Have you ever traveled somewhere by plane and wondered what it was like to be one of those flight attendants you see in the aisle? Have you ever thought, “That would be a cool job”, or even just been curious about the lifestyle? Well, that was me. I thought about it all, daydreamed about this whole new career that excited and scared me at the same time. So, I turned dreams into reality and quit my desk job to become a flight attendant for a major US airline! There are many times when being a flight attendant truly does feel as glamorous as it may seem. Then, there are moments that make you question if it is a lifestyle that is right for you. To give you some insight, here are the pros and cons of being a flight attendant and working in the skies from my experience.
Pros of Being a Flight Attendant
I absolutely love my job and I am so happy I turned my passion into a career! Being a flight attendant has taken me to places I never would have gone to on my own…and so much more! Everyone knows that flight attendants can fly for free, but there are many other benefits that make it a great job!
You Get Paid to Travel
Putting it literally, you get paid to travel! You even get paid while you are relaxing at the pool at your layover hotel! The length of a layover can vary, but there’s usually enough time to get out and explore the area you are in. The hotel is always paid for and many airlines provide per diem or allowance to cover meal costs as well. It kind of feels like a mini-vacation that you are being paid for!
The Flying Benefits…Duh!
This is the most treasured benefit and often the main reason people become flight attendants! You can catch any flight you want (on standby) as long as there are empty or unsold seats when the plane is ready to leave. With your own airline and on domestic flights, you pretty much fly for free. When flying internationally or on standby with another airline, you usually only need to pay airport taxes. The price varies depending on the destination, but still such a great deal! So on your days off, the world is at your fingertips for free or almost nothing! Mexico today? Paris tomorrow? I think so!
Your Family and Friends Get Benefits Too
Many airlines extend their flying benefits to select family members and friends of their employees. This is such a nice perk being able to give others the opportunity to go places with you, or even on their own. Your friends and family will most likely act super curious about your job and ask if you can hook them up with any benefits…which will probably make you feel cool!
Extra Discounts and Offers
Apart from the flying benefits, airline employees usually have access to a variety of discounts on other select brands, products, and services. A real bonus! Some of these include:
- Car rentals
- Airline tickets
- Local entertainment
- Clothing & Electronics
Most airlines, at least in the US, use a bidding system. This means flight attendants can bid on their monthly preferences; which days off they want, preferred routes, flight times, etc. There are many opportunities to trade, swap, drop trips, and use PTO hours in order to get the schedule that is right for you. Do not get me wrong, everything does not always work out the way you want it, but it definitely gets easier when you gain seniority in the company! I have been able to arrange my full-time schedule to give myself over 10 days off in a row, allowing me to go on vacation without even taking vacation time! I like to say, “It’s a job you don’t need a vacation from!”
You work with a new and diverse group of coworkers pretty much every day. The crew comes together as a “team” throughout the flight, which makes the work easier and faster. Knowing you are part of a team really promotes a positive attitude about work and helps create a comfortable environment. As a newer flight attendant, I feel comfortable knowing I can count on a crew member if I ever need help. Most of the time the more experienced flight attendants are super helpful and full of advice.
You Improve Your Social Skills
If you love meeting new people, then this is a great career for you! You encounter at least 200 people a day and you need to be able to effectively communicate, listen and engage with your coworkers and passengers. Also, you learn to interact with people of different backgrounds, cultures, and age groups. You will hear interesting stories and establish friendly connections with individuals from all over the world who travel for a variety of reasons, which is so cool!
You Can Live Wherever You Want (sort of)
Every airline has its own set of “bases” in select cities. Each flight attendant is based out of a specific city or airport where their work trips will begin and end. However, many flight attendants live somewhere else and commute to work using the flight benefits. So that means you can work in one city and live in another (if you can easily commute to your base). Bases also give flight attendants the opportunity to live and work in select cities all over the country and even the world. For example, my airline has bases across the US as well as Europe and Asia, giving me the option to transfer to any of them. For now, I’m loving being based out of Chicago, Illinois!
Each Day is Different
Between the variety of destinations, the people you meet, and the flexible schedule…trust me, it is hard to get bored! Flight attendants are interacting with new people and traveling the world every single time they go to work. No two flights are the same and there is always something going on that will make the work interesting and unpredictable. Flight attendants are given a range of freedom to let their personalities shine and be creative when it comes to providing a positive flight experience for themselves and others. If you are tired of the daily routine of your current job, flight attending will definitely spice it up for you!
Cons of Being a Flight Attendant
Among its pros, being a flight attendant comes with its own set of “cons”, just like any job, but they should not discourage you from pursuing a dream if it is something you have been curious about! I heard about potential cons before I started this career, but everyone views things differently. A “con” to one person may be a “pro” for someone else and vice versa. Either way, the cons do not change how much I love my job and being a flight attendant!
You Miss Important Events and Holidays
You will be away from your family and friends a lot and will likely miss a good number of important events and holidays. Major FOMO (fear of missing out)!! You can request these sorts of dates off (trade, swap, drop), but there is no guarantee, especially if you are a newbie in the company. In my first year as a flight attendant, I had to work over the Christmas holiday and ended up crying alone in my hotel room while missing my family. That said, the next Christmas was great and I was lucky to get other holidays off, so it is not always bad. Plus, some airlines pay extra to those working on certain holidays, so there is that.
Being on Reserve
For some, being on reserve can be a “con”, while others do not mind it. You only know which days you have off and which days you are working. On the working days, you will only get scheduled when the company needs you to fill in on a flight. This means you will not know where and when you are flying until you randomly get a call during the day (or night) for a trip, in which you will have at least a 3hr notice to get to work. You may also be assigned to “sit reserve” at the airport for a few hours in case you are needed immediately. It can be stressful or make you anxious not knowing when you will be called to work. On the plus side, if you do not get called, then you had a whole day off and still get paid!
Commuting to Work
Commuting can be a stressful and tiring experience for those who do it. These are flight attendants who live in a different city than where they are based for work. Meaning, they must make sure they get on a flight from home to base to be on time for work. And commuters have to fly standby, so they are not guaranteed a seat on the plane to easily get them there. I highly suggest living in your base city, however, many flight attendants have families and other obligations to consider.
Long Hours and Always Tired
Working 36,000 feet in the air in a metal tube just takes a toll on your body in general! Sometimes you will get super busy and it is hard to have a sleep routine when your schedule is all over the place. There will be long days from working several legs, flight delays, or even just lengthy wait times between departures. You will find yourself sleeping in on days off or turning down social activities because you just need to catch up on some sleep!
The Pay When You First Start Out is Low
Especially if you are new, the pay is going to suck. Many flight attendants live in
“crash pads” or have several roommates just to afford their lifestyle. It can be a hard battle of needing to pay bills and wanting to go on fun trips all the time. On the plus side, you can make extra income by picking up trips on your days off and working holidays. Although pay increases annually, it just is not a job you will ever “get rich” from.
A flight attendant’s unpredictable schedule and on-the-go lifestyle can sometimes put a strain on relationships, or even make it difficult to form new ones. Be prepared to spend several nights away from your partner and have to rely on good ol’ Facetime and text to communicate. You may have to spend holidays with your families a few days late or even leave your date night early because scheduling randomly called you to work. But, it is honestly a mindset and what you make of the situation! With some positivity and effort, you can make anything work when the other person is understanding and accepting of flight attendant life. We can be hard work, but we are worth it!
Being a flight attendant is an amazing job filled with so much opportunity! Nobody’s list of “pros and cons” is the same for everyone, but hopefully, my list gives you some insight into the reality of the career as a flight attendant. My name is Savannah, and it was a pleasure to write about my experience in the airline industry. I am always excited about meeting new people, answering questions, collaborating, or talking about life! You can find me on Instagram at savymarie_13 or savys_sweet_escapes!