The life of a flight attendant seems glamorous. They get to jet around the world, earn money for traveling, and have some pretty neat uniforms. However, the job comes with plenty of drawbacks, including long hours, time away from family, and dealing with difficult passengers on a regular basis.
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So, is being a flight attendant a good job? That all depends on what you want from your job. If you want a job with travel benefits, excitement, and a non-traditional 9-to-5, then it’s worth it. Flight attendants also earn decent salaries and benefits. However, for people who want time with their families and a more stable job schedule, it isn’t worth it.
Here are some criteria that can help you decide if becoming a flight attendant is worth it for you or not.
Pros of Becoming a Flight Attendant
There is a reason why the career of a flight attendant still has an air of glamour around it. There are many perks to the job that make it worth it.
Plenty of Opportunities to Travel
If you want to see the world without spending a fortune, becoming a flight attendant is one of the best ways to do it. Flight attendants literally get paid to travel.
Although most of their “travel time” is spent in the air, flight attendants also get to explore their destinations during mandatory downtime in between flights lasting 24–72 hours. During layovers, airlines will pay for nice hotels so that flight attendants can rest and recuperate before working the flight back home. On international layovers, the hotel is usually in the downtown area and well-connected to make it easy to explore.
Being a flight attendant also makes it easier to travel when you’re not on the job. Flight attendants get free flights on their airline for themselves as well as their families. If the airline a flight attendant works for doesn’t fly to a certain destination, other airlines will discount their tickets. Not only do you get to fly for work, but vacations as a flight attendant are also much cheaper.
Not a Traditional 9-to-5 Schedule
Flight attendants don’t work the stereotypical 9-to-5 schedule. While they often work longer hours, the schedule also comes with a certain degree of flexibility, especially for senior flight attendants.
For example, working long-haul flights allows flight attendants to travel and have mandatory layovers in exotic destinations and earn mandatory time off after each flight to spend time with their family.
It Is Glamorous
Although the days of Pan Am and other luxury flights are over, there is still a certain glamour around the career of a flight attendant. Many people enjoy the respect, authority, worldliness, and even the smart uniforms that come with the job.
Cons of Becoming a Flight Attendant
As with any job, there are drawbacks to being a flight attendant.
You Spend Lots of Time Away from Loved Ones
One of the biggest drawbacks of the job is that even with flexible schedules, flight attendants work long hours and spend lots of time away from their loved ones. Since holidays are the busiest time for airlines, many crew members can’t get time off during those days and have to spend important days away from their families.
Spending time away from your loved ones will take a toll on your relationships. It is hard to maintain friendships, and your kids might start resenting you for not being around. And if you’re single, meeting someone and starting a relationship is hard.
It Takes a Toll on You Physically
Frequent flying, long commutes, and the stress of a job take their toll on flight attendants. Many report issues with fatigue, weight gain, and other chronic health problems. Frequent travel, jet lag, and relying on airplane and airport food make it difficult to maintain healthy habits.
A Lot Depends on Seniority
Many of the perks in the flight attendant career improve with seniority and experience. However, that means that the first few years of working as a flight attendant are very difficult.
Junior flight attendants have low paychecks. They get little choice with the schedules they work and often work on standby, meaning they are always on call. The promise of it getting better with seniority means little when you have to slog through several years of difficult work.
Although the job of a flight attendant is glamorous, it is also very stressful.
Flight attendants have many responsibilities, including handling medical emergencies and taking care of passenger safety during accidents. Small mistakes come with big consequences. Airlines put flight attendants through rigorous training programs and regular tests to make sure they are prepared.
Passengers also add to the stress. Many passengers are on their worst behavior during flights, and flight attendants have to de-escalate the situation while keeping everyone happy.
Even the process of becoming a flight attendant is stressful. Many flight attendants apply multiple times before finally getting hired and then have to go through a rigorous, multi-week training program.
How Much Money Do Flight Attendants Make?
The glamorous (or lack thereof) conditions of being a flight attendant are not the only factor determining if the career is worth it or not. At the end of the day, the job of a flight attendant is just that, a job, and the benefits and paycheck help determine if it is worth it or not.
The salary for flight attendants is not too bad. One flight attendant who’s been in the business for several years shared that she makes $50 an hour, which is far more than most jobs on the ground. Airlines also give their crews annual raises, another rarity in different industries. Flight attendants can earn bonuses for working overnight and speaking different languages. Plus, they get a per diem during layovers.
However, it does take time to build up the seniority that gives you a cushy paycheck, and many junior flight attendants still live paycheck to paycheck. The aviation industry has fairly generous benefits for its flight attendants (in part thanks to the strong union). Benefits include paid maternity leave and unlimited unpaid leave, no mandatory retirement age, and generous retirement benefits. So, is being a flight attendant a good job? If you’re willing to deal with some hardships, the travel (and benefits and paycheck) are worth it.