A look at the pros and cons of being a flight attendant

Pros and Cons of Being a Flight Attendant: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Working as a flight attendant definitely has its ups and downs — often literally! You get to travel the world, see new places, and meet interesting people. But, it can also be tough on your health, relationships, and lifestyle.

In this article, we will take a look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a flight attendant! So if you’re uncertain if this career is for you, we’ll provide a list of the pros and cons to consider.

What are you covering?
Ever heard the phrase, “do you want the good news or the bad news?” Well, I always like to get the bad news out of the way first, so we’ll start with the cons of being a flight attendant.
But don’t give up halfway – in the second half of the article, I’ll explain why I still love my job over two decades later!

5 cons to being a flight attendant

Living out of a suitcase

We’re not just talking when flight attendants are travelling. Often flight attendants start their career in house shares, or living with their parents, and commuting long distances to work. This is due to a combination of high cost of housing near major international airports, low starting salaries and unstable rostering.

With the constant travel whilst at work, if you’re not careful, it’s easy to end up living out of your suitcase (or carry-on bag) and never really having a place to call home. Nomadic, or exhausting? I’d argue the latter!

Jet lag

If you’ve ever flown long distance, you know how tough it can be to adjust to a new time zone. Regularly, it takes a few days after you get back from a long trip to feel “normal” again. Now imagine doing that multiple times a week!

It’s tough on your body, and a bad run of trips can screw up your sleep schedule for days or even weeks at a time. This can be particularly frustrating when trying to keep a normal routine away from work. On days off, it’s not uncommon for crew to be falling asleep at 11am in the morning, or wide away at 3am!

Tired flight attendant
Cabin crew with two suitcases
Couple on a beach

Relationship issues

It can be tough to maintain a relationship when you’re constantly flying around the world — we’ve even written an in-depth guide to the pitfalls of dating a flight attendant. What many flight attendants find out, is that while flying is marketed as a glamorous and sexy career, the reality can be entirely different.

The time differences make it difficult to stay in touch, and you can often be away for days or even weeks at a time. Pair these communication difficulties with the nights in foreign hotels, and rumours of affairs once abroad, and you need a very understanding partner.

Health problems

Despite investment into modern aircraft — which typically have lower cabin pressure, higher humidity and larger windows — constant travel isn’t particularly healthy.

It’s not frequently talked about, but the realities of life as a flight attendant involve dry skin, poor sleep, and considerable exposure to colds and other illnesses.

This is coupled with the jet lag, and difficulty eating healthy food whilst away in hotels or on long flights. As a result, staying in shape, and keeping fit and healthy while working as cabin crew is hard work.

Career instability

Arguably the biggest con to being a flight attendant: the airline industry is notoriously unstable.

Highly seasonal demand, low profit margins, and giant overheads mean that the airline industry can be a wild ride — and flight attendants are often the first to feel the effects of cutbacks and layoffs.

Unlike many careers, flight attendants at many airlines work under a seniority-based system. Essentially, the longer you’ve been employed, the less likely you are to be laid off. However, that means that flight attendants who join at a bad time can be bounced around several airlines, never gaining any seniority. So if job security is important to you, this may not be the career for you.

4 pros of being a flight attendant

Now that we’ve got the bad news out of the way, let’s take a look at the good news. Because if you can deal with the downsides, I truly believe being a flight attendant is one of the best jobs in the world! 

Icelandic volcano eruption and ash cloud
Pile of foreign currency coins
Backstage view from large concert

The pay

While flight attendants don’t make a ton of money, the salary is often enough to cover your basic living expenses. But it’s not really about your basic salary. Flight attendants get paid similarly to pilots, with the number of hours flown contributing to flying allowances and subsistence allowances.

Combined with lucrative overtime payments, these allowances can really add up. In fact, in the USA, being a flight attendant is ranked the fourth highest-paid job without a degree! When you factor in the free travel benefits, the money is pretty good.

The travel

This is probably the most obvious benefit, but it’s also one of the best. As a flight attendant, you’ll get to see places you never would have dreamed of seeing. And best of all, you can often do it for free (or at a very discounted rate).

Outside of work, the industry also enables access to vacations your salary might not otherwise stretch to. Most airlines offer free or discounted tickets for flight attendants and their families, so you can explore the world to your heart’s content.

Once in a lifetime stories

If you have a love of spontaneity, this is definitely the job for you. While crew life is not always easy — we saw some 5 cons of being a flight attendant above — if you stick it out, there are some moments that you’ll never forget.

Looking back at my career, there have been many highlights:

  • I’ve looked after international superstars on their way to sold-out concerts, and been personally invited backstage to watch their performances.
  • Some airlines often perform rescue flights with volunteer cabin crew, helping to repatriate countries citizens stranded after natural disasters.
  • Once, I even got stuck on a small European island with 5 colleagues for 9 days during the ash cloud disruption!

OK, there are plenty of tired moments in between, but this job can expose you to experiences that will stay with you for a lifetime.

The people

Flight attendants normally fall into a narrow range of personalities, we’re people pleasers and usually socially outgoing. In this job, you’ll meet all kinds of interesting people from all over the world, both passengers, and fellow flight attendants.

Being an FA is a great job for networking, but also for socialising with likeminded and adventurous personalities. And, if you’re lucky, you might even make a few lifelong friends along the way!

FA Pros and cons summary

So, there you have it: the good, the bad, and the ugly of being a flight attendant. I hope this article has helped you make a decision about whether this is the right career for you.

It’s not an easy job, but if you can handle the downsides, it can be an incredibly rewarding career. So if you’re up for the challenge, I say go for it. You might just love it as much as I do.



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Flyingbynumber’s Resident Senior Flight Attendant — Alissa

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