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Have you ever wondered how much a flight attendant makes and which airlines pay flight attendants the most? Where do the highest paid flight attendants work? Whether you want to be a flight attendant, are curious about the pay, or are looking to make a career move, I’ve got all the details.
On average, flight attendants make $59,050 annually, but if you work for a high-paying commercial airline for an extended time, most senior flight attendants can make more than $100,000 per year. Airlines such as American, United, and Delta usually offer the highest hourly wages.
So, let’s talk more about how much money flight attendants make. I’ll explain how flight attendants are paid and discuss the airlines that offer the highest salaries and wages. I’ll also tell you about what it takes to become a flight attendant so that you can understand this well-paying profession.
What’s the Average Income of a Flight Attendant?
Flight attendants make various incomes depending on how much they work, how much experience they have, and what airline they work for.
The median income of a flight attendant in the USA is $59,000 a year, while the lowest 10% of flight attendants only make $29,000 a year. However, attendants with high seniority and a busy schedule can make more than $80,000 a year.
As a flight attendant, the longer you work for an airline, the more you will get paid. In addition, attendants with seniority get to choose or bid on their flights, which offers the possibility of making large sums of money for prolonged or frequent jobs.
Furthermore, flight attendants who live near major airports in large metropolitan cities such as New York City or Los Angeles usually make more money than other attendants since they have more opportunities to get jobs.
Are Flight Attendants Paid Hourly?
For most flight attendants, the pay clock starts when the aircraft door closes and stops when the plane doors open. This period of paid stewardship is called “block time,” but not all airlines use this model to calculate wages.
Most flight attendants are paid hourly, and they are only paid for the time spent on the plane from the time of departure to the time of arrival in their home city. However, some attendants get per diem or a base salary. Also, there are always opportunities to earn extra pay during a flight.
So, let’s talk more about the various ways that flight attendants get paid.
Average Hourly Pay
Most American airlines (such as United, American Airlines, and Delta) use an hourly pay model. This model is the most common way American flight attendants get paid, although some airlines do use other models (which I’ll discuss in the next few sections).
On average, flight attendants who get an hourly wage make anywhere between $25 and $30 an hour, but that’s just the mid-range pay.
Attendants with less experience working for a low-paying airline make around $15 an hour, while people who have worked for a high-paying airline for more than 13 years can make over $50 hourly. So, the wage can vary greatly, and it takes a while to work your way to the top.
To convert hourly amounts into annual salaries, look up $40,000 a year is how much an hour for a guide.
Flight attendants are not paid for their time cleaning the plane, standing around the airport waiting for the flight to depart, or waiting for their next job assignment. So, the more flights an attendant works on, the more they make.
Aside from the hourly pay, flight attendants usually get a per diem wage or a charge card to cover the cost of meals and accommodations when they have delays between jobs. Usually, the amount of money provided is calculated based on the average cost of living in the destination city, so flight attendants shouldn’t expect fine dining or 5-star hotels when they have layovers.
This money is usually kept on a specific charge card that only covers accommodations and food, so they don’t have to pay to stay in hotels or eat abroad.
However, some flights provide their attendants with cash per diem, which they can save if they don’t spend it all. There are also airport hotels that take cash as well for airline employees who are stuck with overnight layovers.
Airlines such as Lufthansa, Emirates, Spirit, and Allegiant use a base salary to pay their flight attendants. This base salary ensures that their employees always make enough money to get by, even when flights are few and far between.
Base salaries usually average out at between $2,000 to $3,000 a month, and this salary completely replaces the hourly wage model used by most other airlines.
With this base salary, flight attendants must make all of the flights they are scheduled for, but they don’t have to worry about maximizing their flight time to make enough money to put food on the table.
Most airlines that use the hourly wage pay model also offer extra wages and flight attendants’ bonuses for flight attendants with unique skills and flexibility.
Bilingual flight attendants usually get a few dollars per hour extra when they take flights where their second language could come in handy.
Pursers, who function as the head flight attendant on flights, also make more per hour than the other crew members. These managers usually ensure that everything is done according to schedule on a flight, and they also deal with any complaints or issues that the passengers might have.
In addition, flight attendants who accept jobs on overnight flights (also called red-eye flights) can make more money since these are usually the least desirable jobs available.
Overtime is another way to make some serious cash as a flight attendant. According to a flight attendant who works for Delta, some attendants willing to put in over 150 hours a month can make up to $150,000 a year! However, putting in so many hours can be draining, and it’s not practical for everyone, which is why the average salary for a flight attendant is much lower.
Which Airlines Pay Flight Attendants the Most?
As I mentioned, some airlines pay flight attendants more than others, and experience and seniority play a significant role in calculating wages. Because of the difference between airlines, some commercial airlines are more desirable to work – these are the ones that pay big bucks for every hour spent on the job.
The commercial airlines that pay flight attendants the most money on average are:
- United Airlines
- American Airlines
- Delta Airlines
- Alaska Airlines
- JetBlue Airlines
- Southwest Airlines
- Hawaiian Airlines
- Emirates Airlines
- Allegiant Air
- Qatar Airways
- Etihad Airways
- Frontier Airlines
- Spirit Airlines
- Air Canada
Let’s take a look at the average pay for flight attendants at these top-paying airlines and take a peek at what the highest-paid attendants rake in every year.
Highest Paid Flight Attendants: Top Airlines Ranked
United Airlines pays an average hourly wage of $33 to $45 every hour, and the median income of a United flight attendant is $44,219.
However, flight attendants who have worked for United Airlines for ten or more years make much more money than the median income, and they often end up with a yearly salary of about $100,000, making United one of the most profitable airlines to work for.
United also treats its employees very well, offering full benefits, profit-sharing, bonuses, retirement plans, vacation and sick pay, employee discounts, and extra opportunities to make additional money.
Overall, this is one of the best airlines for dedicated, passionate flight attendants to work for, and if you land a job here, you’ll probably want to stay here until you retire.
Newbies at American Airlines usually make around $18 an hour, or $33,000 a year. However, most senior flight attendants who have worked for American for over five years typically make much more, raking in about $66 an hour for a whopping $132,000 a year.
Because of this vast pay raise within just 5 to 10 years, American Airlines is among the most profitable airlines to work for, if not the most profitable. Since they also offer benefits such as full-range insurance, American Airlines is an excellent place to work.
As one of the most popular airlines, Delta offers competitive pay. Delta flight attendants, on average, make around $40,236 annually, while attendants with seniority can make more than $118,000 yearly. Beginners usually start at salaries of about $24,000 a year at Delta Airlines.
Delta offers many profit-sharing programs, bonuses, and a generous paid vacation and sick leave plan, and most Delta employees end up making $6,400 a year extra from these benefits.
Flight attendants at Alaska Airlines usually make around $27,000 when they start, but they can make more than $113,000 a year by the time they’ve gained seniority. On average, Alaskan Airlines attendants make about $41,000 annually.
Like United, Alaskan Airlines is known for its benefits and bonuses, and it also offers profit-sharing for its employees. These benefits make Alaskan Airlines a desirable employer, and many people stick with Alaskan Airlines for life.
JetBlue is a budget airline, and, accordingly, it doesn’t pay as much as some other airlines. Attendants make $21 an hour on average and just over $36,000 a year, with newbies making around $17 an hour and experienced senior attendants making about $40 an hour with a yearly salary of $80,000 a year.
However, they also offer some of the best benefits available in the industry, second only to United and American.
One of the best parts about working for JetBlue is that they have a great corporate culture, and they are very supportive of their flight attendants. Most JetBlue employees rave about the culture here and stick with the airline because of the fantastic relationships they have with managers and fellow crew members. That’s the reason why it’s the favorite budget carriers among the most experienced flight attendants.
Southwest boasts one of the highest beginner salaries in the industry, with most flight attendants starting at a $30,000 salary.
However, Southwest doesn’t have as much upward mobility as some other major airlines, and the top 10% of senior attendants usually only make just over $65,000 a year. On average, their attendants make $42,000 annually.
Southwest is well-known for its family-like dynamic and generous benefits, making this airline a favorite among beginner flight attendants. The airline offers many bonuses, which can add up to see your income increase by several thousand dollars a year.
Hawaiian Airlines flight attendants make $39,000 per year on average, but the top 10% of senior attendants usually make more than $88,000 a year. Newbies can also expect a generous salary, with most attendants starting with salaries of around $29,000 a year.
Hawaiian Airlines also offers profit-sharing, bonuses, and plenty of opportunities to make more money, so you can expect to make a bit extra every year. In addition, with layovers in Hawaii, flight attendants who work here never regret it.
Being a senior flight attendant at WestJet can be very lucrative. On average, though, flight attendants with WestJet airlines earn about $35,000 annually. Newbies usually start at salaries of around $26,000 a year.
WestJet also offers profit-sharing and bonuses to their employees, which can really add up over time. In addition, WestJet is known for being a great place to work, with a strong corporate culture that many people love.
Known more for international flights, Emirates Airlines flight attendants make a killing with international trips. On average, they make about $45,000 a year, but the top 10% of senior attendants can make more than $100,000 a year. Newbies don’t do too badly either, with most attendants starting at salaries of around $37,000 a year.
Additionally, many flight attendants have to deal with layovers. This airline pays its flight attendants bonuses in the form of layover payments which can include flight hours and lodging accommodations.
Allegiant Air is one such airline that offers flight attendants bonus programs in addition to their hourly wage. Newbies Beginning flight attendants earn about $24 an hour, and experienced attendants make about $32 an hour. On average, Allegiant Air flight attendants make about $54,000 a year. The most experienced flight attendants can make into the mid $ 70,000s.
While the base pay isn’t as high as some of the other airlines on this list, the bonuses can really add up, making Allegiant a great choice for those looking to make a good income as a flight attendant.
The average flight attendant on Qatar Airways earns an average annual salary of $40,000. Newbies can expect to make about $28,000 a year, and the top 10% of senior attendants usually make more than $80,000 a year.
This airline is well-known for its great benefits and bonuses, which can really help to increase your income. Some of this income is tax-free.
In addition, Qatar Airways is also known for its amazing layovers, which are often in exotic locations like Doha, Dubai, and Abu Dhabi.
If you are looking for tax-free flight attendant pay in the airline industry, look no further than Etihad Airways. The average flight attendant on Etihad Airways earns an annual salary of $42,000. Newbies can expect to make about $30,000 a year.
Tax-free airline compensation is allowable because Etihad Airways is based in the United Arab Emirates, where there is no personal income tax.
Therefore, the average annual pay for the airline’s flight attendants can sometimes be even higher when you factor in the lack of taxes.
Senior flight attendants with Frontier Airlines earn about $58,000 a year on average. Newbies start at salaries of around $36,000 a year.
This airline offers a variety of bonuses and profit-sharing opportunities that can help to increase your income. In addition, Frontier is known for being a great place to work, with a strong corporate culture that many people love.
Ultra-low-cost carriers are nothing new, if not controversial, and Spirit Airlines is no exception. However, one thing that can’t be denied is that their flight attendants make good money. The average annual salary for a Spirit Airlines flight attendant is $56,000-$70,000. Newbies can expect to make about $34,000 a year.
The major airline largely serves the United States, with a focus on leisure destinations in the Caribbean and Latin America.
Air Canada airlines is the flag carrier, and largest airline of Canada by fleet size and passengers carried. They fly to 350 destinations in 50 countries. The average salary for a flight attendant is $40,000/year. Air Canada pays about $25,000/year as flight base salaries for new hires.
How To Become a Flight Attendant
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the flight attendant industry is booming, and there are always plenty of flight attendant jobs available. However, there are even more applicants than jobs, so you will need a competitive resume and a good attitude to make the cut.
The qualifications you need to become a flight attendant are relatively simple, but there are some things that can make you a more competitive candidate.
To become a flight attendant, you must be 18 or older and have a high school diploma. You will also need to have a customer-service attitude, be in excellent physical condition, and pass a criminal background screening and drug test. After this, you must also complete training.
There are many things that could make or break a flight attendant interview, and since there are always more applicants than available positions, you need to be a fierce competitor to land the job.
So, here’s what airlines usually look for in a new flight attendant:
- High school diploma or GED. However, they usually prefer candidates with an Associate’s or Bachelor’s Degree.
- Able to pass physical tests to see if you are fit for safety procedures.
- Able to pass the airline’s height minimum and maximum.
- Able to pass a background check and drug test.
- Preference for candidates with flight attendant training and experience and who receive the flight attendant’s FAA Certification.
- Preference for candidates with no visible tattoos and no more than two ear piercings.
You don’t need an advanced degree to become a flight attendant. All you need to apply is a high school diploma or a GED.
However, job applicants with more schooling are preferred since they usually display more professionalism and are more mature than fresh high-school graduates. College graduates are also easier to assess since airlines can review transcripts and make a more accurate judgment about the applicant’s interests.
Although candidates aren’t always required to have experience and training to land a job, it is always best to have experience in the customer service or hospitality industries.
Most airlines require flight attendants to have around five years of experience in a related industry. Before becoming a flight attendant, working in a restaurant, hotel, park, or tourist attraction will give you a competitive edge since you will have the time to develop excellent customer service skills before you get on the plane.
Additionally, if you already have experience as a flight attendant and left your previous job on good terms, you are highly likely to land the job.
Be in Good Physical Condition
Flight attendants need to be in good physical condition to perform their job well. They must have good eyesight, a height that is compatible with the doorways and cabins in the airplane, and enough fitness to perform safety protocols. They should be able to lift and move carry-on bags with ease, and they should be able to sit and stand quickly in case of an emergency.
Some airlines may also have specific height requirements beyond asking you to be compatible with the height of an airplane cabin.
Airlines are also a bit of an old-fashioned industry when it comes to appearance, so visible tattoos and multiple piercings generally make you a less competitive candidate. That’s because airlines cater to people from all walks of life worldwide, and some people will not appreciate tattoos and other forms of body modification.
Have Good Customer Service and Communication Skills
One of the most crucial qualities that airlines look for in job candidates is communication skills.
Everyone knows flight attendants are required to deal with all kinds of people through language barriers, and they have to stay calm in case of an emergency. So, to be a competitive applicant, you need to have good body language, excellent customer service skills, and a calm, friendly attitude.
If you have no experience as a flight attendant and are hired, your airline will usually arrange for your training and pay for food, transportation, and accommodations while you take the course. Training usually takes a month or two to complete.
You will receive an FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency during the federal aviation administration flight attendant training, which is a government requirement for all flight attendants before they serve on their first flight. Passing initial training in-flight regulations is essential for flight attendants working at the highest paying airlines.
You must know appropriate flight regulations, even for a regional airline.
Some applicants also take a training program before applying for jobs to help give them a competitive edge. While they won’t guarantee you’ll get the job, they can go a long way in the interview process.
Related Questions & FAQS:
What is The Lowest Paying Airline for Flight Attendants?
The lowest paying airline for flight attendants is typically a budget airline. For example, JetBlue flight attendants make $21 an hour on average and just over $36,000 a year. However, they also offer some of the best benefits available to flight attendants, including four weeks of paid vacation and a retirement savings plan with a company match.
Do Senior Flight Attendants Make More Money?
Senior flight attendants may make more money than entry-level flight attendants, but it varies by airline. For example, at American Airlines, the most junior flight attendants make $23 an hour while the most senior flight attendants make $44 an hour. At Delta, the most junior flight attendants make $25 an hour while the most senior make $40 an hour.
What is The Highest Paying Airline for Flight Attendants?
The highest paying airline for flight attendants is typically a legacy carrier. For example, Delta flight attendants make $66,000 a year on average, while American Airlines flight attendants make $60,000 a year on average. United flight attendants make slightly less at $58,000 a year on average.
What are The Perks & Benefits of Being a Flight Attendant?
There are many perks to being a flight attendant, but the most popular ones include free or discounted travel, flexible schedules, and meeting new people from all over the world.
Do Most Senior Flight Attendants Work for the Major Airlines?
No, most senior flight attendants do not work for major airlines. In fact, many of them work for regional airlines or budget airlines. For example, JetBlue has a large number of senior flight attendants who make an average of $36,000 a year.
What Are the Best Airlines to Work for If You Want to Be a Flight Attendant?
The best airlines to work for if you want to be a flight attendant are typically the legacy carriers such as Delta, American, and United. These airlines offer the highest salaries and the best benefits packages.
The highest paid flight attendants can make over $100,000. Flight attendants can make a lot of money if they put time and dedication into their profession. Starting at the low end, beginner flight attendants usually make close to $29,000 starting, but as they gain experience, they can make more than $100,000 a year. However, most flight attendants can make around $54,000 a year. Becoming a flight attendant requires the right attitude and training, and it isn’t for everyone, but if it is your passion, you can make a generous income.