Being a flight attendant comes with a lot of responsibility. You have to see to the safety and security of the passengers, deal with sometimes unruly individuals, crying children and when mother nature or a mechanical issue delays a flight, you’re the person the passengers take it out on.
On the upside, the job comes with opportunities to travel to fun and exotic places, and at the end of the day, you’re part of a team that performs a valuable service.
What Are Flight Attendant Requirements?
To be a flight attendant:
- You must be at least 18 years of age.
- Your height must be between 4 feet, 11 inches tall and 6 feet, 4 inches tall.
- You must be in good health.
- You should have the ability to use all five senses: hearing, sight, touch, smell, and taste.
- You need to be able to reach over your head to lift luggage.
- You should be well-groomed with no facial piercings or visible tattoos.
- Because English is the official language of aviation, you must be fluent in English, although multilingual applicants can have an advantage because the whole world flies.
- You must pass a background check and pre-employment drug screening.
Airlines look for flight attendant candidates at aviation trade shows or job fairs. Pro-tip: dress in a blue or black suit, because the airlines are looking for trim people they can picture in uniform working in the cabin.
Hourly vs. Salary
Whether the flight attendant is paid hourly or salaried is based on the particular contract with the airline. Some flight attendants start out at $15 per hour, others at $19 – or higher.
When the airlines are scrambling to add flight crews, starting pay can be $21 to $27 per hour.
By their 14th year, they can be making as much as $41 per hour.
Flight attendants are only paid for their flight time. This means they are not compensated when they are walking through the airport to get to a gate or waiting for the aircraft to arrive.
Their time clock does not start until the cabin door is closed.
Flight Attendant Wages
Like so many other jobs in aviation, the more experience you have, the higher the pay will be.
Starting pay, according to salary.com is around $50,000 per year. It can be lower at the smaller regional airlines, but there are sometimes signing bonuses, especially when the industry is competing for professionals.
Salary.com notes the median pay for flight attendants is around $80,000. These people have been on the job for a few years and the pay is commensurate with experience.
Flight attendants who have several years of experience can expect pay of around $117,000. In addition, they have first choice when it comes to bidding for schedules.
Other Flight Attendant Benefits
Many airlines offer health insurance for flight attendants, others also have pension plans and stock options. The big benefit for flight attendants – and the thing that makes so many people want to do the job – is the opportunity to travel. Flight attendants can commute via airliner from their home to their base, usually an airline hub city.
Flight attendants often get free or discounted flights to vacation destinations.
Is Becoming a Flight Attendant Right for You?
If you are looking for an exciting career with travel, and a chance to meet new people every day, being a flight attendant might be the job for you.
Flight attendants, like pilots, are put up in hotels during their trips, or they may stay in shared apartments or homes near the airports known as ‘crash pads.’ Often these are rented by a group of airline employees and everything is shared – during one stay you may be sleeping in a bunk bed with a coworker above you, on another stay you may be in one of the twin beds in the master bedroom.
Many airlines pay flight attendants on a monthly basis. Some airline payment periods can be more frequent, but this often depends on the employment contract flight attendants are working under.
To become a flight attendant, you have to be hired by the airline and complete the training. Some airlines require education beyond a high school diploma, but most are willing to work with the applicant who is taking online courses in pursuit of a degree.
Once you are hired, there will be several weeks of training, then you will be assigned to a base and begin work on an airliner. For the first few weeks you will be “on reserve” this is like a paid internship – you will be called to work a flight.