How Much Is A Flight Attendant Salary Worth or How Much Do Flight Attendants Earn?


I should point out that how much is a flight attendant salary is worth is a distinctly different question to how much do flight attendants earn. We have two distinct questions here with vastly different answers.

I guess on the face of it most people want to know how much do flight attendants earn so I’ll explain that first and then explain what I mean by what is a flight attendant salary is worth.

Such a question should be easy to answer but it isn’t. I could easily tell you what a low cost carrier flight attendant (LCCFA) friend of mine earns as a base wage but that would bear no relevance to a premium carrier flight attendant friend of mine who works under a different award and who had a taxable income of $72,000 dollars last financial year.

Not bad when his average working week is just 25 hours! Oh, let me mention that it was only his second year of flying! Could it get any better? Well yes it does actually, because $11,600 of that was made up of travelling allowances which means that this portion of his wage is not taxable!

Frankly if I keep typing here I’m going to damage the exclamation mark key.

Let me talk about my LCCFA friend’s base wage to put you at the other end of the pay scale. Per year she earns a flight attendant salary base wage of just $32000! (Woops there goes that exclamation mark again.) Oh yes and let me add on the bonuses. Bonuses are earned from sales of typical over priced rubbish food such as chips, noodles, lollies, chocolate, muffins, tea, coffee and cold drinks including alcoholic drinks such as beer, red and white wine and one or two mixed spirits. The contract that she operated under stated that 4 crew would share in 10% of the sales from this so-called food cart.

So after taking a massive 2.5% individual cut her total bonuses are about $300 to $350 /month. An insulting $3,850 annually if she earns a consistent $350 a month for the next 11 months. (Take a month out for holidays.) Insulting because of the work required in exchange. The real insult to injury here is that the tax office regards this is as income not an allowance and she therefore pays tax on this!

In trying to put some meaningful figures together for you here no matter where in the world you are and who you might want to fly with, I went searching to see if I could decipher anything that would make sense to you and identify a defining dollar value to answer the question of how much does a flight attendant earn. 

I found some data from the Association of Flight Attendants, (http://www.afanet.org) which represents 55,000 flight attendants who fly for 20 US carriers which stated that the median annual flight attendant salaries were $38,820 with the middle 50 percent earning between $28,200 and $56,610 and the lowest 10 percent earned salaries of less than $18,090. The highest 10% earned more than $83,630.

Here’s the problem; even though these figures are indicative, they were from the year 2000. I guess most wage structures keep pace with inflation so you could just factor that into these figures and you would get reasonably close to coming up with the right numbers.

It should be noted also that a flight attendant salary common to some US carriers also adds a pay incentive compensation component that covers extra overtime. It is common to regularly work longer hours on international routes.

Not to be deterred in identifying definitive numbers for you, I looked further and found the median flight attendant salary by industry meaning, Commercial aviation, airline, charter and so on at (http://www.payscale.com) and I found a pay range from a low of USD$20,384 to a high of USD$77,803. These figures were quoted for flight attendants in the United States in US dollars and updated on the 28 Feb 2010 from 308 reporting individuals.

I then found another quote that stated a salary from $14 to $20 per hour for an average working month of 75 hours.

Let’s do the math on that one... 75x$17 (average of 14 and 20) x 12months = $15,300! (Ooops, used my exclamation marker again). “I’m sorry but I spill more at the bar on overnights throughout the year than that.”

So how do I make sense of these various pay scales for you?

I’ve shown you some from Australia, some from USA and I guarantee if I continued on to show you a UK airline flight attendant salary pay scale it would reveal the same thing.

And let me add some more mayhem to the mix

You can work in one airline that I know of in a crew of four and you will all be on different pay scales. No it will have nothing to do with years of service increments whereby your wage rises every year until you reach a climax on the top pay scale rung.

In my old airline this use to rise every year until the 8th year and then an overlapping pay scale was used for Cabin Managers whereby that only took three years to reach the top rung.

The four different pay scale fiasco came about in the airline that I’m talking about here because the company in its wisdom has drawn up different awards in an effort to reduce costs which effectively they’ve reduced wages and conditions. Can you imagine the disharmony amongst the crew when one flight attendant is doing the same work as the other but is on a different pay scale!

Let me just say that bean counters have no idea of what it means to be human and more poignantly the onboard culture that it creates and the flow on affect of customer service and eventually bums on seats. This is another story...

So I’m thinking now that you’re a little confused about a flight attendant salary. The best advice I can probably give you in light of a definitive answer is to ask a flight attendant from the airline that you are interested in working for or perhaps write a letter of enquiry to the HR department and see if they might reveal this information to you. I doubt it but they may.

Suffice to say that I have been on both a fabulous salary and a pretty ordinary salary in my flying career. I will add that as general advice your best bet is that a legacy or full service carrier will pay the best and international flying also pays well in most airlines emanating from Western countries.

Now let’s move on to what is a flight attendant salary worth.

Now this is where tax free travelling (or DTA) allowances and perks need to be calculated and the ‘Big One’ needs to be valued. What’s the Big One? When you work for an airline it’s the free or discounted travel privileges by far.

First Up in the Flight Attendant Salary: Tax Free Allowances

These can range from as little as nothing per hour as per our LCCFA up to $2:50 an hour common to many US National carriers and up to $5.56 an hour for international carriers.

In Australia the Government tax free allowance is about $121 dollars a day which used to be tied to the airline allowances allowance referred to as Daily Travel Allowance (DTA.) I.e: If government workers got that allowance then so should all workers. That used to work really well until deregulation and individual contracts came in and now DTA is various negotiated hourly rates.

The allowance by-the-way is to cover meal expenses when away at work on behalf of the airline (your employer). So for the airlines that recognise that this is a legitimate expense and therefore pay a fair dollar value, then this is a fantastic extra to your flight attendant salary. And because you don’t have to justify spending of it, you may wish to eat thriftily and save the balance. Here’s the good bit though... because it is an allowance it is tax free.

How much flight attendant salary do you have to earn to take home 11,600 cash after tax?

Does that suddenly increase the value of how much a flight attendant salary is worth for you?

Will you look at the magnificent benefits of the ‘flight attendant world’ a little differently now?

And let’s not forget seemingly insignificant perks like being fed and watered at work. Sure it’s airline food but hey I lived on it for more than 16 years and I’m still alive. Let’s say 10 meals a week + 5 bottled waters and 5 soft drinks at $5 a meal and $1 for soft drink/water =$60wk x 46wks (6 weeks holidays) = $2760 before tax benefits, apart from your official flight attendant salary.

There are a few other tit-bits that could be calculated like grooming and dry cleaning allowances etc but I guess you’re getting the picture here so let’s get to the big one...

Flight Attendant Salary - Discounted Travel Privileges

These range from about 20% discount right up to FREE. And not just for you, but for your spouse, your family and extended family or buddy list also. A buddy list is available to people with no family (or family they want to put on the list). Yes, as a single you can put your friends on a buddy list to travel with you on holidays for cheap. How goods that!

I have a problem here, how do you calculate FREE?

It is noted that some airlines will make you wait until you have passed your probation time but this is normally no more than 6 months anyway and if you’re treating this as your career you’ll be a flight attendant for enough years to really capitalise on this. In effect this now means that for the most part you will now be able to afford to holiday or should I say vacation almost anywhere in the world and stay in great hotels. Yes great hotels because as flight crew many of the 4 and 5 star hotels offer you fabulous discounts.

“Does this job get any better? I kid you not when I keep telling you that with the right airline this is the best thing since sliced bread. I would not have been around for 18 plus years if it wasn’t.”

Again, how do you calculate your flight attendant salary extras?

Additionally, your uniforms are paid for, you receive holiday pay and sick pay, and some airlines throw in medical, dental and life insurance and even stock options. (Check out airline jobs with Continental, American or the jumping Kangaroo down the bottom end of the world Qantas LINKS or any others I listed for you ) Did I mention that you also get a great number of days off because you are limited by the number of duty hours you can fly? No?

Here’s the math...

Calculating my premium carrier flight attendant friend of mine who worked an average of 25 hours a week x 52wks = 1300 hours. A year has 24hrs a day x 365 days = 8760 hrs – 8hrs x 365days = 2920hrs (sleep time that every worker gets) leaves you with 5840hrs – 1300 hrs (work time above) = 4540 hours that you can call your own. How do you put a value on that?

It’s called lifestyle! And that’s what makes a flight attendant salary with the right airline worth so much more than you earn.

So you might now be thinking that is time to get your skates on. I’ve been telling you throughout this web site about how good this job is and I hope you can now see it figuratively for yourself above.

Please look around some more on this site. I’ve spent years accumulating this information so that I can share with you. Simply follow the links to discover more or zip over to the site map if you want to spot something specific. If you’ve already made up your mind that you now want your dreams to take flight and want all the help you can get, simply take a look at my Flight Attendant Interviews Made Easy MANUAL for more info.


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