I know girls that have the best pick up lines. The best one I've heard is "Would you like to come back into my kitchen?", I walked to the back galley and he was there talking to her, and she ended up giving him a ride home. You just need a little game. I do meet guys on the days I travel for fun or on my actual layovers. I stay connected but it's hard to want to start a relationship with someone in a different state who you really don't know... it's fun to keep the connection though for layovers. My fingers are crossed for someone who lives near my base aka Boston.

6. Training isn't easy. First of all, getting hired isn't easy. People speak of flight attendants as if they're waitresses in the sky, but if that is the case, why is it such a hard job to get?!? Well duh, because we aren't waitresses in the sky, we're trained individuals on aviation safety and we're there to protect you. We are the ones who make sure you're taken care of if there is a fire, medical emergency, loss of cabin pressure, hijacking, and so on. Please give us a little more credit than just being waitresses with wings. Any how, 7 weeks of training! It's intense, and they make it stressful because they want to see how you will handle it. But at the end of it, after it's completed, you will be very proud of yourself and officially be a flight attendant!


1st June 2018

I want to became a flight attendant, but not having a resident in the US. My question is how can I accomplished my dream to become a Flight Attendant?
6th September 2018

Thank you
I love this post, I only wanted to read the disadvantages but the advantages alone is enough to keep me going. I will start my training in November.

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