The main responsibilities of stewardesses, or flight attendants, are to attend to the security, safety and comfort of passengers. They instruct passengers on safety procedures and equipment, stock and serve food, beverages and amenities, check tickets and assist passengers and flight crew. New flight attendants and those working for smaller airlines earn lower wages than more experienced attendants working for large airlines. Special skills and responsibilities such as foreign language fluency or supervisory experience earn even higher wages.
The 2010 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) report on occupational employment and wages for flight attendants states they earned between $24,930 and $63,990. The average annual wages were just over $40,000. Flight leaders (supervisors) and language speakers (bilinguals) earn $2 to $5 more per hour than other flight attendants. Flight attendants work primarily in the air transportation industry in scheduled and nonscheduled air transportation and support activities. The states that pay the highest flight attendant wages include Michigan, Arizona, Kentucky, Texas and Washington. The cities with the highest flight attendant salaries include Detroit, Michigan; Phoenix, Arizona; Los Angeles, California; and Orlando, Florida. Wages are supplemented with free and discounted airfare for flight attendants and their immediate families.
The BLS reports that for 2010-11, jobs for flight attendants are expected to grow as fast as the average for all jobs, but the competition for jobs is tough because of the travel perks. Most new attendants start at the same low hourly rates and work nontraditional schedules aligned with flight schedules. Flight attendant positions are more plentiful in metropolitan areas with large commercial airports, and flight attendants with skills and experience that others don’t have, such as bilingual skills, have an advantage over other applicants.
Top Paying Areas
Flight attendant jobs are dependent on the demand for air travel and the economy, requiring them to live near large metropolitan areas near major airports. The BLS reports that, as of 2010, the top paying states for cargo and freight agents to work in were Connecticut, Wyoming, Washington, Massachusetts and Nebraska. The top paying metropolitan areas for this occupation in 2010 were Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, Connecticut; Lowell-Billerica-Chelmsford, Massachusetts; Brunswick, Georgia; and Tacoma, Washington.
Training, Qualifications and Advancement
Flight attendants must have a minimum of a high school diploma, but a college degree and training and experience in the hospitality industry are preferred by airlines. International airlines require fluency in one or more foreign languages of the countries to which they fly. Newly hired flight attendants receive up to six weeks of training, including earning the FAA Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency and passing an FAA safety examination. Excellent communication skills, professional personal appearance and clear background are qualities considered before hire. Advancement as a flight attendant depends on length of service, training and additional skills, such as foreign language fluency and supervisory experience, as well as management and administrative roles with the airlines.