Cabin crew are an important part of the airline industry and play a crucial role in ensuring that passengers have a safe and pleasant journey. But are cabin crew permanent employees, or do they typically work on a temporary contract basis?
It’s a question that is asked frequently, yet unfortunately, there isn’t a straightforward one-size-fits-all answer. Local employment laws, airline policies and the type of flying — scheduled, charter or private — all have an impact on the types of employment contracts typically offered.
In this article, we will take a look at the different types of contracts that are available to cabin crew, and discuss how things are changing in the industry. We will also take a look at some examples of airlines around the world that offer different types of contracts to their cabin crew staff.
So by the end of the article, you should have an idea which airlines offer their cabin crew permanent contracts, or where to apply for a shorter term role.
3 main types of cabin crew contracts
Cabin crew contracts can broadly be divided into three categories: Short term, semi-permanent and permanent.
A permanent contract is, as the name suggests, a more long-term arrangement where an employee is employed by an airline on a full-time basis.
This type of contract typically offers more job security and benefits than a temporary contract, such as travel benefits, sick pay and pension contributions.
A short-term contract, on the other hand, is typically used to cover seasonal peaks or busy periods, and will usually last for around three to six months.
These types of contracts are popular with charter airlines, and in the private jet world. They are generally less secure than permanent contracts, typically offering cabin crew higher pay rates for time spent flying, but fewer overall benefits.
A semi-permanent contract is somewhere in-between the two, and is often used by airlines who are looking for staff on a more permanent basis, but are employing overseas workers.
Examples include international Middle Eastern airlines, and some major European airlines hiring international cabin crew for certain routes. These contracts typically last for between two and five years.
The changing landscape of cabin crew contracts
Historically, most cabin crew have been employed on semi-permanent contracts. With a global flying boom from the 1950s onwards, airline were desperate to paint flying — hugely expensive at the time — as a glamorous and sexy business.
Airlines took advantage of lax employment regulations for transport workers, and cabin crew were hired with hugely restrictive contracts, allowing airlines to let go of staff for anything from being overweight, getting married or even simply existing past 32!
The vast majority of contracts were short-term, with some pretty horrendous clauses. However, gradually began to change with a raft of lawsuits and modern employment laws.
Now, permanent cabin crew contracts constitute the majority of cabin crew employment in Europe, Australia, and the USA. The advantages of permanent contracts for airlines include lower staff turnover rates, and a more stable and motivated workforce. For cabin crew, it means greater job security, more benefits and the ability to plan for the future.
Summary: General rules for types of cabin crew contracts
So, what types of contracts do airlines offer their cabin crew? While there are no hard and fast rules, there are some general guiding principles that will help you to understand what types of contracts are likely to be on offer at individual airlines.
Major airlines or flag carriers
Big global carriers — sometimes referred to as flag carriers — typically offer cabin crew permanent contract types.
These include, All major US airlines, and European Airlines including British Airways, Air France, Lufthansa, and KLM. Exceptions include Air New Zealand, which offers temporary 4-6 month summer contracts.
Many airlines hire international crew — where crew are based abroad from their home country. These airlines include the Middle Eastern carriers, Etihad, Emirates and Qatar, alongside US airlines including United and American, with bases in South America.
Typically, international-based crew jobs are offered on semi-permanent contracts, examples include American Carrier Jet Blue’s overseas London basing (18-months).
Keep in mind that these are generalisations, and the best way to understand what type of contract an airline is likely to offer is to contact them directly.
As you can see, there is a wide range of different types of contracts on offer from airlines around the world. It’s important to do your research before applying for a position to make sure you understand what type of contract you are likely to be offered.