Seven Surprising Reasons To Be A Flight Attendant

Delta posted that they were hiring flight attendants and the applications started coming in two per minute! Why is a flight attendant career so desirable? Isn't it low pay and long hours away from home?
01/07/2013 07:45am ET | Updated March 9, 2013
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Flight attendants of Qatar Airways arrive at Yangon International Airport Thursday, Oct. 4, 2012, in Yangon, Myanmar. Qatar Airways will resume flying to Myanmar's biggest city in the latest indicator of international interest in the Southeast Asian nation as it boosts its welcome to investors and tourism. The airline said in a statement Wednesday that it will relaunch its Doha-Yangon route that had been suspended in January 2008. It said the thrice-weekly flights will resume this Friday. (AP Photo/Khin Maung Win)

Delta posted that they were hiring flight attendants and the applications started coming in two per minute! Why is a flight attendant career so desirable? Isn't it low pay and long hours away from home?

It definitely takes a special person who can handle the job; one who enjoys flying, is independent and can handle many different, unique situations. Those that make it past the first six months tend to have it in their blood and become what we refer to as "Lifers." On a personal note, having worked for an airline for 20 years, I am definitely a "Lifer" and find that being a flight attendant is not as much a job as it is a lifestyle.

Here are seven surprising reasons this career draws so much interest:

  1. You're not too old! Are you thinking about a midlife career change? Are you retired and looking for something to keep you active and social? Airlines don't discriminate against older applicants. There is no ageism with the flight attendant career. The airline industry appreciates anyone who has raised a family or has had experience in customer service. Having worked with schedules, people and handling crisis after crisis are just a few of the skill sets needed to be a flight attendant. I had a 63-year-old gentleman in my training class, a retired teacher. Who better to make an airplane full of passengers happy?

  • Equal pay for equal work. A flight attendant career is one of the few that also doesn't discriminate against one's gender. And, contrary to the popular stereotype, male flight attendants are not all gay, but, if they are...
  • More equality. The airlines were one of the first industries to grant equality to gay people in the form of travel benefits, health insurance and other benefits that may only be afforded to traditional couples at other companies.
  • Free travel. You've probably heard flight attendants complaining that non-reving or "stand by" travel isn't all it's cracked up to be. I disagree. The flight attendant lifestyle is a flexible one, which allows you to travel anytime you want. Paris in January? Why not? I've been all over the world sometimes waiting until the day prior to pick a destination according to where first class was available. Yes, I said first class. Have you looked up fares to Europe from the U.S. in first class? And, it's not just for me. My parents, spouse or partner and children all have my benefits. My family has joined me on long layovers and my five year old has been to Canada, Europe and traveled the U.S. All for free.
  • Another common misconception is low pay. Most of the vocalization regarding the low salary of flight attendants comes from new flight attendants (under five years) or regional carrier flight attendants. I'll agree that you'll never get rich as a flight attendant, although I know many who make well over100,000 per year. At my airline you can fly through your vacation time and end up with almost 200 flight hours for that month. As pay increases and tops out at about50 an hour, flying can become very profitable; it all depends on how many hours you choose to pick up. The average schedule is around 80 hours a month. Not bad for what I call a "part time" gig with plenty of flexibility and benefits.
  • Speaking of flexibility, you probably also heard that seniority is everything at the airlines and that one is true. Once you have what's called a "line" meaning you are off of "reserve status" (on call) it's pretty much like running your own business, but without the headaches. You bid your schedule, trade it around so it works for you and your lifestyle, working mostly without supervision. The best part? There's no work to bring home with you. Once the last passenger has deplaned, you're done! Bye bye, now!
  • You have instant family. That means more than 90,000 family members world wide! And with social media we're even closer. I've belonged to a private flight attendant group on Facebook for the past year. Since then I've seen flight attendants pull together and raise money for injured or sick flight attendants, and I've witnessed an unbelievable amount of support with family issues and work issues. I've even seen flight attendants pull together to rescue animals by raising money for vet costs and helping get them to new homes across the country. Flight attendants are amongst the nicest, most giving people I have ever met. Surprised? Don't be. Just like bad passengers, the bad flight attendants stand out. If you encounter a mean stew move on to another. Chances are they'll be more helpful.