So You Think Being A Stewardess Is All About Glamour And Stacks Of Cash?

Okay, so now that I am hopped up on anti-inflammatories, somewhat recovered from the crazy shift at my second job and am semi-ambulatory — I suppose I can finally write this noise.

Whoever said “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” can go kick rocks (sorry Neitzche). Or was it something like “What does not destroy me… yada yada yada.” The idea of Neitzche uttering the words “yada yada yada” totally makes my day, but I digress….

So in between doing 400 loads of dishes, busing numerous tables covered in dirty dishes and taking orders from a toolish manager, this post hit me. I wrote it in my head as I attempted to drown out the dreaded self-dialogue and the fact that I was probably on coffee cup number 378 at the time.

I thought it should be known just how glamorous it really is to be a flight attendant, because look at what the hell I am doing. I’m hustling my ass off at a semi-fast food chain restaurant on my day off from flying the not-always-friendly skies. Yeah, that’s right. I am a flight attendant and I can now add glorified dishwasher and busser to the resume. Oh, and I make coffee, too! I’m not exactly sure why the hell I said glorified, because I feel no glory while there, but whatevs.

I’m not looking for sympathy, pity or a pat on the back. My goal here is to share a little insight into my experience and story, as well as to educate people about the “real deal” for some of us flying you around in those extremely comfortable (HA!) large metal tubes. If in the end the following information makes a few passengers a little more patient, kind and understanding, that’s just an added bonus my colleagues and I will happily accept.

It is incredibly important for the flying public to be made aware of the amount of money that flight attendants average per year. I can’t necessarily go into specific numbers as it does vary from airline to airline (its size, your seniority, etc.), however, I can tell you that as a single mother I am currently eligible for food stamps and Medicaid. Yes, I can easily collect both because I make what the U.S. Government considers to be poverty wages. Glamorous, right? I am fairly certain that the majority of the general public is completely unaware of just how much money we don’t make.

First of all, the entire crew (pilots included) is paid an hourly wage. No salaries here kids. Second, our paid time does not start until the aircraft door is closed. Period. And please keep in mind that the door cannot be closed until every passenger is seated with his or her seatbelt on, every bag in the cabin is stowed and every bin is closed. If you are following along and doing the math you are indeed correct — the entire boarding process is unpaid work for the entire crew. The same goes for deplaning. Needless to say, we are incredibly motivated to get the hell out of there so that we can all get to our destination as safely and quickly as possible.

Kindly keep this newfound information in mind the next time you board a plane. Also, if you see a flight attendant grabbing their chest, they’re probably just having angina from the stress of knowing the money they are not making as they get you that pillow, blanket or water; address ridiculous questions; wait for you to use the lavatory; respond to your request for a meal or snack; and kindly and politely do all the other things you want them to do the instant you board the plane, all the while preventing them from performing the duties required to shut the damn door. You get the idea. For the love of God and all things holy, please wait the few minutes it takes for us to close the door and leave the ground. After that, we will do our best to get you whatever you need — with the limited tools given to us.

This pay issue is not exclusive to flight attendants either. Poverty wages also carry over to pilots. Yes, the men and women flying you around in those newfangled jet aeroplanes are making crap for pay as well. I have First Officer (co-pilot) friends flying for commercial airlines (seating up to 99 passengers) who are making $22K/year. Yes, I said twenty-two thousand dollars per year. (Please see Will Fly For Food.) Just curious, but how much does a fast food manager make? I’m guessing that it’s a lot more.

The heroic Captain Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger (Ret.) testified before the U.S. House of Representatives’s Subcommittee on Aviation of the Committee on Transportation & Infrastructure on February 24, 2009, that his salary had been cut by 40 percent, and that his pension, like most airline pensions, was terminated and replaced by a Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation worth only pennies on the dollar.

There you go, even Captain Sullenberger, who successfully landed a plane in the Hudson River, ultimately being responsible for saving every single life on board that doomed aircraft, isn’t immune from our crap pay. So hey, keep in mind that the next person taking your ticket at the movie theater, making you a sandwich, washing your car, pumping your gas, or bagging your groceries may just secretly be a flight attendant, and an extremely glamorous one at that!

(Image via Shutterstock).

Filed Under