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Pay Rates for Flight Attendants: Getting into Business Aviation

You’re aware that aviation pays better than commercial, in most cases significantly better, but you’re not sure what a corporate flight attendant’s starting salary is. Pay rates differ significantly depending on the type of account, your location, your responsibilities, your expertise, and other factors.

I’ve learned throughout the years that compensation ranges aren’t fixed. Fractionals are typically less expensive than charter operators, who are less expensive than owner accounts. Does this rule have any exceptions? Sure, why not? Other circumstances, such as those discussed previously, can have a big impact on what you make. Among them are:

Responsibilities: So, how do you describe yourself? Will you be treated like a passenger who assists other passengers, or will you be required to run the entire cabin from the cockpit entrance to the back? Is there a difference in the quality of service? Yes, but there may not be in the eyes of the corporation doing the hiring. The job requirements may differ from what is specified in the job description.

It may take multiple interviews to determine whether the employer values your culinary skills, safety training, similar employment experience, and so on. Companies searching for someone with “no experience essential, will train” will typically pay less than those looking for someone who has completed their training and has flown for a number of years.

Location: Business flight attendants that work in close proximity to big urban regions earn the most money. The most heavily traveled areas for private flights are New York and Los Angeles. The two metropolitan areas create some of the most substantial volumes of business aviation flying, thanks to corporate moguls and Hollywood celebrities. If you live in Pocatello or Burlington, your prospects of getting work are slim, unless you are hired by a fractional operator who will allow you to reposition for your flight.

Experience:  The more business flight experience you have, the better off you will be. Companies should pay you based on your business flying experience, safety and security training, culinary knowledge, world languages if flying overseas, management abilities, and people skills, among other things. Some employers expect you to serve as the CEO’s personal assistant. For these new tasks, further pay should be expected.

Other considerations: How frequently will you fly? Will you be flying between cities or going on a cross-country trip? What is the average number of days in a month? How many soft days will you have every month compared to hard days? Are you going to be available for emergencies? Will you have to come into the office on your days off? When you’re not flying, would you be expected to “look after” kids, a.k.a. play nanny? Are you going to be in charge of other flight attendants?

“In comparison to commercial airlines, pay scales

in business aviation vary greatly.

Overall, the field is far more profitable

if you are willing to put forth the effort

and don’t rule out any possibilities.

So, what is the pay range? These figures are not absolute, but the U.S. salaries that I have heard for corporate flight attendants falls into three general categories. These are some generalized salary ranges:

Fractionals: 33K to 43K, with no requirement for corporate experience. These businesses will train you according to their requirements. One of the major advantages of fractional ownership is that you can live almost anywhere; at least one business will allow you to fly to meet the plane [they also let you to accumulate and keep your airline miles].

Charter: Depending on the location of the aircraft and your experience, you might earn anywhere from $45K to $75K. Much of what I’ve heard as a wage range is in the low to mid-fifties. Indeed, according to the NBAA, the average corporate flight attendant earns just over $53,000 per year, according to a recent poll.

Owner: From 25 to 100 thousand dollars and up. Let’s be honest, we’re not fooling ourselves. There are companies who will ask you to jump through hoops in exchange for peanuts [and you know they don’t offer peanuts to their passengers!] to fly on their aircraft. A chief flight attendant’s compensation, on the other hand, is likely to start at $75K and easily exceeds $90K. When you have a “VP” position and are in control of multiple flight attendants, you can expect a better income. Oh, and don’t forget that, in addition to your office tasks, you’ll be flying… guess who has to cover for sick staff when no one else is available?

100K+?! Let’s just say this sum is exceptional, however I did confirm 110K for one foreign flight attendant a few years ago. In general, don’t expect someone to tell you how much money they make… why should they?

What about a contract that involves flying? You had to inquire, right? Would you be interested if I told you that you could earn between $300 and $350 per day plus per diem? Contractors are paid in the same way as full-time flight attendants are compensated.

I’ve heard of flight attendants flying for free in order to get experience and hours [how could a corporation allow that? Okay, that was a blunder!] I’ve also heard of a flight attendant earning $600 a day when she works worldwide. Contract prices vary greatly and are determined by a variety of factors, including your location, duties, and expertise.

Self-reflection questions:

What do I have in terms of value? If you believe the work is worth $60,000 a year, you must prove it. Guess what happens if the employer insists on 35K? You won’t make anything close to $60K, and you’ll be crossed off their list, with the job going to the individual who can settle for $35K.

What will I accept as a compromise? Is it possible for me to justify a lesser compensation only to acquire some work? Will I be able to live on a reduced wage if I have flown for years and am willing to take a 20-25K pay cut? Is it possible to renegotiate my wage once I’ve been recruited [don’t make me laugh…]?

What advantages may I anticipate? When working full time, you can expect to receive medical, dental, vacation, sick/personal days, and other benefits. Other things to think about: do they pay for uniforms? Is there a stipend for wearing a uniform?

What about pay raises and job performance evaluations? Is there room for advancement? Is it possible for me to transfer to another account? Will they cover the cost of my training? What is their severance/termination policy? Is this a welcoming atmosphere for families?

Before you are interviewed, the more information you have about your requirements, goals, and desires, the higher chance you will have of being fairly compensated.

Determine what matters most to you, such as a lesser salary vs. living where I want; employment security vs. more compensation; public prominence vs. obscurity, and so on. When negotiating your next position, stay true to your principles and act on them. After you’ve received a job offer, ask yourself one final question: can I live with myself if I take this job?

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