5 crazy ways flight attendants make extra money

This is NOT advice! 5 Crazy ways flight attendants make extra money

So, you want to know how to make extra money as a flight attendant? Well, there are a few secret methods that flight attendants have used to make some extra cash on the side.

A warning. This is not like the other articles you will read. There’s no why don’t you do part-time language teaching?, tips on getting a promotion, or ideas about how to live off cheap noodles here.

Some of these methods are pretty ingenious, while others are a bit more out there. But hey, if it works, it works! Keep reading to learn how flight attendants have made some — slightly shady — extra cash. We’ve ordered them from 1 to 5 with each being increasingly spicy.

Disclaimer: Some of these five methods might cost you your job. However, they are all completely true examples. And, they have made some of my friends a lot of cash!

Use your influence

Spice level
1/10

Influencer flight attendant on the beach

Fake it until you make it. One popular way for flight attendants to make extra money is by becoming a social media influencer, then selling various products and services. Accounts with thousands of followers can earn serious money, and free products, through paid promotions.

Life as a flight attendant is not always glamorous. But on instagram, it can be! Staying in a range of hotels, constant travel, and some rare perks of being cabin crew — like champagne and upgrades — look great through a filter.

  • Many flight attendants have huge social media followings, and they often use ingenious little tricks to make life seem even more glam.
  • It’s not uncommon for flight attendants to bring multiple bikinis and outfits to some of the nicest destinations, then spend the day rotating outfits, and taking photos together.
  • With sufficient wardrobe changes, different lighting and drinks, one 24-hour layover can provide a month’s worth of social media photos
  • You might have spent the whole day of your only “nice” layover alternating between getting changed in your room and the rooftop pool, but the world doesn’t need to know that. From the outside, you’ve spent all month hanging out in LA.

The only thing to watch out for, is staying within the guidelines of airline’s ever-tightening social media rules — flight attendants have been getting sacked for online social media since way back in 2004!

International shopping spree

Spice level
3/10

Flight attendant international shopping to order

So, you want to know how to make a quick buck as a flight attendant? Well, one of the easiest ways is to take advantage of the fact you have access to shops across the globe. Paying in foreign currency, and having access to different shops, can make shopping to order big business.

What’s involved:

  • Favourable exchange rates
  • Luxury items only available in some regions
  • Shopping to order
  • Reselling cheap duty free

Little to zero risk, buying items from abroad is one of the most common ways flight attendants make extra cash. Some items can be exceptionally lucrative, such as the latest phones and games consoles that aren’t available back home, and sell for massive margins.

Technically, you need to declare any items that you have purchased over customs limits. Some flight attendants do, some flight attendants don’t. Some take it to a whole new level, and end up in jail.

Recycling” used uniform

Spice level
7/10

Cabin crew selling used shoes and stockings

One of the downsides to being on your feet all day as a flight attendant — the number of shoes and tights you go through. I think my record is laddering 3 tights in one trip!

It can be a costly expense, but some cabin crew flip this expense around. Shoes and tights can become one of the most lucrative ways flight attendants make extra money.

It turns out, there is a thriving market for used cabin crew stockings! I know, my eyes were opened when I entered this industry too. And it’s not just stockings, people also purchase used cabin crew shoes. Unsurprisingly, used pilot uniform doesn’t seem to have the same appeal.

But I think because of Covid, more and more cabin crew are trying to make money on the side. People have been selling shoes and tights for years.

British cabin crew insider — Dailymail

But — here’s the unbelievable bit — they often pay MORE money than new tights and shoes cost. Not only do some flight attendants get an unlimited supply of tights, they profit of every pair.

At every commercial airline I’ve worked for — apart from the private jets — there was somebody who knew somebody, that was interested in buying any used crew shoes. They are not fussy either. It doesn’t matter what size, and they don’t even want you to go to the hassle of washing them beforehand.

Obviously, I’m not sure why there is such a demand for these used clothes…

…It’s probably better not to think about it.

Do the airlines take a dim view of it? Yes, they do.

Cashing the upgrades

Spice level
8/10

Selling upgrades and discounted staff travel tickets with coffee

This next method is really upping the spice factor. Plenty of flight attendants get fired — 37 in one go from United Airlines — but that doesn’t stop it from being quite a common way for flight attendants to make extra money.

One of the perks of the job is discounted travel. Normally, anywhere between 3 months and 2 years into a flying, career cabin crew will receive access to discounted travel schemes known as Staff Travel.

Staff travel varies from airline to airline, but some have the ability to add a close family member or friend to their staff travel tickets, enabling them cheaper tickets and upgrades:

  • Some flight attendants sell access to their discounted staff travel to frequent flyers, who will pay a monthly fee to be added to their discount list.
  • I know of many colleagues with pretend stepmoms, and stepdads, people with different surnames but occupying their immediate family travel list!
  • Some flight attendants take this further, by selling cheap standby tickets at high prices, and promising upgrades to expensive business class seats — achieved through texting friends onboard.

When it works this can be very lucrative, however it is risky. As anyone who has used staff travel before will tell you, staff tickets are often only on a standby basis. So, if the expensive seats fill up, the promised upgrade will not materialise.

This is how the extra cash ends, normally by someone expecting an upgrade but ended up on a jump seat! Before long they are demanding the upgrade they have paid for and loudly announcing they’ve paid the flight attendant for it.

The hotel room resell

Spice level
10/10

Flight attendant hotel rooms

Finally, one of the craziest (and potentially most lucrative) ways that flight attendants make extra money is by reselling their hotel rooms.

Saving the spiciest method for last, this last trick for flight attendants to make extra cash, has a huge amount of potential to go wrong, but is absolutely ingenious!

Full disclaimer, I found out about this method through a disciplinary proceeding — nobody tells you anything as a Senior Crew! — but I did have to smile at how clever this was.

Hotel room prices fluctuate massively throughout the year, depending on local events. But airline crew stay in the same place — it’s too much hassle to keep moving, and airlines pay long-term contracts in advance. As a result, if the hotel room the airline have paid for you to stay in happens to be by a major event or at an expensive time, it could be worth thousands of pounds a night.

Some flight attendants who have a trip when prices are high — say a hotel in a city hosting a World Cup, Super Bowl, or Olympic Games — pre-arrange to share one of their rooms together.

How it works:

  • Checking into both rooms
  • Agreeing to stay together in only one room
  • Reselling the spare room on the internet
  • Splitting the cash

Obviously, the potential for something to go wrong is huge. What if the plane diverts or is really late, and you don’t check in on time to meet the buyer? Or, if the person you’ve resold the room to racks up a massive bill on your card? Or the hotel, or airline, find out?

But as they say, sometimes the rewards are worth the risk!

Summary

So, there you have it! Five crazy ways that flight attendants make extra money. If you’re looking for some creative ways to make some extra cash, you could try one (or all!) of these methods.

Disclaimer: Once again, I wouldn’t recommend you attempt the spicier methods on this list, as most airlines prohibit all of them. But, they make for interesting stories, and I know quite a few FAs who have made a lot of cash in a very short amount of time.

You might be surprised at how much money you can make, or how quickly you’ll get fired!

If you’ve heard of even more inventive ways cabin crew make extra cash, I’d love to hear them.

-Alissa

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Alissa
Alissa

Flyingbynumber’s Resident Senior Flight Attendant — Alissa

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