Warning: Don’t Become A Flight Attendant “Unless You’re Going To Delta”

Being a flight attendant is a challenging lifestyle that many people aren’t up to. Passengers don’t often see the shifting schedules, repetitive tasks, low pay and challenging customers they have to deal with.

One flight attendant has taken to social media warning people off of the career – unless, she says, “you’re going to Delta.”

The crewmember who goes by “dandelion wind” online says that she has “a burning rage inside of me about not feeling valued or respected.” There’s two things she says that makes it clear she works for American Airlines:

  • “We’ve had flight attendants die in hotel rooms on layovers and they don’t find out for 3 days because no one bothered to check” (This September incident.)

  • That contract negotiations have gone on for 5 years. (In fact, while their contract became amendable in 2019, negotiations weren’t taking place during the pandemic.)

Her complaints include that new flight attendants cannot afford food, “literally one meal away from being homeless.” And inflation has eroded the value of their wages since there hasn’t been any increase since 2019: “I’m making 22% less than when I first started 6 years ago, that is ridiculous.”

Yet, she says, things are far better at non-union Delta which pays top of industry wages, which is the only U.S. airline to also pay for time spend boarding planes, and which pays generous profit-sharing (this year more than a month’s extra wages, compared to a few hundred dollars at American).

@dandelion_wind I am LIVID. Ive kept my mouth shut for long enough. Oh and your first year of flying you are projected fo make 26k for the year. Thats below the poverty line. Our job is to save peoples lives in an emergency. We saw that recently with japan airlines and alaska airline. GUESS WHO IT WAS that made sure every passanger was okay and SAFE… flight attendants. Im so beyond sick of us being treated like our only job is to pass out a diet coke. No babe. Its to keep you alive. #flightattendant #cabincrew #travel ♬ original sound – Dandelion_wind

What American Airlines Flight Attendants Make

Here’s the flight attendant pay scale from the current contract. Their last raise was in January 2019. The contract has been amendable since shortly before the pandemic, and wages have been eroded in value significantly by inflation since then.

Here are some key things to understand about this pay.

  • The lineholder minimum guarantee is 71 hours per month. A flight attendant working reserve is guaranteed 75 hours per month. Many cabin crew do work more than that.

  • Those are hours from push back to arrival. Those hours do not include time at the airport, connecting between flights, or boarding planes.

There’s no question that it’s tough to live on $30,000 a year at the start. In inflation-adjusted terms that’s what the $21,000 I made right out of school is worth today. It’s fine if you’re not trying to support a family, but there’s not a lot of space for luxuries. Many flight attendants work a second job.

Some Junior Flight Attendants Are Eligible For Food Stamps

Where do I get $30,000 from, given these hourly rates? A ‘full time’ flight attendant in their second year, working reserve, is guaranteed 75 hours at $32.18 per hour. That’s $2,413.50 per month gross, or $28,962 per year.

And that would make them eligible for SNAP payments if they’re assigned to the Boston flight attendant base. A single person, earning less than $2,430 per month, is eligible for $291 per month in supplemental nutritional assistance program payments (provided they are a Massachusetts resident and have less than $2,000 in the bank).

An early career flight attendant needs to work a second job to make ends meet.

What American Is Offering – And What The Union Wants

Here’s what American has been offering – wages equal to Delta at top of the industry – and what the union is asking for.

Note that in this offer, it’s not just hourly wages that would go up. American is also offering boarding pay at 50% of flight pay, matching non-union Delta. That benefits junior crew the most, who tend to fly more short flights and thus have more time spent boarding (e.g. four domestic flights in a day each with time boarding versus a long haul flight every few days). And American is offering Delta’s profit sharing formula though American earns less profit to share.

Flight Attendant Isn’t A Lucrative Career

This won’t suddenly become lucrative work. The main value add to their employer is that they satisfy the 1:50 regulatory requirement, that an airline can’t fly without at least 1 flight attendant per 50 seats on their aircraft. That’s not true everywhere! Service can drive a revenue premium, but that’s not how American Airlines is set up.

And there are long lines of people interested in becoming flight attendants, even at these wages. Airlines frequently say they’re more selective than Harvard when it comes to getting into a training class (though I wonder how good a job most airlines do at the selecting piece).

Southwest Airlines flight attendants are negotiating a new contract and so are United flight attendants. Delta hasn’t had a raise yet this year. American’s flight attendants can either do a deal now, and begin getting paid more, or wait until another union sets a higher bar to start from. However American Airlines isn’t going to wind up paying materially more than competitors. Flight attendants at American aren’t more productive and American isn’t more profitable.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It’s not like you don’t know the salary before you become a FA, plus travel perks, etc. . . Cry me a river, we all start out low and work our way up. Tired of the “I didn’t know” and “Boo hooing”. Your an adult, know what your getting paid, how much more you can make with OT and manage your expenses like the rest of adults.

    Doing the work of PR for the union now?

  2. So why doesn’t this lady leave AA and go to Delta? Is 6 years seniority all that important?

  3. dear flight attendants

    Blame your union and union “leadership” they failed you

    go learn a trade. become a plumber or ac tech or any other high demand high paying job.

  4. This is both an anti-union post and an honest reflection of how unions fail their employees. Do you think AA management would really want to be without this union? With these results it’s hard to argue that the union is anything but an anchor around the necks of the FAs. But go Bernie!…and other such short-sighted “wisdom.”

  5. The pay for flight attendants could be higher, but in the US pay should be higher for most jobs. The point this young lady is making is that for the low pay, American is also a TOXIC place to work. It’s evidenced by interactions with their employees every time you fly with them. Both their union and company are inept, poorly run businesses that can’t do anything with excellence. And while they attack each other, their employees and customers are the ones feeling uncared for. So I agree with her, and I fly Delta and their partners whenever I can.

  6. You knew the pay and deal going in. You’re basically a talking coke machine. Now shush up and get me a sandwich.

  7. Dude the rok rok link goes to nothingness I finally bite on some of your click bait crap and it goes to nothing. lol
    Shame on me.

  8. A flight attendant story without mentioning Sierra Mist? How far this blog has fallen! For those unfamiliar with Sierra: She has figured out a way to supplement her meager flight attendant salary: It’s called OnlyFans.

  9. FWIW the FA that was found dead in PHL called off sick, the company bought them their hotel room for the next few days, and committed suicide. This is why they were not found for several days.

  10. Delta can’t be doing everything well for flight attendants. Are some Delta’s flight attendants may be unhappy, and, or gullible enough to think paying union dues would be good for them?

    Untypical, on a Delta transcon flight yesterday, observed on my side, sour f/a with smirks and scowls and no smiles for any passenger…another wearing an AFA pin…maybe end of month and reserves all unhappy about having to work?

    My guess is that every airline has people unhappy with the way they are paid, scheduled or treated.

  11. You’re unskilled labor, no better than an Uber driver. Literally anyone can do your job. If you want to be respected then get an education and do something else. Respect is earned.

  12. The past year has been the greatest advertisement as to why DL FAs are non-union, have repeatedly voted not to become unionized (along w/ tens of thousands of ex-NW employees as part of the DL/NW merger process), and why years of memories won’t erase what FAs throughout the industry are going through right now.
    Being happy or not in your job has nothing to do with your job although bad labor-mgmt relations can chip away at any person’s zeal for doing a good job. And malcontents can end up at any company and in any job.
    And let’s not forget that while AA and WN FAs have been more vocal, UA FAs also do not have a new contract. Scott Kirby convinced the pilots to wait until the end of the big 3 to try for another contract and they agreed – but they got retro, something FAs are not likely to get. So, it is costing every one of these large FA groups every month they wait to get a contract.
    Add in all of the capacity and revenue reductions that are coming as a result of the MAX debacle and FAs are going to find out the hill to get a contract is getting steeper rather than easier.

  13. Delta’s FAs are indirectly beneficiaries of unions at other airlines. The only reason Bastian keeps their pay rates at the top is to keep a union off the property…he doesn’t do it just to be a nice guy.
    Additionally, I wouldn’t recommend anyone for this profession regardless of which company you want to hitch your wagon.

  14. Steve,
    other airline unions and Delta pilots say the same thing but Delta paid its employees on average more than other airlines and treated them better all the way back in the pre-deregulation days – long before Bastian.
    While it is certainly true that airlines were heavily unionized even in the regulated era, Delta’s founder recognized that keeping employees happy translates into keeping customers happy.
    Delta also did not participate in the regulated era coalition of airlines that backed each other up when an airline’s employees went on strike so DL’s posture toward unions is not new.

    And it still comes down to the fact that Delta management led the industry with an acceptable pilot contract post-covid. United put a contract on the table but it was rejected and it was months later that Delta topped United’s former contract and the slightly one-up effort that American did for its pilots. Delta doesn’t do much for any employee group that it won’t also do for others, esp. for the pilots (Delta did not give the pilots “boarding pay”) so it also led the industry in settling w/ its non-union FAs and also the rest of its ground staff.

    SO the original comment from linked video is based on the fact that Delta settled early w/ all of its employees and handed out industry-leading profits – possible because Delta profits topped every other airline by $2 billion (United) or more (AAL and LUV).
    Service jobs are hard and airlines are extra-hard because they are 24X7 operations. Airline employees do know that going in but it still comes down to the fact that Delta FAs are making more and will even if everyone else settles tomorrow because retro, even if included, can’t make up for what has been lost, and DL profit sharing is so much higher due to factors that other airlines cannot match.

    and Delta is opening additional flight attendant bases, most of which are where other airlines have FA bases, so they clearly would be happy to pick up a few FAs that are the right fit for Delta but tired of the lower compensation at their airlines.

  15. 75 hours (per month) is less than 2 normal work weeks. So this is a part time job that earns $29k to start.
    I get that commute and wait time are not factored in…similar to truck drivers. The FAs should get a lot more hours…then their paycheck would look a lot better. If i leave home for a few days to work, ideally I am working, sleeping and working again.

  16. How much is the pay per hour when flight attendants are in the air “working” but playing on their phone or talking together and not taking care of paying customers with a friendly demeanor?

  17. @ narrative . . . you may want to rewrite your post. I’m not the grammar police but it’s hard to follow (them/they). I do appreciate your brevity, unlike some frequent commenters post here.

  18. Please. Delta flight attendants have no guarantee. That means: zero hours. You must be accessable X number of days with less than liveable hours. Pick up on your off days. Fly 150 hours at $30. Yay!

    And to those who say the job is unskilled labor: does a flight attendant or a pilot have more power to bring people back or send them away?

  19. Actual data: 2022 Median Pay for flight attendants was $63,760 per year, and no college degree is required. Source: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/flight-attendants.htm

    In other words, the median FA makes 3.3 times the amount needed to qualify for food stamps.

    The problem is the UNION who stacks all the income on the old ladies (and some gentleman) and works the new hires as slaves. Plus they lock them in by not allowing outside hires at the wages commanded by their skills and experience, in my opinion a crime against human rights.

    Fix no hire from the outside at market wages) and it would become like any jobs where wage levels are set by employees switching employers for higher pay.

  20. Currently work for DL & I’d choose them over any other airline hands down. The person who said people “work 150 hours @ $30/hour. Yay” made me laugh because our senior mamas are notoriously the ones that fly high time like that & they make $76/hour. They do a quick little 3 day to Rome with a 24 hour layover to explore and make $2k off that one trip little alone. Just imagine how much those FAs flying 200 hours are pulling in. & then our profit sharing is constantly in the double digits? SO grateful. I love Ed, I love DL, & I appreciate all of you that fly with us. See you in the skies, friends <3

  21. Omg shut up. Being a flight attendant isn’t a career. Not to mention, no one is forcing you to work there. You can’t expect to make above minimum wage for a job that requires zero education. This career was meant for young women to do for a few years while young, now you have people like this thinking it’s a career. It’s not. Grow up, get an education, and get a real job.

  22. SEAsteve,
    if your statement was correct, then Delta FAs would have unionized.
    In fact, they have very similar scheduling and hours to unionized FAs and, if my memory serves me correctly, Delta was one of the first airlines to require that every FA do a certain amount of reserve flying so that the most junior FAs don’t have to consistently do all reserve flying which is the way many FA unions operate.

  23. At the same time, with load factors the way they are (miniscule number of open seats), the once desirable non-rev travel benefit ain’t worth as much.

  24. Looks like delta has invaded the comments from corporate HQ and their paid anti union lemmings. I came to delta over 20 yrs ago, from another airline. Only 2 yrs ago, did they catch up to my vacation pay. Still don’t pay extra for working FC, as I was in the 90s. They pay many 3 day trips with 2 day pay because it crosses midnight. Also 2 day illegals, which is below minimum rest, , I made 10 hrs in 1999. Delta pays 6 or 5 in many instances. The list is longer but to no avail. Stop the propaganda. The pilots have a union and will get retro pay for their contract delays, which will equal more than most make in a year. They also get another bump every time a competitor gets a new contract if it’s above theirs. I’m not by any means a unionist but stop the propaganda……

  25. Even Delta is entirely ghetto not paying their flight attendants for 3 hour sits plus. They still can be working 14 hour days and not getting paid for delays and still not paid from check in to debrief(the time they sign out of work) So praise Delta all you want but they are ghetto as well. Blessed be the CULT.

  26. The one thing I do agree on is the fact that FA’s are required to be on the aircraft for boarding and deboarding, therefore they should be on the clock. However, the one thought that struck me was her complaint that they so desperately need a raise and they also demand more profit sharing. The raises asked for by the Union will most definitely cut into profits. If you get the raises sought there will be less of the pie to share in for the profits.

    And for all those who keep the narrative going about how this is nothing more than a minimum wage job, please think about that in the event of an emergency. Also, think about that the next time you are midair and someone on board has a medical emergency. I am not and never have been a FA. I do, however, have many friends in the industry and know the rigorous training the must pass initially, not to mention the yearly recurrent training. Calling FA’s names may come back to bite you if that Medical Emergency happens to be yours.

  27. Nice fluff piece with a not so subtle jab at unions. Let’s be clear, Delta employees are paid better than employees at all the other airlines regardless of their unionized status (hello massive pilot contract?)

    And this one non-Delta employee anecdote is supposed to justify saying that everything is better at Delta? How about interviewing some Delta FAs? It’s not all roses there, there’s plenty of abuse delta gets away with and the FAs have no recourse because they have no representation.

    But hey, a few extra dollars and profit sharing make it all getter, right?

    How much did Delta pay you for this post, Gary?

  28. @Bbq traveler – ” Delta employees are paid better than employees at all the other airlines regardless of their unionized status (hello massive pilot contract?)”

    Other airlines have slightly edged out Delta’s pilots deal since that was done. But why do you think this is? Delta is the more profitable airline. Unions aren’t driving the wages, but they are taking a slice of those wages.

    I wouldn’t want to be non-union at American. Although APFA hasn’t served American well, and the new customer service union contract there? Two weeks after ratification, layoffs.

    Of course Delta didn’t furlough anyone during the pandemic, while United and American combined furloughed around 35,000 flight attendants.

    Look, I think regular readers know I am not a fan of Delta! And I completely accept that Delta is “not all roses”..! But in the words of this union flight attendant at American, don’t become one unless you’re going to work at Delta.

    “How much did Delta pay you for this post, Gary?” That’s actually really funny.

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