Flight attendants are often viewed as being the waiters and waitresses of the flying world, but their job duties are much more comprehensive than handing out snacks and sodas. This career option requires you to perform safety functions on an aircraft, handle customer service issues on or off the ground, and communicate with the flight deck to ensure that every passenger can have a safe experience while traveling.
There are times when working as a flight attendant can be as glamorous as what it seems like on TV or in the movies. Then there are the moments which will make you wonder why you ever decided to pursue a career like this in the first place.
As with any career option, there are some specific pros and cons of being a flight attendant that you will want to review before jumping into this job.
List of the Pros of Being a Flight Attendant
1. There are plenty of travel benefits available with this career option.
One of the most significant benefits that you will find available to flight attendants is the ability to travel. You can often fly for free or at a reduced rate whatever you want to take a weekend trip or an exciting vacation. This job is also one that will sometimes pay you to fly to a new city, providing you with a hotel upon your arrival, and even scheduling you for a long layover so that you have time to explore.
Most airlines have contracts with each other that allow for all of the flight attendants to take advantage of this benefit, allowing you to fly for free all over the world. Some agreements even allow you to take your spouse, children, or other direct relatives like parents or grandparents.
2. There is a lot of flexibility built into your schedule.
When you look at the average job in the United States, most people work either 8-5 or 9-5 and receive there Saturday and Sunday off each week. Flight attendants have the opportunity to trade, drop, swap, PTO, and work a schedule of their choosing once they reach a high enough level of seniority. Some workers in this industry choose to combine their work trips so that they can travel on their days off, which means you could work full-time and then get 12 days off in a row to travel without taking any vacation time.
3. It gives you an opportunity to meet new people from around the world.
If you love to meet new people, then you are going to love being a flight attendant. This job requires you to manage the interior environment of the aircraft while providing an exceptional level of customer service. You will get to meet and interact with people from all over the world who are traveling for a variety of different reasons. These interactions can occur at the airport, at your hotel, and even on layovers when other attendants meet up to discuss their positions, schedules, and more.
You will discover that it is very easy to make friends when you start working in this industry you. From the pilot to the ramp crew to the gate attendants, you are all there to provide one aspect of service that makes the traveling process easier for each customer.
4. No two flights are ever the same when you work as a flight attendant.
Even if you get into a routine where are you are handling the same flights most weeks, you will discover that this industry never has the same thing happen twice. There is always something new going on that will make your work interesting. There are always incredible views of the sky to catch when you are in the air, and the only desk that you stare at is the preparation area where you manage the supplies.
Although there could be some shifts where you are always on your feet and that may not be very comfortable, it is an issue that you will get used to over time as your resiliency builds up.
5. There are plenty of career benefits that you can access as a flight attendant.
Even if the salary is not lucrative when you start working as a flight attendant, most airlines will provide you with several career benefits that are worth considering. You will have access to paid life insurance of $50,000 or more with some American airlines, long-term disability insurance, and the opportunity to contribute to a retirement plan. Some flight attendants also receive discounts on hospitality services, including car rentals, hotels, and cruises.
That’s why your career as a flight attendant is often viewed as a lifestyle choice more than an opportunity to earn some money. If you want to travel and see the world, this job can help you achieve that goal without costing you an arm and a leg to do it.
List of the Cons of Being a Flight Attendant
1. The salaries of flight attendants are shockingly low.
The average flight attendant in the United States or in about $45,000 per year. If you want to reach that level of income, then you will need to put in between 5 to 10 years of service with the same airline. Even the top 10% of wage earners in this industry barely make above $70,000 per year. When you were first getting started, the wage offer might be less than $10 per hour.
Information published by Indeed on the hourly salaries of flight attendants in the United States with Delta shows that you could earn as little as $9.93 per hour with this job or whatever the minimum wage happens to be in your location. That place is the salary for new employees at 52% below the national average.
2. You are almost always on reserve or on call as a flight attendant.
New flight attendants are almost always on call or on reserve because you don’t know which flight will require your services. That means you can be at home waiting for a phone call for work or you could be asked to wait at the airport for up to two hours before the assigned trip would begin. It was one of the most difficult times in this career because you never know where you were going, how long you will be gone, and when someone is going to call. Most reserve flight attendants receive the leftover trips that nobody else wants or get pulled in different directions based on the whims of the employer.
3. This job requires you to be away from home a lot.
If you don’t like the idea of traveling, then working as a flight attendant is probably not the best career choice. The best flights tend to go to the workers with the most seniority, which means you could find yourself spending several days away from home while working. Even some senior flight attendants are unable to make workday turns that can get them home every night. If you have loved ones, a home to manage, or pets that require your attention, then the lifestyle that this job requires can be hard.
4. Your training is not always classified as employment.
If you are thinking about being a flight attendant, then it is imperative that you start saving some money right away. Although this disadvantage does not apply to every airline, many of them require that you go through unpaid training that can last for up to eight weeks, depending on the company. If you do not have enough savings to cover, then your bills can get pretty far behind before you start earning that first paycheck.
Even when you do start receiving your wages, you will discover that the people who work for the airlines the longest are the ones who have motivations other than money to keep doing what they do. If you are looking for a job that can help you to pay off some debt, this might not be the best career choice.
5. You may not have the option to take a sick day.
When you first start working as a flight attendant, it can feel like your scheduling people always want you to come in to work at the moments when you don’t feel so good. Even if you are really sick, there may be no one else who can cover the flight, which means you might have an obligation to report even though you are you ill. Most airlines do not want to put sick flight attendants in a confined area with passengers, but this disadvantage can play out quite often until you get enough seniority.
6. There are multiple time zones and changes to manage while flying.
Jet lag can be a real problem when you work as a flight attendant if you are traveling over multiple times zones. Even if you fly from the west coast of the United States to the East Coast, the three hours in time difference can be enough to throw off your entire schedule. You can avoid this disadvantage if you are able to schedule a round-trip flight, but international responsibilities can make it very challenging to get some sleep after making a long haul. You are consistently gaining or losing time when you work in this industry.
7. The threat of terrorism is very real.
After the events of September 11, 2001, there has been an added level of anxiety in the general population when it comes to flying as a form of travel. People are hyper aware of who is around them on a flight, which can create significant tensions, fights, and other forms of conflict that you are tasked to manage. There is still the threat of terrorism to consider as well, even though the governments of the world have significant security measures in place to prevent a disaster in the sky from happening.
It doesn’t have to take an act of terror for your life to be at risk went flying. The issues with the Boeing 737 Max 8 show that a simple mechanical problem will take control of your life out of your hands.
Are You Ready to Become a Flight Attendant?
Although you can make a decent living as a flight attendant if you stick to this position, it can take more than a decade to earn a reasonable wage in some situations. One of the ways that airlines counter this problem is to provide flight benefits to you and your direct family that can make it a lot cheaper to travel.
Using Delta as an example again, you can use your travel privileges with your position as a flight attendant to go anywhere that the airline flies after completing 30 days of service with the company. That includes international flights.
The pros and cons of being a flight attendant are essential to review if you love the idea of flying and meeting new people every day. There are always some challenges to face in this industry, but it is a rewarding experience for most people.
Crystal Lombardo has been a staff writer for Future of Working for five years. She is a proud veteran and mother. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our editor-in-chief a message here.