The Flight Attendant Lifestyle

Whether you’re looking in the newspaper, watching your local news, or picking up a magazine it seems everywhere you look nowadays you’re finding something related to a flight attendant.

The media only started reporting about flight attendants and the various issues we face after Mr. Slater opened the door to realization that our jobs aren’t always easy. But whose job is easy all of the time? The usual push-back from the public has been “if you’re not happy in your job.. then quit.” Realistically, we’re in a recession and quitting a job that pays a livable wage isn’t very smart– and if you’ve ever spoken to a flight attendant you would find out that it’s hard to quit this job. Most people who do regret it or always consider coming back to it.

Why? Why do so many people have a hard time leaving this job when on an almost daily basis they’re getting yelled at, blamed for situations out of their control, delayed and not getting paid? It’s simple. Being a flight attendant isn’t a job. It’s a lifestyle.

Hear me out: when you get hired as a flight attendant (at most airlines) you’re placed through the company’s training program and when you graduate you become a “reserve” flight attendant. Reserves are “on-call” flight attendants that are used to cover sick calls, delays, cancellations, missed connections of other crew members and under staffed flights.  Airlines keep a certain percentage at the bottom of the seniority list on reserve. Reserves, for the most part, have no life. They are property of the airline until their seniority has risen to the point that they surpass the percentage of the seniority list that must sit reserve. I say that reserves have no life (generally) because they usually have less days off than a schedule holding flight attendant, they have no say in what cities they fly to, on what days, with who they fly with and when they get home. They also must always remain within close proximity to the airport in the event crew scheduling calls with an assignment for them. But I promise you, once you get passed reserve– this job becomes heaven.

Once you are senior enough to get off of reserve you become a “line holder.” A line holder is a flight attendant that gets to bid (based on seniority) for their monthly schedule of flights. This schedule bid can have preferences for specific crew members to work with (working with friends is always a lot more fun!), as well as requests for specific days off. Generally speaking, it’s not uncommon for a flight attendant to have roughly 15 days off a month. Line holders also have the flexibility to alter their schedule during any given month. They can drop, add, and swap flights to and from their schedule, as long as reserve staffing permits, making the job extremely flexible. Imagine deciding tonight that you don’t want to work tomorrow, or say, for the rest of the week; so you log into a web-based computer program and just “drop” your shift for the next 3 days. It’s pretty nice. No questions asked.

Extra Cabin Jumpseat

In addition to 15 days off a month and the increased flexibility comes vacation time and personal days which is a great time to use one of the best benefits of my job, your flight benefits. Every airline employee receives flight benefits on their own airline and reduced fares (commonly known as ZED fares – “zonal employee discount”) on other airlines but only flight attendants and pilots are afforded “jumpseat” agreements. Most aircraft have more jump seats installed then working crewmembers (in the flight deck and in the cabin), so, some airlines offer other airline flight attendants the use of the extra cabin jump seat if there are no cabin seats left. Additionally, if there are cabin seats left, you can still use your “jump seat” policy to occupy a cabin seat and fly for free on an airline other than the one you work for. In fact, I did just that this past weekend to spend time in San Diego for my birthday with friends. I had just ended a block of flying, ran over to an airline which offered us a jump seat agreement and was on my way to San Diego, for free.

Putting all of this together makes you realize why flight attendants love what they do and why it’s worth, sometimes, putting up with stresses of the job.

With seniority comes  a great schedule, maximum days off, ultimate flexibility, vacation time, personal days, and flight benefits. I said earlier that being a flight attendant is more of a lifestyle than a job, because it truly is. I cannot imagine quitting my job and sitting behind a desk everyday from 9 to 5 for 5 days a week. Because of my seniority, the most I’ll work in a week is 4 days unless I’m trying to get a week off later in the month, in which I’ll work 5 or 6. The benefits do come with the trade off of working more hours than you’re being paid for (example: on duty for 10 hours because of a delay, but only getting paid the 6 hours for a flight. Remember, flight attendant’s are only paid when the door closes), dealing with tough customer situations in a confined space for a set period of time, flip flopping time zones, long periods of time on your feet and short layovers with little sleep before waking up the next morning and doing it all over again.

I think the benefit of having half a month off every month is worth it. What do you think?


Bobby Laurie

Bobby Laurie, author of the book Planely Speaking and television travel correspondent, currently works as a Flight Attendant at a low-cost airline and as a freelance journalist. After graduating from the Pennsylvania College of Technology with a degree in Mass Media Communication, Bobby combined his passion for both journalism and travel by writing about the travel industry through his insider knowledge and personal experiences. You can read Bobby's blog about being a flight attendant and the airline industry by visiting


  1. 4 years ago

    I think the job sounds pretty good. But certainly not for everyone.
    To those who say, if you don’t like it quit. I say – is everything perfect about your job? I don’t know anyone who loves every aspect of their job, it doesn’t mean they should quit.

  2. 4 years ago

    this is a very interesting insight and I thank you for it as I am thinking of a change of cheer justnow and this is one of my options especially with the days of but I dont know if I could hack being a reserve for verey long but we will see


  3. 4 years ago

    “If you don’t like it, quit.” Hmm, what is wrong with discussing the negative points and trying to improve them? I like the work I do, but I don’t like the way the company makes us work all hours because we are a “global” company.

    If people just treated each other with a shred of decency most of the time, a lot of the problems would essentially go away. If management didn’t see the customers as “ATMs” by charging a fee for everything, maybe some of the less controllable things like delays would be more tolerable.

  4. 4 years ago

    Sorry I couln’t do it. I will stick to my call center customer service job

  5. 4 years ago
    Andi LoveTalk

    I just applied for a few Flight Attendant jobs last and this week. I currently work a 9-5 job but I have experience with customer service…. I’m know I will be a great Flight Attendant because I have the personality, patients and work ethic. I’m just waiting for the right Airline to bite!

    Wish Me Luck!


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