Wondering what are the pros and cons of being a Flight Attendant?
If I had a £ for each time someone had told me “you have the best job in the world” I would be a mighty rich woman by now.
But it is quite possibly true though. Being an international Flight Attendant is definitely one of the best jobs in the world, there’s no doubt about it!
That isn’t to say that there aren’t some negatives to the job. Of course there are – it’s a job at the end of the day. Let’s take a look below at the pros and cons of being a Flight Attendant!
Pros of being a Flight Attendant:
Get paid to travel
Obviously this is the best part! This job gives you the opportunity to travel to new and exciting destinations and get paid for doing so! Not only that but most airlines also pay you some money for the downtime you have on your layover!
So whilst you’re sipping on that cocktail in The Seychelles or shopping in Tokyo, you’re getting paid (albeit a small amount but still!). Your airline also pays for your hotel room (they choose the hotel). So if the hotel is in a great location it is so awesome!
Reduced price airline tickets
Another great perk is that you get cheap (or sometimes free!) airline tickets to use during your vacation time and days off! Often you’ll get discounts not just off the airline you fly for, but for other airlines too!
I got to visit so many incredible places in my spare time as the heavily discounted flight prices meant I could afford to take several trips every year!
Your family can also get cheap flights too! My parents used my staff travel benefits so many times! And I was so happy I was able to make this possible for them.
You will honestly have some of the most amazing experiences of your life as a flight attendant.
Seeing in the New Year at the Sydney fireworks, going on incredible safaris in Africa, experiencing Mardi Gras in New Orleans, cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco on my birthday, being in Kyoto for the sakura season, partying in Las Vegas.
Those were just some of the incredible moments I got to experience on my layovers. And those memories will last a lifetime.
No two days are ever the same as a flight attendant. You can be on a tropical island one day and then a few days later in one of the world’s best cities! Not only are your destinations different every month, but you often work with different people on every flight too.
This certainly keeps things interesting! Every day is different and you are far from bored in this job! Plus once you are on the layover you are free to do as you wish! You can hang out with the crew, go shopping, relax by the pool or go sightseeing alone – it’s up to you!
Meeting new people
Being a flight attendant is perfect for those who love meeting people as you meet so many new people in this job every day! Your passengers, the crew and the local people you meet on your layovers!
They will often have very different cultures and backgrounds to you and will tell you some fascinating stories about their countries. I learnt so much about different cultures during my time as a cabin crew!
You will also make some amazing flight attendant friends! Not many people understand this lifestyle, so having these friends who have the same lifestyle as you is so important!
The best office views
The views you’ll see up in the sky beats any office view. I’ve seen The Pyramids from up above, the glistening white sands of Zanzibar, the Northern Lights, the most incredible sunsets you can imagine, and also the scariest lightning and thunderstorms.
Sounds incredible right?!
But of course, like any job, there are downsides. Let’s take a look.
Cons of being a Flight Attendant:
Jet lag and lack of sleep
Probably the most obvious downside to being a Flight Attendant is experiencing jet lag on a regular basis and having inconsistent sleep patterns.
Often you are desperately trying to catch a few hours sleep in the middle of the day before your next flight, or you’re trying to sleep all day after a night flight but you still feeling terrible when you wake up.
This inconsistency and lack of regular sleep is not good for you and in the long-term it is bad for your health and can even lead to diabetes.
You may have 3 or 4 days off in a row but often you’re so tired and exhausted to make use of your discounted staff travel flights that you just want to stay at home and catch up with sleep.
A few times after really long flights I was literally knocked out for 18 hours! That’s not normal.
Working long hours
Despite everyone thinking you’re on a permanent holiday (because well, that’s how it looks on your Instagram account), you can work some really long days sometimes. Often I would operate on a 16 hour long-haul flight. But that’s just the flight.
Getting ready, heading to the airport, having the briefing, security checks, boarding, sometimes delays, then the actual flight. Then disembarking and cleaning at the end of the flight before heading to the hotel – it was easy a 20 hour day.
You do get a couple of hours rest on the flight but still, it is utterly exhausting, you feel dead inside. And then you somehow need to find the energy to go out on the layover as you’re certainly not going to waste the whole layover sleeping!
Working unsociable hours
There are no regular working hours for flight attendants. Early starts, late finishes, going to work at midnight sometimes.
You are often working on the weekends and holidays when your friends and family are doing fun stuff, and often you’re off on a day during the week when everyone else is working. It is definitely an alternative lifestyle to many of your loved ones.
Your body clock is all over the place when you are flying. Therefore your metabolic rate decreases and it is very easy to gain a little unwanted weight.
Not to mind those hideously fattening casseroles cabin crew eat onboard, or the piles of snacks we get through to keep ourselves awake and make the time pass whilst the passengers are sleeping.
Flying can also play havoc with your immune system. Many flight attendants get sick as their body can’t cope with their inconsistent sleep patterns and jam-packed schedules.
Yet they will often get penalised if they phone sick (get a bad roster the next month or get taken off their next flight or even have their manager call them in for a meeting on their day off!).
I know a lot of flight attendants in different airlines who have felt pressured to go into work when they probably weren’t fit to work. And the worst thing is going to work when you’re feeling ill.
Even going to work with a cold can be a disaster for flight attendants as it can lead to a perforated eardrum.
Frequent flying also leads to memory loss, and I think every flight attendant has suffered with this at one point or another.
And don’t even get me started on the radiation you receive. I studied radiation in-depth in my Healthcare Degree so I know the effects more than anyone.
Away from home a lot
As a flight attendant you are away from home a lot, and away from your family and friends (especially if you are based in a different place to where home is!).
You’re probably away from your home about half of the time, sometimes more depending on your schedule or how far away you live from the airport.
You need to accept you will sometimes be away for important holidays such as Christmas, or miss important family events. This comes with the job. You can do your best to try and swap flights but there is no guarantee and you need to be prepared for this.
I have missed friend’s weddings and countless family events because I was flying. And it sucked but you gotta get over it. The airline does not revolve around you and your social life.
Being away from home a lot may be great if you are young and have no commitments. But if you have a partner, children or pets it can be quite difficult to be away for several days at a time. And maintaining a relationship is hard in this job. It’s not impossible, but it’s hard.
It’s hard to plan your social life when your working hours and even working days vary from week to week. You have no idea what days you’ll have off next month. You have no idea if you can make that important event you need to go to.
Sure you can try to get the time off but it’s not a guarantee. And a lot of people aren’t going to be able to understand this.
This is why it is especially important to make friends with other flight attendants so you can help each other through when things get tough as you understand what each other is going through.
Flying is certainly a very fast paced life. You’ll be doing night flights one day and then switching to day flights the day after. Sometimes your body just can’t keep up and you’ve lost track what day of the week it is. If you are a fan of routines this is not the job for you.
Salary isn’t great
Don’t get me wrong, flight attendants make an ok salary. But if you’re in a new destination every week, the money goes fast. You eat out, go on excursions, go for drinks with the crew. It’s hard to save money in this job.
You have a layover in Tokyo, of course you’re going to spend money! Or you’re in Johannesburg, of course you’re going to go out and eat your body weight in steak.
You’ll end up spending quite a bit of money because when you get back home to base your friends will want to do things with you too!
Just learn to budget – often when you start flying you’ll want to do everything, but after a while you’ll learn how to prioritise how you want to spend your time and money. Just don’t go this job for the money, instead go into it for the incredible experiences you will get.
Also something to note: in many airlines flight attendants only get paid from when the plane doors close. So if there is a delay on ground often the crew aren’t getting paid. Just think about that next time you’re a passenger and you’re getting annoyed about the delay.
Being on reserve/standby
There will be days when you will be placed on standby, especially when you are a newbie. You have to stay at home or at the airport for hours ‘on-call’ and wait to be called for a flight.
They could call you for literally anywhere and you need to be ready to go when they call you, even if it is in the middle of the night.
You have no idea where or if you’ll go somewhere, and more often than not you get called for the rubbish destinations or turnarounds that people always phone sick for.
Travelling as a passenger on standby
Yeh so you get cheap flights for your days off or vacation. But often you only get on the flight if there is space!
If you want to travel at peak times like holiday season, be prepared that you might not get on the flight. I’ve had my whole holiday plans change last minute because I couldn’t get on the flight.
You age prematurely
Your skin gets dehydrated due to the dry environment. You’ll also see wrinkles start to appear yet at the same time you’ll still get the odd spot because of all the makeup you need to wear.
Your nails become so susceptible to breaking because of the nail varnish or artificial nails you always need to wear. You see your body ageing and it ain’t good, which is why flight attendants need to take extra care looking after themselves.
Have to deal with some very challenging situations
Passengers blame you because their baggage is lost, or shout in your face because the plane is delayed, or swear at you infront of the whole cabin because you’ve run out of chicken.
Not to mention the medical emergencies that you’ll have to deal with, severe turbulence at times, and the risk of potential attacks.
You’ll deal with some very challenging situations at times but boy does this job teach you patience and how to keep your cool. You’re going to meet some really annoying passengers too.
So yes, there are a lot of cons as well as pros to being a flight attendant and it is not always as glamorous as it looks. At the end of the day it is still a job and no job is perfect.
But if a Flight Attendant loves their job, it won’t seem like work and all the pros will outweigh the cons and make it totally worth it! I am so thankful I got the opportunity to be a flight attendant.
I learnt so much about the world and about myself, and I will always look back with happy memories! Whilst of course at times it can be quite a demanding and stressful job, on the whole being a flight attendant is a really fun job and can be very rewarding!
Thinking to become a Flight Attendant?
If you are thinking to become a flight attendant it is important to be aware of the cons of this job. This is not to put you off flying – I would never discourage someone from wanting to become a flight attendant.
But you do need to be aware of the downsides of this job so you are prepared. Because when you fly it becomes your life.
Flying is an amazing job but it is definitely not for everyone. You need to be prepared for sleepless nights, jet lag, passengers screaming in your face and cleaning toilets.
If you live in some bubble that flying is all glamorous, you’re gonna hit the ground with a bang when you start flying. But if you know the realities, you’re going to adapt straight away and love it!
If you would like to know more about being a Flight Attendant, drop me a comment below or check out what it’s like attending a flight attendant assessment day!
Or if you are looking for that perfect gift to buy that special flight attendant in your life, click here!!
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All views expressed are related to being a Flight Attendant in general. They do not relate to any particular airline.
Catrina is a Travel Writer, SEO Specialist and ex-Flight Attendant based in Sydney, Australia. She has visited 85 countries and lived in several – including Italy, Australia, United Arab Emirates and England. Her work has been featured in a variety of popular travel publications including Fodors, Escape, Australian Traveller and Bear Grylls, as well as several international aviation and travel companies. The majority of her work however features on her own website – 24hourslayover.com where she has written over 500 travel articles!