Flight Attendant Salary – What To Expect

Male Flight Attendant

Flight Attendant Salary

Here’s a quick overview on what to expect from a Flight Attendant salary. Pay will vary greatly from airline to airline but at most U.S. based airlines you can expect to start around $20k per year with yearly increases over the next ten to fifteen years. As in any position, overall job satisfaction will depend on so much more than just your pay scale. Below, I will briefly explain some of the bullet points and highlights you need to know and then get more detailed on how much you can expect to make as a flight attendant. Your new lifestyle will NOT include a forty hour work week and how your pay is determined is as complicated as your schedule. It can be confusing, even for a seasoned flight attendant so, let’s cover all aspects of the flight attendant salary.

All Factors to Consider

• Flight Attendants are paid for flight hours. This means they are on the clock from the time the aircraft door is closed for departure until the time the aircraft door is opened at the arrival gate.

• The average pay for a reserve flight attendant (a flight attendant that is on call to fill in for sick calls, crews going illegal etc.) 75-80 flight hours per month. As a reserve flight attendant you are guaranteed this monthly minimum whether you actually fly that amount or not.

• There is no typical work week for flight attendants that hold a line (a line is a schedule that is bid for every month). The schedule can vary greatly from airline to airline and flight attendant to flight attendant. Some airlines let you clear your schedule to 0 hours or fly as much as you can while still following the FAA (federal aviation administration) rules, while some have a minimum hour and maximum hour requirement.

• Line holders typically have the ability to pick up, drop and trade trips, dependent on the airlines work rules.

• Work rules can be as important as pay, especially when you are on reserve and at the mercy of crew scheduling.

• A higher hourly wage and/or limited flying opportunities due to work rules can equate to a smaller monthly salary. Make it a point to have an understanding of an airlines work rules while deciding who you’d like to fly for.

• Most airlines give step raises for the first 10-15 years. Your schedule will also get better with time, seniority is everything at the airlines.

• There are two types of seniority at the airlines, your system wide seniority (where you fall within the entire flight attendant group) and your home base or domicile seniority (the city where you begin and end your flying assignments). Airline bases seniority vary greatly and reserve can be up to 15 years at one base or 6 months at another.

• Commuting is when a flight attendant decides not to live where they are based. This is common in the industry and may help you to hold a line or just give you the ability to live where you would like. Your flights to and from will be inexpensive or sometimes free, but you will be flying stand-by status (space available). It is the responsibility of the flight attendant to make sure they can be at base to begin assignments on time. You’ll need to prepare ahead in case of weather or full flights.

• Health care is another factor in determining pay. If you are paying hundreds of dollars in health care vs a small amount at another airline this could obviously affect your bottom line.

• Where does the airline fly? Is this worth your time? You will be paid a small amount of per diem (allowance for food and expenses for your time away from base), but it’s not much. Part of the allure for most people pursuing this career is the travel. Make sure you do your research on where the airline you are interested in flies and the quality of the hotels.

• Research the actual flight benefits, also known as “non-reving”. Does the airline offer free stand by travel or is there a small fee? As a flight attendant starting out, even a small amount per leg can add up. Most major airlines have cross over agreements with other airlines where you are able to fly inexpensively on them as well.

• Last but not least, how is the company culture? Are the employees happy? Is the airline stable? What is the financial situation? Is there a merger in progress? These are all factors to consider. Thankfully, with the power of the internet, there are multiple forums where this information is readily available.

That covers a small amount of what goes into your quality of life as a flight attendant. There are many other factors that you will learn along the way.

Now let’s talk actual numbers:

1. Reserve Flight Attendant/Less than one year with the airline

Legacy Airlines

UNITED: Pay guarantee – 83 hour guarantee or a little over $1600 per month. If you fly MORE than 71 hours for the month you get just under $22/hr. for every hour above 71 that you work.

AMERICAN: Pay guarantee: 71 hour guarantee or just under $1800 per month.

SOUTHWEST: Pay guarantee: $24/hour

ALASKA: Pay guarantee: 83 hours or about $1800. per month.

Regional Airlines


REPUBLIC: $17.51

2. Line Holder/Five years with with airline

UNITED: Pay guarantee around $38/hour

A line holder at a Legacy Carrier (yes that may be an oxymoron) at 6 year pay, flying around 95 flight hours for the month would earn a little over $3600 if trips were domestic or about $3900 if working international trips. Not bad!

3. Corporate

Now let’s look at corporate salaries

There is no set example for corporate flight attendant salaries. They vary greatly depending on who you fly for, what your experience is, what your responsibilities are and whether or not you are at a corporations beckon call. Having said that, you can expect anywhere from the low 30k to over 100k per year. Responsibilities can include, but are not limited to, working holidays, shopping and catering the aircraft, fulfilling special requests and more.

Working as a flight attendant is a lifestyle and very different from working a 9 to 5 corporate job. It is important for you to determine whether or not it is a good match for you. Take a look at your family situation, your personality, and how flexible you can be. Determine whether or not the job and all that comes with it, matches your personal values and the way you want to live your life. You really want to make sure the flight attendant lifestyle is truly the right fit for you before you jump in with both feet.

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