The salary for cabin crew might surprise you!
The salary of cabin crew is something that is often asked about but rarely discussed. In general, cabin crew contracts are confidential, and that can include discussing salary. Since the pandemic, more airlines are being open about salary, but not all of them. Even when figures are revealed, the total earnings can be somewhat vague and confusing, as salary is broken down into different parts. These figures should only be used as a guideline, as salaries vary widely depending on individual airlines, countries, and airline policies.
Contracts may be offered on a temporary basis, say for 6 months. This can be to premeditate a lack of available crew at a scheduled airline or to prepare for a very busy summer season at a charter airline. Not all benefits available to full time crew will be available to contract crew. For example, things like annual leave or discounted tickets might not be included. For scheduled airlines, for example – British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Qantas or Emirates – cabin crew are usually offered a permanent, full-time contract, which will include a probation period of 6 months. Part-time contracts are rarely offered.
As a rough guide, salary is made up of different payments according to the airline. The basic salary is quite low compared to 'normal jobs,' but has variable additions. The major one is flight pay – an hourly rate for hours worked from take-off to landing, only (other duties on the ground are not part of flight pay.) This, of course, varies month to month, depending on how many flights the cabin crew work and to where they fly.
If the airline has layovers at destinations, the cabin crew receives an allowance or per diem, for nights spent away from base. This can vary depending on the destination. For example, a layover in Mombasa will earn a lot less than in Tokyo, so the allowance will reflect this. Some airlines offer a set rate per night – the cabin crew roster will dictate the crew member's earnings.
Sometimes the airlines have native-speaking cabin crew onboard their popular international routes. In this situation, a 'language of destination' payment applies. The cabin crew member will read announcements in their native language and resolve any issues onboard with passengers in their own language.
As well as this, cabin crew can earn a commission of between 5-10% of total sales onboard through duty-free items or sales of food and drink – this is shared evenly across the whole crew.
Cabin crew usually receive their basic salary a month in arrears at the end of the month, and allowances and extras are usually paid two months behind. The longer they stay with an airline, the better, as they should receive a yearly increment of up to 5% plus an annual raise after a qualifying period.
Cabin crew receive annual leave of between 14 and 30 days a year, and many airlines also offer personal or medical insurance. Pension schemes are sometimes available. Many airlines offer reduced-price tickets or staff travel on standby (if there is a seat available last minute). Cabin crew occasionally receive discounts on gym membership, restaurants, duty-free shops, and at hotels.
As the uniform is so important to the company image, the airline will normally pay for dry cleaning. In the Middle East, Emirates, Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, and Gulf Air offer their cabin crew a tax-free salary, free transport, and accommodation (shared apartments with up to 3 other crew members).
Delta Air Lines in the US has an average cabin crew salary of around $49,000 per year. British Airways has a basic salary of £16,800 ($20,400), rising to £28,000 ($34,000) with flight pay and allowances. Emirates cabin crew receive the equivalent of $31,300 annually but do receive free accommodation and transport. Low-cost airline Wizz Air in the UK has an average wage of £18,000 ($21,850) inclusive of flight pay. The average cabin crew salary in Australia is AU$55,000 ($38,400).
Writer – Patricia joins Simple Flying with over 20 years of experience in aviation. She has served as cabin crew on flights from economy-class to private jets. Patricia has a master’s level postgraduate diploma in Human Factors in Aviation and has written about aviation since 2010. Based in Dubai