Life on The Fly The Pros and Cons of Being a Flight Attendant

Nicolina Olsson recently found her dream job. As a flight attendant, she gets paid to travel the world and she just can’t get enough of it. As one of her Facebook friends, I’m constantly jealous as she writes almost every post from a different country than the last! While she loves her job, it has its moments and she understands it’s not a great fit for everyone. After reading one of her more informational posts on her job, I asked if she could share it with HBS and she said yes. If you think you want her job, then this article is perfect for you. Below is a list Olsson wrote of pros and cons of the job. She also shares a couple cool snaps from her adventures.

FLIGHT ATTENDANT PROS:
1) The people
A lot of flight attendants would have said travel is the number one benefit, but I disagree. I’ve met the most interesting, intriguing people with this job and I continue to. You become surrounded by the best and greatest folks here or there, and you find yourself accumulating a lot of friendships from across the globe. The world becomes a more friendly place after a year or so of meeting a variety of folks you wouldn’t have met otherwise.

2) Travel
Once you start, you become addicted to seeing new places and doing new things in said places. You start to hear conversations people have about where they grew up, where they vacationed, etc., and you starting thinking things like, “Yup. Been there five times.” or “Maybe I should pick up that trip next month. That sounds like a good time.” Your life really opens up. Yes, you can fly wherever you want for free in your off time, and yes, you get to share the benefits with some loved ones. You really can’t compete with the travel benefits this job provides.

(Pictures from my recent travels to Daytona Beach, Florida and Reykjavik.)

3) Flexibility
As a newer flight attendant this can be a little iffy, but in general, you have a great deal of flexibility (especially if you’re in a larger base like New York). You can swap trips with other flight attendants, you can trade certain trip days with other trip days if you need a particular day off. If you’re creative and persistent, I whole-heartedly believe you can get your dream schedule. It’s also up to you how much or how little you like to work. During the summer you’re guaranteed to be handed a larger deck of hours, but wintertime usually gifts you with the opportunity to fly lower time.
4) The ability to move basically anywhere at any time.
With this job you can choose to commute into the base of your choice from wherever you want to live. This is definitely not the way I want to go, but it’s an option. Certainly an enticing one too many.

5) Your life literally becomes the biggest adventure!
You find yourself pinching your arm to remind yourself this is real life. Yes, you are hanging out with Rick Flaire. Yes, that passenger in 4C really did say he’d turn my hair into an Afro anytime I pleased. I absolutely did just go to the Eiffel Tower and got paid for it. The adventures never stop, and you become hooked…if you’re an adventurous soul, that is. Those that aren’t so inclined toward the spontaneity of life may not be so charmed.

one-of-the-perks-of-flying-is-to-have-fun-taking-cockpit-pictures-every-now-and-again
(Holly taking over as pilot)

FLIGHT ATTENDANT CONS:

1) You’re. Never. Home.
Okay, so when you become senior, you will likely be able to be home more (more pay for fewer hours, you can bid your trips so you never have to work at times you don’t want to, etc.), but overall, your own bed gets neglected a lot. You have to come to terms with the fact that you’re not home most of the time to take care of a pet or hang out with your kid every night. I’m not saying it’s impossible to have pets and kids with this job, but you’ll have several obstacles to overcome along the way. Especially being a newbie and needing to be tossed around a bit. Let’s just say that us junior folks in Delta who still have on call days have a whole set of challenges that can get intense at times (being short called to go on a trip, getting trips that no breathing human would ask for as a priority trip, and so on). You’re gone a lot in a pool of madness, and you have to miss your own sheets.

2) Rotten coworkers and passengers.
Though I’m generally really not too perturbed when it comes to challenging customers, they can get cumbersome sometimes. The worst thing ever, as most experienced flight attendants will tell you, is that you can get stuck with coworkers at times who really don’t have your back or make the job more difficult than it should be. Does this happen often? No. I’m lucky that I get to work with a set of such amazing human beings. When you do run across a rotten apple, however…pull a Tony Horton and do your best while forgetting the rest. That’s all you can do. I suppose this rings true for most jobs.

3) The pay.
So, for me, the pay is livable and awesome. Over the years, you get paid more and more, but in the beginning years, you have to be okay with making $30K or so. For many thinking of delving into this lifestyle, that may be a huge pay cut. For others like me who only understood how to live off of half of this income, it’s all good. I suppose the pay could be a pro or con depending on where you’re at in your life.

4) No time to yourself.
Really. You will almost never have enough time to yourself. When you get into the mix of this job, you’re always out and about. Whether it’s going shopping in Madrid, riding bikes in Sarasota, or eating out at a nice place in Boston…you’re going to be around people a lot. If you’re super extroverted, cool. If you’re not…you’re going to have to adjust. Just be prepared to be around people more than you’ve ever been before. It can be a very difficult adjustment for some.

I may be missing a few things here, but overall, the benefits FAR outweigh the negative factors in my experience (or else I wouldn’t be in this position, obviously). If you have questions that you want to throw my way, please do so by replying in the comment section below. Safe travels! ✈️

Dionne Evans

Dionne Evans, the Founder/Editor-in-Chief of HBS, is a graduate from Marymount Manhattan College with a BA in Communication Arts. She has been a professional writer for over 7 years and loves everything food, beauty, and travel related. For more information on Dionne, visit:
dionneevans.contently.com
linkedin.com/in/dionneevans

9 thoughts on “Life on The Fly The Pros and Cons of Being a Flight Attendant

  1. Nicole Walker

    I’m seriously contemplating on becoming a flight attendant, but the biggest con in my opinion is being away from home, I’m in my early 30’s, no kids yet and newlywed (1 year). Typically (as a new attendant) how long would I be away for home?

    1. Hi Nicole,

      I will give you the same answer I gave to Jade below which is that the schedule of a flight attendant can be unpredictable and they typically spend 65-90 hours in the air and 50 hours preparing planes monthly. Also, shifts can be up to 14 hours long.

  2. Jada

    Im doing online college, and saw a opportunity, is it possible to be a flight attendant and juggle school around?

    1. Hi Jada,

      The schedule of a flight attendant can be unpredictable and they typically spend 65-90 hours in the air and 50 hours preparing planes monthly. Shifts can be up to 14 hours long, too, so there would be very little time for you to work on assignments and the time you do have left would likely be used for resting.

    1. Hi Fanie,

      Great question! Nicolina’s advice is simple: check up on major airlines’ websites in their “Jobs” or “Career” sections to see if they’re hiring and apply directly on the website once something comes up.

        1. No prior training or flight attendant experience is required and should be provided by the airline upon hire. Just like any other job, though, they do want relevant experience such as a customer service past, for example.

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