Starting pay for flight attendants. In this chapter, I will explain how most airline flight attendants get paid.

As an airline flight attendant we are paid in two ways: flight hours and per diem.
Our flight hours are recorded only when the main cabin door has been closed, up until the time the main cabin door is open.
That is when I earned my flight hour pay.

The starting flight hour pay for US airline flight attendants averages between $16-22 per flight hour. Plus, a "per diem" amount of $1.50-$1.80 for every hour you are away from your base, while working a flight or trip.

Once we report for duty to work a flight, up until 15 minutes after working the last flight of the trip, we are paid the "Per Diem" amount. With Comair, our per diem amount was $1.60 per hour. With Chautauqua Airlines our per diem amount was $1.75 per hour. So, we were paid this per diem amount every hour we were away from our base, up until we returned to our base, after working the last flight of that trip.

While I worked as a flight attendant with Comair, and Chautauqua Airlines,
we were guaranteed 75-85 flight hours of pay per month. My starting wage with Chautauqua Airlines was $16.00 per flight hour.
So, if I did not work any flights in a month, I was guaranteed to earn 75 flight hours x $16.00=$1200.00.
However, on average, I would actually work 85-90 flight hours per month.
The most flight hours I worked in a month was 118, while I worked with Comair.

So, as an example, let's say my flight hour pay is $16.00.
If I worked a high time four day trip, worth 23 hours of flight time, with a total of 80 hours away from our base, I would earn $16.00 x 23 flight hours=$368. Plus, 80 per diem hours x $1.75=$140. For a grand total of: $508.00
So, I would earn $508.00 from a high time, four day trip.

With Chautauqua Airlines, for the first three years, I received a raise, every six months. Then, after the third year, I received a raise every year. Each raise, was usually $1.00 more per flight hour.

The majority of flight attendants are represented by one of the following unions:
Association of Flight Attendants, Teamsters (IBT), or Air Transport Division of the Transport Workers Union of America.
Several airlines have company unions such as the Association of Professional Flight Attendants.
Most, if not all of the major airlines are members of the Air Transport Association.

Union Dues:
Each month, our union dues were deducted from our pay. When I began working with Comair, the union dues were $50.00 per month.
This amount remained the same during my years with Comair.
When I began working with Chautauqua Airlines, again, our union dues were $50.00 per month. Then, each year, the union dues went up. During my last year with Chautauqua Airlines, our union dues were over $100.00 per month.

Uniforms, luggage. Most airlines will not provide you with uniform or luggage. The first uniform cost
is taken out of your paycheck. Most airlines require you to purchase black colored luggage, as well as
the flight attendant overnight bag. This bag should contain your FAM (Flight Attendant Manual). Also,
we were required to have 6 items with us at all times: ID Badge, Passport, flashlight, FAM, Overnight bag, watch.

While on reserve, you may or may not be able to pick up trips from the airline "open time" website.

Open time trips are 1-4 day trips, which have not yet been assigned to a flight attendant (or pilot). Or, some open time trips, are trips which have been "dropped" by flight attendant "line holders". While some open time trips may be less desirable trips, as a new hire flight attendant, or on reserve, sometimes you can create your own "schedule" by picking up open time trips. Usually, however, anytime a flight attendant (or pilot), attempts to pick up a trip from "open time", that trip has to be approved or authorized by your airline crew scheduling department, or crew planning department. So, if your airline provides a list of "open time" trips, be sure to check the open time trips as often as possible. Often, I would see a long list of "open time" trips just after the monthly trip awards were posted for the flight attendant (and pilot), line holders.

While attending initial flight attendant training, while the airline may pay for your hotel room, the airline will not provide you with free or paid meals. You will have to pay for meals during training. While attending initial flight attendant with Chautauqua Airlines, we stayed in a hotel room (suite) which had a microwave oven, small stove, and refrigerator. So, I was able to cook meals in my hotel room during training. While I often dined at restaurants, on those long training days (or long study days and nights), I was able to save money and time by cooking meals in my hotel room. However, I was glad I drove my own car to/from initial flight attendant training.

Most airlines now, do not pay you during training. You may receive a small "Per Diem" amount, possibly $25 per day. But that's all. Even then, you may not receive a paycheck until you actually graduate from training.

This means, it may be 4-8 weeks, before you receive a paycheck.
Then, when you do receive your first actual paycheck,
often, the airline will deduct money to pay for uniform, luggage, or union dues.
Therefore, before you decide to pursue a career as a flight attendant, or accept the invitation for training, you need to save enough to get you through those first two months. It is not easy. You may have to ask family members or friends to help you.

Other expenses:

Since I was a commuter, I had to pay for my hotel room, before, or after a trip. As an example, if my trip began on a Wednesday morning, I would commute to my base on Tuesday, the day before my trip began. I would check into a hotel, near the airport.

While I was based in St. Louis, Grand Rapids, and Cleveland, I was able to receive an "airline crew rate" at the hotel. At that time, the "airline crew rate" was between $32-39 per night. On average, I would stay in a hotel, 4-6 nights per month. So, this was an ongoing expense.

While I was based in Cincinnati with Comair, Comair paid for our parking expenses at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG). Then, when I worked with Chautauqua Airlines, once I was able to transfer from Corpus Christi back to Cincinnati, Chautauqua Airlines, also paid for my parking expenses. Chautauqua Airlines, also paid for my parking expenses while commuting from Orlando or Tampa. So, that eliminated the parking expense each month. From what I understand, most airlines will allow employees to park for free, at their crew base airport.

While the airlines will pay for your hotel room while working a trip, the airlines will not pay for your meals. In theory, your "per diem" amount is to be used to pay for meals. However, if you budget carefully, you may be able to save some of your per diem pay each month. On average, US based airlines, will pay, a per diem amount between $1.50-$1.90, each hour you are away from your base. So, as an example, let's say your per diem is $1.80 per hour. If you work a four day trip, and you are away from your base for 80 hours you would earn:

$1.80 x 80 hours= $144.00. On that four day trip, you would earn $36.00 of per diem pay, each day.

Tips: Anytime the hotel van drives a flight crew from the airport to the hotel, or drops a flight crew off at the airport, most flight attendants and pilots, would tip the van driver $1.00-$2.00. So, if you are working a four day trip, this means three nights in a hotel. This also means tipping a hotel van driver six times. Also, if the hotel van driver drove the pilots and I to/from a restaurant, we would also tip the van driver $1.00-$2.00.

On average, I would spend $30-$35 per month, just on tipping the hotel van drivers.

To Summarize:

1. US based airline flight attendants, are paid in two ways: Flight hours, and per diem.
2. The starting flight hour pay for US airline flight attendants averages between $16-22 per flight hour. Plus, a "per diem" amount of $1.50-$1.80 for every hour you are away from your base, while working a flight or trip.
3. While attending the initial flight attendant training, the airline likely will not provide free or paid meals.
4. While working a trip, while the airline will pay for your hotel room, the airline will not provide
free or paid meals. In theory, the "per diem" wages are to be used to pay for meals while working a trip.
5. Most airlines will allow airline flight attendants to park their vehicle for free,
at their crew base airport employee parking lot.

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