Flight attendants represent a valuable part of the flight crew, helping to ensure passenger safety and comfort during a flight. Mostly employed by commercial airlines, flight attendants can take advantage of perks and benefits beyond their base salary, such as the opportunity to travel the world.
Flight attendants require specialized training due to the inherent dangers that can develop in the course of performing their job duties. Most employers require a high school diploma to enter a formal training program, though some employers look for candidates who have a college degree. Flight attendants must also pass thorough background checks and meet additional requirements, such as those related to height and vision, as determined by the airline or employer.
In 2009, new flight attendants could expect to earn an average annual salary of $16,191, according to statistics gathered by the Bureau of Labor Statistics from the Association of Flight Attendants. That is less than the average annual pay of $25,420 reported by the BLS for the lowest 10 percent of all earners in the field for the same year. That represents an increase from $20,580 earned by the lowest 10 percent of all earners in 2008.
Each airline and employer maintains its own pay scale, leading to large variations in starting flight attendant salaries across the industry. By looking at the industry averages, new flight attendants can get an idea of entry-level salaries and future salary expectations. Flight attendants employed in scheduled air transportation, such as with a commercial airline, earned an average annual wage of $43,290 in 2009, according to the BLS. In contrast, those working in support activities for air transportation averaged an annual salary of $72,520 in 2009.
Entry-level flight attendants can also earn a higher starting salary depending on the particular state they choose for employment. In 2009, flight attendants earned an average annual salary of $51,140 in Arizona and $46,910 in Texas, two of the highest paying states for flight attendants. In contrast, flight attendants in Georgia earned an average annual salary of $39,220 during the same period.