One day you’re in New York, the next day you’re in Paris and then you’re jetting off to Tokyo: it’s no wonder that people dream of being a flight attendant. Although the work can be hard, it’s an exciting life full of travel — and the benefits are pretty good, too.
Of course, your wages (and your flight routes!) will depend on the company you work for. Let’s explore how much flight attendants are paid on average and at some of the US’ biggest airlines.
The annual flight attendant salary can be difficult to calculate because it varies based on multiple factors. Flight attendants are normally paid:
- A guaranteed base rate
- Flying hours
- Layover allowances or expenses
- Sales commissions (depending on the airline)
This means your monthly pay will depend on how many hours you spend flying as well as how many products, such as coffee or perfume, you sell to customers. As you can imagine, the amount you successfully sell is also likely to vary depending on the route and time of day.
For example, Indeed calculates that the average base rate for flight attendants in the US is $32,704, but that doesn’t take into account flying hours, commission, or layovers. Plus, you may also get other benefits with financial value, such as free accommodation or flights. Although these won’t count toward your salary, they can significantly reduce your outgoings, meaning you have more disposable income.
So, how much can you realistically expect to make in total as a flight attendant each year? Although there are a lot of factors to take into account, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) calculates that in 2020, 80% of flight attendants earned between $30,930 to $84,790, with a medium annual salary of $59,050. For more specific estimates, you’ll need to look at what specific airlines are offering.
Airlines rarely say how much they pay flight attendants, even in job listings. Fortunately, there’s plenty of self-reported, anonymous data from employees that you can look at. Websites such as Indeed and Payscale will give you an insight into average earnings over the last year.
Of course, they’re not a guaranteed rate. Individuals’ pay can vary depending on many factors, including flying hours and sales skills. Plus, some airlines have more self-reported data than others. However, they will give you an idea of the types of wages you could earn.
American Airlines’ flight attendant job listings don’t specify the salary, instead promising “premium pay.” However, Indeed estimates that American Airlines pays an average annual salary of $41,848, based on data from 139 employees in the last year as well as job listings.
Payscale, meanwhile, breaks down the average American Airlines flight attendant’s wages by years of experience. They calculate that a flight attendant with less than a year’s experience earns an average of $24 an hour. Once they’ve got one to four years of experience under their belt, however, that rises to an average of $30.76. At the higher end of the scale, flight attendants with over 20 years of experience earn $68 on average.
Indeed’s data suggests that Delta’s flight attendants are paid an average of $46,648 annually, with almost 50 employees reporting their wages within the last year.
Payscale, on the other hand, estimates an average base rate of $61,000 a year. Bonuses, profit-sharing and commissions then take that up to as much as $152,000.
Bear in mind that Payscale found that reported earnings increase dramatically for mid-career flight attendants. The average total compensation works out at an average of $29.49 for employees with one to four years of experience but doubles to $59.71 for those with 10 to 19 years of experience.
There are nearly 60 self-reported flight attendant salaries for Southwest Airlines on Indeed from the last 12 months, and they average out to $49,701. Payscale only has half as many reported salaries, but the average base salary is also around $49,000.
The bad news is that, according to Payscale’s data, pay tends to be low until you’ve got over 10 years of experience. For flight attendants with five to nine years of experience, the average total compensation is $26.50 per hour, after which it rises to $57.67. Don’t forget, though, that the sample size is very small. These figures might not reflect Southwest Airlines’ actual average salaries.
30 flight attendants from United Airlines have reported their salary on Indeed, with an average annual wage of $43,644. What’s more, the online reviews often praise the benefits, and especially the free flights.
On Payscale, the average base salary is even higher, at $50,192. Hourly wages also climb steadily as respondents’ experience grows. Flight attendants with less than a year of experience earn an average of $21.12 per hour, while those with five to nine years of experience report an average of $38. After ten years, average hourly earnings rise to over $60.
There’s limited information online about how much JetBlue pays its flight attendants, with just 18 reported salaries on Indeed and 15 on Payscale. Online job listings don’t mention the salary, either.
The average reported annual salary on Indeed is $40,153, while on Payscale the base salary comes to $36,172. Payscale doesn’t provide a breakdown of how average pay rates correlate to years of experience, but 80% of the reported salaries fall between $16.11 and $55.62 per hour.
Although Emirates isn’t a US-based airline, it often attracts American and other international applicants because of the opportunity to live in Dubai and not pay any local taxes. Plus, the company provides free accommodation.
Emirates explains exactly how much you’ll be paid on its website. Including your base rate and flying hours, you should earn around $2,660 per month. You’ll also receive layover allowances, which according to online reviews, are paid in cash; concessional travel costs; 30 days of annual leave; and one free return ticket to your home country a year.
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