A flight attendant for American Airlines shares with Business Insider that some of her colleagues earn up to $150,000/year thanks to picking up overtime. How much money do flight attendants make?
Flight Attendant Pay – Up To $150,000/Year In USA?
The 36-year-old flight attendant chose to remain anonymous, but has worked for American Airlines for six years and offers candid insight into how much senior flight attendants who put in extra work can make:
I make about $5,000 a month if I work 18 days that month. If you’re doing some overtime, you’re looking at about $7,000 a month. There are some flight attendants, we call them “senior mamas,” who work 150 to 200 hours a month at up to $69 per hour. To me, that’s absurd, but they’re pulling in about $150,000 a year.
Unlike pilots, which are limited to 100 hours per month of flying, flight attendants can put in far more hours.
Bids for routes, all determined by seniority, are put in around the 12th-15th of the month and the following month’s schedule is released around the 18th. Thus, senior flight attendants can secure more lucrative longhaul routes, which provide plenty of hours and are relatively easier than working domestic shorthaul.
For example, what do you think is easier? Working one flight from Los Angeles to Sydney (15 hours) or seven round-trips between Los Angeles and San Francisco? Seniority allows flight attendants to “hold lines” which is why (in my experience certainly) you often see the same flight attendants on the same routes.
U.S. flight attendants are generally paid more handsomely than their colleagues in Asia, Europe, Africa, Australia, or South America. Legacy airlines like America, Alaska, Delta, and United pay best, with the most senior flight attendants earning six-figure salaries even before potential overtime. Budget carriers are able to offer lower fares by paying flight attendants less. For example, a senior Frontier Airlines flight attendants earns roughly half of what a United flight attendant earns.
In Europe, flight attendants for Scandinavian Airlines are purportedly paid highest, though still less than their U.S. counterparts, with senior flight attendants for major flag carriers like Air France, British Airways, KLM, and Lufthansa earning less.
One thing I’ve noticed in my years of travel: the idea that flight attendants are uneducated “trolley dollies” is simply wrong. Totally wrong. I’ve gotten to know many flight attendants who are highly-educated and serve as flight attendants for the thrill of traveling the world and for flight benefits. Think nurses. Lawyers. CPAs. For many, it’s an exciting side gig or second career.
Flight attendants are paid well in the United States and there is potential for significant additional earnings through picking up overtime. It is no wonder that becoming a flight attendant is one of the most highly-selective jobs in the world.