If you want to become a flight attendant, you might be wondering how flight attendants get paid.

While how flight attendants get paid can vary by airline, flight attendants will either get paid an hourly rate, a base salary, or on a trips for pay (TFP) basis.

Flight attendants also get paid a per diem rate that covers any expenses associated with layovers.

How Flight Attendants Get Paid


A few major airlines, including Delta, United and American Airlines, pay their flight attendants an hourly rate.

The hourly rate begins when the aircraft door closes to when it reopens. This is known as the “block time.”

This means that flight attendants are not paid for the time spent in the terminal before the flight, which sounds reasonable enough.

However, this also means that flights attendants are not paid for doing security and safety checks on board, as well as boarding and deplaning, which any reasonable person would consider work.

While how much flight attendants are paid an hour can vary by airline and seniority, a flight attendant working for a major airline can expect to be paid $25-30 per hour.

The most senior flight attendants can earn $55-60 an hour.

Base Salary

Some airlines, though typically not U.S. carriers, provide their flight attendants with a base salary.

This can range from $40,000 to $70,000 a year.

Trips for Pay (TFP)

Some airlines, including Alaska Airlines and Southwest, use a more complex system to work out how much to pay their flight attendants.

Generally, a flight attendant will earn 1.0 TFP for any flight that is 243 miles or less.

If the flight is longer than 243 miles, an additional 0.1 TFP is earned per 40 extra miles flown.

Per Diem

Per diem is the compensation that flight attendants receive for every hour they are away from their base.

This is a tax-free allowance that covers expenses like food.

Some airlines have an hourly per diem, while others give their flight attendants cash in hand or a charge card, though this is less common.

The hourly per diem rate usually starts from the time the plane’s door closes in a flight attendant’s base city right up until the door is opened again once they return to that city.

The per diem rate is often in the region of around $2.50, and is paid out with the flight attendant’s regular paycheck.

A charge card or cash in hand is based on the average cost of living, incidentals, and length of stay in the city.

Extra Pay

Flight attendants can receive additional pay that is paid hourly under certain conditions and circumstances.

A flight attendant may get paid extra if they speak another language, for international flights, and night flights.

Flight Attendants Don’t Get Paid During Boarding

It may surprise you to learn that many airlines do not pay their flight attendants when the flight is boarding.

This is even though flight attendants are actively working by performing crucial job-related safety and customer service duties when the plane boards.

It is only once the plane’s door closes and the flight starts to take off that flight attendants start to get paid.

In the USA, Delta has recently become the first domestic airline to pay their flight attendants during the boarding process.

It’s likely that other airlines will follow suit in the coming years.

Flight Attendants Don’t Get Paid for Layovers

On a long enough layover, flight attendants can get to enjoy and explore the city they are in, while also staying in a hotel for free, but they do not get paid.

Flight attendants do, however, receive a per diem rate that is tax-free and can be used for the expenses associated with the layover, such as buying food.

Neither When Flights Are Delayed Either

If a flight is delayed, flight attendants will not get paid for those hours unless the door of the aircraft has been closed.

However, if there is a significant delay, flight attendants will usually get paid for these hours, though not at their normal rate.

Number of Hours Flight Attendants Work a Day/Month/Year


Flight attendants can work between 12 and 14 hours a day.


In a month, flight attendants can work between 125 and 150 hours.

This involves between 75 and 100 hours in the air working, and 50 hours on the ground performing duties like preparing planes for passengers, writing reports, and waiting for planes to arrive.

However, remember that flight attendants are only paid once the aircraft door is closed, so the work spent on the ground is unpaid.


Flight attendants work approximately 900 to 1200 hours a year.

Patricia is a senior flight attendant with over 20 years of experience working for a major U.S. airline, primarily on international long haul flights.
Patricia is passionate about sharing her knowledge and expertise about the unique lives flight attendants lead, offers valuable insights on what it takes to become a flight attendant and what the job entails.
Patricia has been quoted or mentioned in major publications, including Newsweek.