Flight-attendant pay is a tricky metric.
Airlines pay flight attendants for each hour they’re in the air — meaning they could be on duty for 14 hours yet get paid only for the six-hour flight, according to Taylor Garland, a representative for the Association of Flight Attendants union.
The base pay also varies depending on a flight attendant’s level of experience, which part of the plane they serve, total hours worked, and the airport they fly out of.
“Flight attendants can fly high (a lot of hours in the air) or low (part-time),” Garland told Business Insider. “It’s really up to contract provisions and what best suits their needs.”
Pay has fallen significantly for flight attendants over the past 40 years: Median hourly wages dropped by 26% from 1980 to 2007, adjusting for inflation, according to the Population Reference Bureau. Some flight attendants work overtime to pay bills and even qualify for food stamps.
Another major factor contributing to flight-attendant pay variance is which carrier they fly on. While flight attendants in the US earn on average about $49,000, the pay can vary depending on whether they work for Alaska Airlines, Southwest, or Spirit. Pay for flight attendants on regional carriers can be about 45% less than that of workers of main airlines.
Some flight attendants have reported their salaries on job-listing sites like Glassdoor and PayScale to help prospective applicants get a better sense of their hours. These salaries are self-reported to the websites and are an average of all flight attendants who chose to write in — counts ranged from under 10 to over 100. (For two carriers, the number of flight-attendant responses wasn’t available.)
Here’s how much flight attendants say they make on 10 major carriers, according to data on Glassdoor and PayScale: