Southwest Airlines is one of the main airlines in the United States and has some of the highest paid Flight Attendants in the country! So how much is the salary of a Flight Attendant at Southwest Airlines – the world’s largest low-cost carrier?
We’ll break it down for you here how much a Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant really earns in their salary!
Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Salary:
How Much Do Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Make?
The Flight Attendant salary at Southwest Airlines is higher than many of the other airlines in the US.
HOURLY RATE (STANDARD FLIGHT HOUR PAY)
Newer Flight Attendants at Southwest Airlines will get a lower salary when compared to a more experienced Flight Attendant so there isn’t really an accurate average salary we can give as it varies considerably.
It’s important to remember that just like in most jobs, salaries for Flight Attendants increase the more senior they become in the role and with the more experience they have.
The more senior a Flight Attendant is, the higher their hourly rate and therefore salary will be.
The hourly rate for Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant pay is calculated according to how many years the Flight Attendant has worked at Southwest Airlines.
The starting salary for new hire Flight Attendants at Southwest Airlines once they have passed their initial training is $25.14 per 55 minutes of flight time /243 nautical miles. In Southwest Airlines this is known as a ‘trip’.
Then every single year on their joining date anniversary at Southwest Airlines their Standard Flight Hour Pay will increase, until they reach the maxed out pay and will stay on that rate.
In addition to the Flight Attendant’s hourly rate (calculated by their length of time in the company), the Flight Attendant salary is also worked out according to how many flight hours the Flight Attendant has worked that month, as well as a few other factors.
For a Flight Attendant, the amount of hours they work that month will directly affect their pay and so it is a vey important factor when working out a Flight Attendant salary. The more hours you work, the higher your salary will be.
A Flight Attendant at Southwest Airlines only starts getting paid once the aircraft door closes. So all the time at the briefing, getting to the aircraft, doing safety checks, boarding the passengers and any delays before closing the aircraft doors will be unpaid.
So the hourly pay for a Flight Attendant at Southwest Airlines is only from when the aircraft door closes for take-off, until it opens again at the destination – basically the hours they are actually flying only, which is quite standard in aviation.
Technically you aren’t always getting paid nothing for this time, as sometimes you can be getting paid per diem in this time if you are outstation (more about Per Diem late).
How Many Hours Does A Flight Attendant Work Per Month?
On average, a Flight Attendant at Southwest Airlines works around 72 ‘trips’ per month (‘trip’ = 55 minutes), which means a new Flight Attendant can make around $1,800 per month.
However, they do have the choice to work more or less than these hours if they prefer, as there are no ‘fixed hours’. There is lots of flexibility at Southwest Airlines when it comes to scheduling.
Some Flight Attendants may choose (or be scheduled) to work more or less hours one month compared to another, which will therefore affect their pay.
You also have the option to pick up extra flights for your schedule, or give them away if you don’t want them.
There is an online interactive system where you can give away flights for others to pick up, or you can pick up extra flights if you are looking for extra money.
This is great as it gives Flight Attendants more control over their salary and how they want to spend their time.
BREAKING DOWN THE SOUTHWEST AIRLINES FLIGHT ATTENDANT SALARY PAY
Flight Attendant salaries are worked out very differently to regular standard jobs. The salary of a Flight Attendant working in a commercial airline will vary a lot every month.
Instead of getting paid a fixed monthly salary like most regular jobs, Flight Attendants will get paid not only according to their standard flight hour pay and the hours they have flown that month, but which destinations they have been to, and whether the flight was a layover or a turnaround, and whether they had any reserve/on-call duties.
A Flight Attendant Salary is made up of:
- Crew Duty Payment (the amount of hours flown that month multiplied by the Hourly Flight Pay)
- Layover Payment (Per Diem)
- Reserve Payment
- Special Roles: pursers, language speakers etc.
These payments can vary considerably, depending on what the Cabin Crew Roster looks like that month.
Also if Flight Attendants have had leave or been sick one month, or didn’t get called on their Reserve Days, their salary will be lower as they will have had more days off from flying.
Crew Duty Payment
Hourly Rate x Hours Flown = Flight Attendant Salary
To work out your Crew Duty Payment for the month, add up all the duty hours flown for that month and times it by your Standard Flight Hour Pay.
Salaries get paid after the month worked, like other airlines, as it is impossible to predict Crew Duty Payment as rosters and flights can change last minute.
So let’s say you are a new Flight Attendant (the starting pay at Southwest Airlines is $25.14 per hour for newly hired Flight Attendants) and you just worked 5 flight hours. You would get $25.14 x 5 = $125.70.
Layover Allowance (Per Diem)
The Per Diem Allowance is an hourly tax-free allowance Flight Attendants get when they are away from their assigned base. This money is in addition to a Flight Attendants hourly rate.
The Per Diem payment aims to compensate for the cost of all the Flight Attendant’s meals. It is calculated automatically by Southwest Airlines and added onto your salary at the end of the month.
The Per Diem Layover Allowance at Southwest Airlines is $2.30 per hour ($2.85 per hour for Near International flights such as Mexico and The Caribbean).
The Per Diem Allowance is the same regardless of your seniority, so all Flight Attendants on the same flight get the same amount Per Diem.
So in addition to your hourly rate, for every hour you are away from your base (and this is calculated from the time of required check-in for a flight and ending 30 minutes after arrival back at their base) you get the Per Diem allowance of $2.30 per hour (or $2.85 per hour for Near International flights).
The Layover Allowance may seem small but it does add up!
Let’s say for example you do an international flight to Costa Rica. It is a 24 hours layover and let’s say adding in all the time from leaving your base to arriving back to your base, the total time you were away from base was 40 hours.
You would be making 40 x $2.85 = $114.
That’s an extra $114 on top of what you will earn from your flying hours for that flight!
Seeing as usually you’ll have several trips on your monthly schedule, that can mean several hundred extra dollars instantly added onto your salary!
Reserve At Southwest Airlines
Being on reserve means a Flight Attendant is put on standby/on-call (“reserve”) for trips.
The role of the reserve Flight Attendant is to fill in for any trips when another Flight Attendant calls in sick or can not longer fly due to rest legalities or for any other operational needs.
When a Flight Attendant is scheduled to be on reserve they won’t have any flights rostered for those days so they don’t know in advance what trips they will get.
They just have to wait until they get called last minute for flights and they will have to be ready at the airport within 2 hours.
The flight could be to any destination, it could be a layover or a there-and-back / turnaround, or they could even not get called for a flight at all.
There are three types of reserve at Southwest Airlines:
- AM/PM Reserve
- Ready Reserve
- Airport Standby
AM/PM Reserve is when a Flight Attendant is on call only during specific hours of the day or night. AM/PM Reserve is generally assigned in three-day blocks.
Ready Reserve is when a Flight Attendant is on call 24-hours a day. This is generally assigned for a three-day block. The Flight Attendant must be ready to report to their base airport within two hours notice.
Airport Standby involves actually going to the airport ready in uniform and waiting at the airport to be available immediately for a flight (say if a Flight Attendant phones in sick last-minute or is late).
It’s important to remember the reserve time to get ready and arrive at the airport for duty is only 2 hours. When placed on reserve the Flight Attendant shouldn’t be based too far away from the airport that they could potentially be late for reporting.
Reserve During Initial Probation Period Working As A Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant
For their first month working, a new Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant will be assigned a “line” (a regular flight schedule) that cannot be altered.
So they will have scheduled flights like a regular Flight Attendant schedule and won’t be on reserve/on-call.
Then for the following five months of their 6 month probation period new Flight Attendants will be placed on “reserve” and trips will be assigned to them on the basis of as and when they are needed.
The Flight Attendants at Southwest Airlines are contractually obliged to follow this system.
Flight Attendants at Southwest Airlines that are on reserve get an average of 72 trips per month, whereas Flight Attendants that are scheduled a line get 80 trips a month on average.
The Flight Attendant will still receive a roster/schedule when they are on reserve, and this will show them their ‘off’ days and the days they are on reserve.
It’s not like they are on reserve non-stop for the whole 5 months – they still get plenty of days off that they know in advance! On each monthly schedule it usually works out to be around 18 days rostered on reserve and around 12 days rostered ‘off’.
First Year Reserve Payment For Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants
If a Flight Attendant doesn’t get called when they are on reserve, even though they didn’t go to work this doesn’t count as a day off.
In regards to payment for reserve, reserve Flight Attendants receive a monthly guarantee. So they are guaranteed to be paid a certain amount of hours even if they don’t fly at all.
This of course is fair, as it isn’t the Flight Attendant’s fault if they don’t get called for a flight. When they are on reserve they have to stay at home ready and waiting to be called, so it certainly isn’t a day off – even though they technically didn’t work.
Due to their reserve schedules, the pay in the first few months working as a Flight Attendant for Southwest Airlines can be challenging.
However just know that every Flight Attendant before you went through this and once you get through it your salary will get much better.
Reserve For Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants
After the 6 months probation period, when a Flight Attendant is holding a line they’ll be able to bid for specific destinations and flights they want to work, as well as days off.
They’ll also be able to trade in trips they don’t want and pick up trips, so they have more control of their schedule.
The longer a Flight Attendant works for an airline in the US, the less chance they have of getting put on reserve.
At Southwest Airlines, only when a Flight Attendant is in the top 35% seniority of their base will they be taken off reserve permanently and always have scheduled flights and therefore more control over their schedule.
But bear in mind that it’s likely that Flight Attendants at Southwest Airlines won’t be taken off reserve until they have been at that base for at least 10 years.
How Does They Pay Differ From Being On Reserve To Having A Line/Regular Schedule?
When a Flight Attendant receives their monthly roster with their scheduled flights they can generally work out how much money they will earn that month.
When a Flight Attendant is rostered the whole month on reserve it’s a lot harder to work out how much they may earn as they have no idea what their flying schedule will actually look like and how many hours they will end up flying.
In addition to the hourly rate and per diem, some Flight Attendants can also earn extra money in special roles on flights – for example when they are the selected Language Speaker or a Purser for that flight.
A Purser is the Flight Attendant who is in charge of the whole cabin. They often need to fill out safety reports and any incident reports and deal with any conflicts or challenges onboard.
The Purser is paid extra as they have more responsibility and oversee the whole customer experience.
Most of the Pursers at Southwest Airlines will have at least 20 years experience, so it can take a long time to become one!
Language of Destination/Origin (LODO) Flight Attendants are paid extra for being language speakers on certain flights as it is an additional skill.
Any Flight Attendant who speaks another language besides English fluently that the Airline requires (mainly Spanish) can apply to be a Language Of Destination/Origin Flight Attendant.
They are paid extra to speak the LODO throughout the flight to the customers and give assistance in the language where needed.
Southwest Airlines flies to several countries where English isn’t the official language, for example Mexico and Costa Rica.
Other Special Roles:
Other special roles that Flight Attendants can take on for extra money, or just to experience something different include:
- joining the safety team or becoming a trainer in initial and recurrent Flight Attendant training
- joining the recruiting team
There are several opportunities where Flight Attendants at Southwest Airlines can get extra incentives.
They can include:
- ‘Rapid Rewards Points’ – where Flight Attendants can earn points equal to cash for working certain holiday dates
- ‘Drafting Pay’ – being used at another base.
Salary Deductions For Flight Attendants At Southwest Airlines
Social Security, Medicare and other taxes are taken out of your paycheck. Remember that each state in the US has different levels of taxes.
Other deductions most staff choose to have include 401k, medical, dental, stock purchases etc.
Do Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Need To Pay For Their Uniform?
The initial uniform cost at Southwest Airlines is roughly $500. This is payroll deducted in 2 monthly payments of $25.
In subsequent years Flight Attendants receive $220 in a uniform account to purchase any replacement or additional uniform items.
What Factors Can Affect A Flight Attendant Salary?
As we can see, several factors can affect a Flight Attendant’s Salary:
1. Seniority Of The Flight Attendant
As mentioned above, the seniority of a Flight Attendant plays a big part in how much their salary will be.
Not only does their level of seniority affect their hourly pay, but it also affects what destinations they get rostered to, how often they get placed on reserve, and what their schedule looks like, which in turn affects their salary.
The more senior you are – the higher your hourly pay and the more choice you have over your schedule.
2. Hours Worked
The number of hours worked also greatly affects the salary of a Flight Attendant. The more hours you work, the higher your salary will be that month.
3. Per Diem
4. Reserve Days
5. Special Roles
If you’re looking for help on applying to become a Flight Attendant and the Application Process check out these guides:
Southwest Airlines Benefits
Benefits for Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants include:
- staff travel discounts & free travel privileges for themselves, their partner and their children
- comprehensive insurance and medical coverage (vision, medical & dental insurance)
- flexible spending accounts
- profit share plan
- staff discount program
- retirement plans – 401K plan (dollar for dollar match)
- employee stock purchase plan
- wellbeing programs
- development opportunities
- Paid time off
Southwest Airlines has very generous benefits, bonuses and commissions for their Flight Attendants.
Interested in becoming a Flight Attendant for another airline?
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If you would like to see how the salary for Flight Attendants in one of the wealthy Gulf airlines compares, check out this article on Etihad Cabin Crew Salary.
How To Become A Flight Attendant At Southwest Airlines?
As with any other airline, to become a Flight Attendant at Southwest Airlines you will need to fulfil certain requirements.
These include education requirements, background checks, appearance requirements, ability to live and work in the USA, minimum age requirements, fluency in English and more.
If you meet all the requirements you can apply. The application process involves several stages: online assessment, telephone interview, in-person interview and physical performance proficiency assessment and background checks.
Successful applicants need to make it through all the stages, which can be quite tough as there is so much competition!
You’ll find all the information about the different stages as well as the requirements, in this Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Requirements article.
Is Southwest Airlines Currently Hiring Flight Attendants?
Southwest Airlines periodically opens vacancies on their official careers website. Click here to view the vacancies for Flight Attendants.
It’s good to apply as soon as you see the vacancies opening up, as sometimes the job vacancy can close after just a few days if they have too many applications.
How Long Does The Whole Process To Become A Flight Attendant With Southwest Airlines Take?
As there are so many stages in the application process, getting a job as a Flight Attendant at Southwest Airlines is definitely not a quick process.
It’s also important to bear in mind that the application process length can really vary amongst applicants. For some it may take just a few months, for others it may take years.
It often depends on how many Flight Attendants they need to hire at that particular time, the number of applications received at that time, and if you have a specific requirement that they are really looking for at that time (for example: language speakers for a foreign destination).
Remember that this is a very competitive field, and hundreds of thousands of people apply for only a few spots.
Once you get selected and have the conditional job offer (CJO) to join Southwest Airlines, depending on the operational needs of the company you might have to wait a few weeks or months to commence your initial Flight Attendant Training.
The Flight Attendant training will take 4 weeks, and then once you have successfully passed you will finally be a Flight Attendant! It’s a long process and it may feel frustrating having to wait so long but it’s sure worth the wait!
Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Training Program
Southwest Airlines provides the initial Flight Attendant training at their headquarters in Dallas, Texas.
The training program for Southwest Airlines is 4 weeks long.
The Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant training course is an intensive course to prepare you for the many different types of scenarios you can encounter as a Flight Attendant.
Do Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Get Paid For Their Training?
During the initial training, Southwest Airlines will provide Flight Attendants with accommodation plus $425 to spend on food during their training.
Whilst they aren’t getting paid a salary during their training, their food and accommodation is taken care of.
Then after the first 5 working days after their graduation they will receive $1,200 for Initial Training pay (minus taxes and benefit deductions).
They must complete the Flight Attendant training (practical assessments, plus obtain 90% or more on all written exams) and all the associated background checks, as well as demonstrate your proficiency in order to get their flying licence.
After successful completion of the Flight Attendant Training Course they will get their wings, be assigned a base and become one of the Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant team!
Like all Flight Attendant Training Programs, Southwest Airlines focuses their training on aircraft specific training, passenger safety (medical emergencies, fire, security, emergency landing etc), customer services, culture at Southwest Airlines, and more.
Where are Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants based after training?
Current Flight Attendant bases are in Las Vegas, Chicago, Houston, Orlando, Baltimore, Phoenix, Dallas, Atlanta, (most senior bases) and Los Angeles, Denver and Oakland (most junior bases).
A Flight Attendant’s base is assigned during their Initial training and depends on the operational needs of the Company.
A Flight Attendant is able to request to change bases after they pass their Initial Training. When an opening for a base becomes available it is given to the most senior Flight Attendant who requested it.
All relocation costs are to be covered by the Flight Attendant.
Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Salary Summary
Hopefully this article gave you plenty of useful information about the Flight Attendant salary at Southwest Airlines.
Southwest Airlines currently has one of the highest hourly rates in the US for Flight Attendants and s a really good airline to work for.
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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!