What Are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Being a Flight Attendant?
Growth Trends for Related Jobs
Flight attendants have opportunities to travel to many parts of the United States and the rest of the world. Unique job perks and travel benefits are also advantages. Flight attendants can take pride in playing a vital role in the safety and overall experience of airplane passengers as well. On the downside, attendants earn modest pay and have to deal with declining job growth. The job is also physically demanding and may include schedule uncertainty.
Wide-Ranging Travel Opportunities
Many people pursue flight attendant jobs because of their enthusiasm for travel. As an attendant, you eventually get a chance to visit many domestic and international stops while on duty, though you do have to bide your time initially. It takes a few years of service before you get to bid on monthly assignments for destinations you prefer.
The more languages in which you are fluent, the greater your opportunities to participate in desirable international flights. Broad travel allows you to potentially meet a variety of people and to learn about other cultures. You also have the option of pursuing a job with small local or regional airlines, or a career with larger commercial airlines.
Not only do flight attendants get to travel, but many airlines include free or reduced tickets for immediate family members. This perk may allow you and a spouse or children to fly free or inexpensively for a vacation. Some airlines continue the travel perk after you finish a certain length of service. Profit sharing and wellness programs are other common benefits.
Attendants spend 75 to 90 hours in the air and another 50 hours in ground-based duties, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This service time amounts to around 125 to 140 hours per month, which helps offset the pay of $43,860 per year. Hotel accommodations and meal allowances are additional benefits when flight attendants stay overnight on trips, which may occur two to three nights per week depending on your schedule.
Physical and Mental Demands
The physical demands of flight attendant work may be a key drawback. During flights, attendants spend a significant portion of their time on their feet. The role therefore requires a lot of stamina. Turbulence can also cause a lot of jostling and discomfort. Dealing with cramped spaces, being in close quarters with sick passengers, moving heavy bags, handling emergencies and moving supplies are additional demands.
On-duty shifts may run as long as 12 to 14 hours, reports the BLS, which is an especially long work day. Being away from home for extended periods is challenging for some attendants with families. About one-fourth of attendants work part-time, which can cause difficulties in getting to know other attendants and flight staff.
Career and Schedule Uncertainty
Not only are the hours long in terms of shifts, but some attendants deal with a lot of schedule uncertainty. It is definitely not a 9-to-5 job. The BLS reports that new attendants typically start with on-call flights, which means they don't know until the last minute when they will be flying and to where.
Uncertain career opportunities are also a concern for flight attendants. The BLS projected job growth to decline by 7 percent from 2012 to 2022. Declining job growth limits new openings and makes it more difficult for attendants to move from one airline to another.
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Flight Attendants
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Flight Attendants
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook: Flight Attendants - Work Environment
- Southwest: Southwest Airlines Careers
Neil Kokemuller has been an active business, finance and education writer and content media website developer since 2007. He has been a college marketing professor since 2004. Kokemuller has additional professional experience in marketing, retail and small business. He holds a Master of Business Administration from Iowa State University.