Tag Archives: Airlines

How much do flight attendants really make?

3975233940_af85b53812I wrote want friendlier flight flight attendants? That’ll cost you for Mashable.com Feb 24, 2015

“Friendlier service doesn’t cost a thing.”

That’s what one travel writer said, after complaining about an experience on board a flight recently. But as a flight attendant with years of experience, my first thought was: Yes. It does.

Whenever I speak to people about what I do for a living, most seem to assume the money is pretty good. I did, too, before I became a flight attendant.

Despite the reputation of the job, there’s nothing glamorous about life as a flight attendant, especially in the first few years. New flight attendants who work for major carriers start out making $18,000-$20,000 a year. Flight attendants at smaller airlines and regional carriers? They make even less.

The airlines won’t tell you that, though. Ask, and they’ll refer to some stat about the median annual wage: $40,000. Sounds so much nicer, doesn’t it? Something else they won’t tell you is how long it takes to make that kind of money working a regular schedule, or the kind of flying it takes to get there when you have less than 10 years with a carrier.

“I took this job to spend what little money I make on vacations I can’t afford,” joked a new hire, who works 120 hours a month, after she saw me tweeting about flight attendant pay.

“But flight attendants barely work,” is what I hear all the time.

Don’t let the hours fool you.

A hundred and twenty hours a month may sound reasonable for your typical job on the ground, but in the air, it’s insane. Working “80 hours” a month — a more regular schedule for flight attendants — actually means working many, many hours more.

We’re only paid for time in the air. That flight attendant greeting you at the boarding door, helping you find a place for your bag, guitar, crutches, wedding gown, emotional support pig? They’re not being paid.

The clock doesn’t officially start ticking until the door is closed and the plane backs away from the gate. That’s why flight attendants hate delays maybe even more than passengers. At my airline, when a flight is cancelled, I lose the hours, meaning I don’t get paid. I have to look for another trip — pray I can find another trip — to make up for it.

Time on the ground adds up, which is why the most senior flight attendants work the best trips, longhaul flights, to maximize their time in the air. It’s also why the number of hours can be misleading. Not all 12 hour trips are created equal.

I have 19 years with my airline, and I’m based at one of the most junior bases in the system: New York. It’s where most of our new hires end up, even though it’s too expensive to live here on our salary. That’s why so many flight attendants — including me — commute to the city (even though I live in Los Angeles). If I were based in LA, where my airline’s most senior flight attendants work, I’d spend more time on the ground than in the air.

My two-day, 11 hour roundtrip from New York to Los Angeles might only take me 13 hours to complete, whereas a new hire might have to work three days (and who knows how many hours) hopping from city to city to make the same amount of time. While I’m on duty seven hours, a junior flight attendant could be on duty 12 or 14 hours. We’ll be paid the same. Factor in the layovers and the time away from home, and it looks more like minimum wage than $25 an hour.

“How do you do it?” I’ve been asked by more than one flight attendant hopeful.

Enter the “crashpad,” where flight attendants literally crash between trips.

In my first crashpad, there were probably 30 or 40 of us living together in a five-bedroom house. That’s a guess. I have no idea how many roommates I had because people were constantly in and out at all hours of the day and night. Six of us lived in my room alone, with bunk beds lining the walls. I spent $100 a month to stay there. I couldn’t afford anything else.

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Do airlines hold flights?

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Hold that flight: a good-news airline story by Christopher Elliott originally appeared in the Seattle Times. In the fourth to last paragraph I answered the question, do airlines hold flights?

“Passengers ask us to hold the plane all the time,” says Heather Poole, a flight attendant for a major airline. Almost as often, the request is denied, unless a significant number of passengers need to connect with the same flight. “On-time departures are way too important,” Poole adds.

So…does holding a plane say ‘We care about you, late person” or “We don’t care about all you on-timers?'” You tell me.

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Photo Credit: Heather Poole

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Here’s what I think about those sexy flight attendant ads…

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“Does Sex Sell Airline Seats? Some Airlines Hope so. ” originally appeared on TravelChannel.com

We asked Heather Poole, a 15-year flight attendant and author of Cruising Attitude: Tales of Crashpads, Crew Drama and Crazy Passengers at 35,000 Feet her thoughts about marketing flight attendants as sex symbols.

She wasn’t too impressed.

“Cheap airfare is the only thing that sells tickets today,” says Poole. “That and — oh! — on-time departures and good safety records. If passengers really cared about what their flight attendants looked like, Hooters Air would still be in business. They only lasted for 3 years!”

Poole adds: “The only airlines that seem to flaunt sexy flight attendants are the ones looking to sell calendars or get “likes” on their Facebook page. There’s a reason they’re selling sex over a quality airline. Business must not be quite as hot as the crew.“

Plus, what about women fliers? asks Poole. Sexting up campaigns aren’t likely to win over this huge travel demographic.

“Do most female fliers really care how sexy flight attendants are? I don’t think so. It’s like some airlines are only directing their marketing at male passengers. Last time I checked there were women not just sitting on the plane, but occupying business and first-class seats, serious hardcore frequent fliers! They’re also flying the plane. To which I say, God Bless America! I’m so thankful I work for a US carrier. “

So what do you think? Do the marketing attempts to present flight attendants as sex symbols make flying more attractive to you? Or should airlines focus their efforts elsewhere?

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[Photo credit: Heather Poole]

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The company name is irrelevant…

I’m always asked, “which airline do you work for?” whenever I’m being interviewed.  As if the answer is going to give people a better understanding of why I wrote the book, Cruising Attitude, or why I feel the way I do about flying or travel in general.

“One of the big ones,” is the usual response, followed by something about how the book isn’t an airline expose so it doesn’t matter who I work for.   The company name is irrelevant.  Then I’ll remind the interviewer that the book is about being a flight attendant, not an airline, and how being a flight attendant is more of a lifestyle than a job.  “Half of the book takes place on the ground!” I’ll exclaim to get my point across.   Then I’ll wrap it up by saying something like, “It doesn’t matter who you work for, the job is the same wherever  you go.”

I’ll admit that there have been times, not many, when I’ve wondered just how true that statement really is, like when I’m checking into a layover hotel and spot a foreign crew doing the exact same thing.  Because certainly the job has to be different overseas!   And by different, I mean better, of course.   What’s strange is whenever self doubt begins to creep in, something will happen to confirm what I believed all along.  Take for instance the time a newspaper out of Australia reviewed my book.  I was shocked to see so many Australians felt the exact same way about Qantas crews as Americans feel about U.S. crews.

One of the most exciting things about having published a book about flight attendants is getting feedback from other flight crews, and not just flight attendants from other airlines, but from crew who live in foreign countries and work for international carriers!  Sometimes it comes in the form of a really nice letter.  They’re always my favorite.  Other times it comes in gold and arrives wrapped in bubble wrap inside a Fed Ex envelope.  Imagine how excited I was to receive a pair of Saudi Airline flight crew wings yesterday!  A sign to me that flight attendants worldwide really do have parallel lives, regardless of the company name written on the side of the plane.

Saudi Airlines flight crew

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How to answer flight attendant interview questions

I’m scheduled for a flight attendant interview on Tuesday! I’ve been through the process once before so I am familiar with the questions they may ask, but I’m just not confident in my answers sometimes. The hardest part is answering behavioral or situational questions. When they ask, “Name a time when…” I find it really hard to recall examples from my past work experience. I have trouble with these questions and I’m not sure what a good answer may be. I hope you can help. Here are a few examples.

1. How do you handle stress?
2. Name a time when you were under a lot of stress and how did you deal with it?
3. Describe a situation when you had to make a quick decision?

Krista

You’ve been through the interview process once before, so you already know what to expect. That’s half the battle. Try to relax and don’t forget to smile. Being able to keep your cool during a stressful situation is a big part of the job. The fact that the airline called you for a one-on-one interview says a lot about you. Thousands of people apply for the job, but very few applicants hear back from the airline. Remember that next time you’re not feeling overly confident. And try to have some fun.

When it comes to answering interview questions, the most important thing to do is let the airline know you’re a customer service oriented person – as often as possible. Talk about how you go above and beyond the call of duty to help people. Airlines are looking for flight attendants who are friendly, work well with others and take pride in their job. Try not to read too much into the questions. There’s no such thing as a right answer. You don’t have to share life-altering events for an airline to realize you’d make a great fit. Think in terms of the job. Keep it simple.

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[photo courtesy of Kudumomo]

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Lufthansa Airline Commercial

I love this commercial!  Doesn’t matter if I have no idea what they’re saying.  Now how do I get cool music like that playing in the background whenever I walk through the terminal?

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Travel quote of the week: Airline ticket prices & level of service

“In 1974 I flew L.A. to New York for $250.00 round trip.  Adjusted for inflation (google “inflation calculator”) that would be $1107.00 today. Orbitz has a roundtrip price for the same flight for $278.00 (advance booking) right now.  We are not paying for the level of service we had back in the good old days and to expect it is very naive. Airlines that try to give anything more than cheap basic service don’t last long. With the wages  that flight attendants earn (and they do earn it) I’m surprised anyone would take the job.  Give’em a break!” – Greg (a comment found on my Indigo Airlines post)

Photo courtesy of Nutmeg

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