Is Being a Flight Attendant Still Worth It?

Being a flight attendant can be a passport to seeing the world. But between air rage and pay disputes, do the benefits still outweigh the drawbacks?

Flight attendant from behind conducting a preflight safety briefing

What’s so great about being a flight attendant any more?


One of the biggest allures of being a flight attendant is having the opportunity to travel the world while getting paid. However, working in the aviation industry is not without its challenges. Recent years have highlighted issues like increased incidents of air rage during the COVID-19 pandemic and labor disputes, as most U.S. flight attendants get paid only once the airplane door closes—not during the boarding process—regardless of flight delays.

Despite these hurdles, is becoming a flight attendant still a desirable career option for travel lovers?

According to Joclyn Palucho, a Los Angeles–based flight attendant for a major U.S. carrier, the answer is still a resounding yes.

“The fact that you’re in different cities or countries every week and seeing new places as your job is the absolute best,” says Palucho. “There is no other job like it.”

Across the world in Spain, Marta Canseco works for a European airline with bases in Spain. She shares Palucho’s sentiments, highlighting the cultural exposure and constant travel that being a flight attendant affords her—but also notes that it’s not always as glamorous as it may seem.

A view from behind of two flight attendants on a moving walkway at the airport pulling roller bags behind them

Flight attendants do get to travel, but the job can be demanding and exhausting.


Canseco explains that flight attendants who work on long-haul flights often stay at a layover destination for two to three days to get their required rest. During this time, the airlines cover their hotel expenses and give them a per diem to cover their food expenses.

While it does sound dreamy and can be an excellent way to see new places, Canseco cautions that “the reality is quite different. Cabin crew are exhausted after long flight duties, so many of them prefer to stay at the hotel, prioritizing their rest.”

Traveling for work is one thing; flight attendants have the added benefit that they can fly for free on standby (though they have to pay taxes and fees on international flights). They often also have access to discounted rates for flights, hotels, car rentals, gym memberships, and cruises through employee booking portals and websites like StaffTraveler. They can even share some of their discounted flight benefits with a partner and family members.

“Once, my sister needed to travel to San Jose, California, from Washington, D.C., for a last-minute family event,” says Palucho. “She was able to use one of my buddy passes as a standby, where you can get on the flight if there are any open seats. She was able to get on the flight and made it to San Jose on schedule.”

As flight attendants become more senior, they get more flexibility with their work schedule. Venezia Macias, a Las Vegas–based flight attendant for a domestic low-cost carrier, explains that her airline allows flight attendants to drop shifts that they don’t want once they’re off reserve (most new flight attendants have to be on call for up to a year).

“You’ll start as a reserve line, and it’s not as easy to switch or drop your reserve periods for actual trips,” Macias says. When she started out, she worked reserve shifts for months. During these times, she was on call and had to be at the airport within 90 minutes of being called in. Reserve flight attendants are guaranteed a minimum of hours paid regardless of whether they get called in. However, dropping shifts is difficult because you cannot go below the minimum monthly hours.

“Once you’re out of a reserve line, you’re able to swap and/or drop trips and have as many days off as you can without using any of your sick or vacation time,” says Macias.

For example, senior flight attendants at some airlines can arrange their schedule to have four weeks off in a row, allowing them to maximize their travel benefits.

This year, Palucho has used her flexible schedule and flight benefits to take time off and visit bucket-list destinations like Aruba, London, and Japan, with more trips to come.

What it takes to be a flight attendant

With nearly a decade of experience, Canseco says becoming a flight attendant isn’t as rigorous as it used to be. Physical standards regarding height and weight have relaxed (an Eastern Airlines job ad from the 1960s required flight attendants to be single women between 5' 2" and 5' 9" in height and weigh between 105 and 135 pounds). Now airlines focus more on attributes that impact safety, such as if a flight attendant can reach the emergency equipment. Job openings are easier to find as well, through social media, Facebook groups, and online job boards.

But don’t expect to jet off after completing the interview process.

“Our number one priority is safety,” says Palucho. “We can fight an onboard fire and evacuate hundreds of passengers in less than 90 seconds. We are trained to use CPR and first aid, and we are prepared for other medical situations. The refreshments are just the icing on the cake of the plethora of responsibilities we as flight attendants have on the job.”

Three flight attendants in an airplane aisle demonstrating how to inflate a life vest

Flight attendants undergo rigorous safety training.

Akimov Igor/Shutterstock

All this education takes time, and flight attendants in the United States are conditionally hired as long as they pass an intensive training process that includes written, verbal, and physical tests. For some airlines, the training can take up to eight weeks.

“[The training] was honestly one of the hardest things I’ve done in my life, because of the material you are learning and the testing on the material,” says Palucho, comparing it to going through a college course in 30 to 70 days. “But if you prepare yourself and study, you will get through it just fine.”

Only some people are suited for the life of a flight attendant, which demands adaptability and sociability. Canseco says that time away from home can be challenging, as flight attendants often miss important events in their personal lives.

Palucho also acknowledges the disruptive nature of the career. “At any moment of your trip, you could have a long delay or get rerouted from your original trip due to weather or aircraft issues,” she says. “It can cause a disruption in either getting home on time or getting to your hotel for adequate rest time.”

Many aviation jobs offer similar travel benefits. In fact, there is a growing demand for aviation technicians in the upcoming years. Macias says that her boyfriend is an aviation mechanic for a major U.S. carrier and that his travel benefits are even better than hers. Because of that, they often fly using his benefits rather than hers.

“Under his benefits, we went to London,” says Macias. “We flew from Denver to London, and we were upgraded to premium economy seating, but on the way back from London, we got upgraded to business class.”

She explains that her boyfriend’s airline offers the option to purchase a guaranteed seat at a discounted price, while hers does not. They’ll buy guaranteed seats if they don’t want to risk flying on standby.

Not every airline offers the same training, pay, and benefits. For example, some flight attendants don’t have overnight layovers. Their flights are round-trip, so they fly to a destination and home again later that day.

In general, for those who want to explore new destinations on and off the job, Canseco has one recommendation: Apply with one of the biggest airlines with long-haul, international flights.

Iona Brannon is a travel writer captivated by the connection between physical space and the sense of belonging. She is still searching for her “forever home.”
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