An average flight attendants’ salary is about $37,740, not including the extra pay to supplement for meals and other travel expenses, and you only get paid when the cabin doors are locked, according to the most recent data available from the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
It may surprise you to learn that the airline will post new job openings for 1,500 positions next month and will plan to start hiring in December. American Airlines is trying to cut labor costs under bankruptcy protection.
The airline needs to replace some of the 2,205 flight attendants that have accepted a $40,000 buyout to leave the company — the equivalent of about a year’s salary. It’s the first time the company has hired flight attendants in 11 years.
“I’m excited to see American hiring again; it has been a long, long time. Of course, this is the downstream effect of the Voluntary Early Out Program, which we fought very hard for. Not only did it give our senior members a dignified path to retirement, but it moved everyone else up the seniority list. I’m happy to welcome our new colleagues,” APFA president Laura Glading said in a statement.
The departing flight attendants all started working before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that included the crashes of two American Airlines jets. Since then, they’ve seen their company lose more than $10 billion. In 2003 workers accepted pay cuts to keep American out of bankruptcy, then were outraged to discover that hundreds of management employees have received bonuses.
The job they’re leaving has lost the allure it had back when passengers flew in their Sunday best and received free meals in coach. It often involves long hours and responsibilities ranging from basic hosting duties to medical interventions — and even terrorism prevention.
Briefings on the buyouts were standing-room only, according to representatives of the flight attendants’ union. Sign-ups to take the offer, which were open to those with at least 15 years at the airline, ended Sept. 20. The airline currently has about 16,000 flight attendants.
American became the last of the major U.S. carriers to file for bankruptcy protection in November. The airline has since negotiated new contracts with seven of its eight unions. It’s trying to cut labor costs by $1 billion.
The new flight attendants will be paid less than their more experienced counterparts. They could also work less than the outgoing staff. Flight attendants work by the hour.