Flight attendant work hours are definitely not nine to five.
Go to work in the morning, come home for dinner with family then do it all over again the next day until the weekend when you can enjoy your days off.
It’s a very complicated compromise of what you are willing and able to do, what the airline requires, and what regulating government agencies have to say…
What Determines How Much a Flight Attendant Works?
Three factors: the Government, the Airline, and the Individual.
1) The Government
The airline industry is heavily regulated by governments to ensure the safety of the people.
This includes not only the safety of the people onboard, passengers and working crew, but even the people on the ground.
Airplane crashes due to whatever reasons, can have fatal and devastating consequences when it crashes into the wrong area.
Fun fact: Did you know that LEGALLY pilots have to eat two different types of menu while working in the cockpit so that if one gets sick from the food, the other will be okay?
Because safety is such a big concern, the government mandates the maximum hours both pilots and flight attendants can work so that we can function at our very best.
2) The Airlines
Compliance with government regulations is a must for airlines (or they could get sued and fined), but within the boundaries of regulations, they have their own set of policies to determine flight attendant work hours.
For example, because flight attendants are also people, they want to work less during holiday and summer seasons to spend time with their families and work more during off-season.
This is quite unrealistic for the airlines because holiday and summer seasons are peak travel seasons when they have the most flights operating and need more flight attendants.
Different airlines approach this issue in various ways: American Airlines has a mandatory “hard 40” which means that flight attendants are required to put 40 flight hours in a month.
3) The individual
After complying with government and airline regulations and policies, the individual flight attendant has the ability to determine how much or how little they would like to fly.
This ability is greatly reduced working for Asian or Middle East carriers because the airlines have an upper hand when setting policies, especially due to the extreme competition to become a flight attendant, but in the Western culture, one of the best qualities of being a flight attendant is the flexibility.
Like the example of American Airlines, you are free to work the minimum of 40 hours a month or the maximum within the boundaries of regulation (rumor has it the record is around 250 hours).
How Many Hours Do Flight Attendants Work in a Day?
This is determined by the work limitation regulated by the government and the operating schedule set by the airline.
For example, flight attendants based in New Zealand have a maximum working hour of 12.
If they go over 12 hours, they are automatically taken off work the next day.
There is also the difference between long haul and short haul flights.
As the name implies, long hauls are long flights, usually over 6 hours, and short hauls are short, usually under 6 hours.
Work hour regulation for long hauls are up to 16 hours while short hauls are between 12 to 15 hours, depending on your start time in the US.
The airlines schedule the flight attendants to work less than the daily maximum in order to give themselves cushion in case work day becomes longer due to delays and such.
It also depends on the destination and the number of flights the airline has arriving and departing from that specific airport: You can work 5 more hours but there is no flight departing in the next few hours… go to the hotel and rest!
Do Flight Attendants Fly Every Day?
According to Skybrary, Europe mandates that the total duty period to which a crew member may be assigned shall not exceed: 60 duty hours in any 7 consecutive days, 110 duty hours in any 14 consecutive days, and 190 duty hours in any 28 consecutive days, spread as evenly as practicable throughout that period.
If 10 to 12 duty hours is the average, then this regulation leaves a lot of days off for the flight attendant to enjoy however they want.
It changes every month but it can be somewhere between 12 to 18 flying days per month for a flight attendant in Europe.
In the US, 24 hours off after working 6 days is the rule, so you can work every single day if you wish to: come back from a trip at 5 pm then start another trip after 25 hours at 6pm.
These 24 hours can also be counted on a long layover so you can go back to work right after you come back.
How Many Hours Do Flight Attendants Work in a Week?
Depending on the region and the airline, a flight attendant can be a very flexible career.
In the US, as long as there are flight attendants in the airplane who are legally and willingly able to work, the airline doesn’t care who is on the flight.
This means that trips can be given to flight attendants who want to work more hours by the flight attendants who would like to work less and trips can be traded among them to fit more to their schedule.
It is definitely not a 9-5, 40 hours a week job.
Some flight attendants choose to cram all their working hours to a few days or weeks and get their work hours in and have a long stretch of days off while some choose to work a few days a week.
Also, even though there are some trips that are done in a day and you get to come home the same day, most trips are multiday affairs.
Flight attendants working means gone days at a time so comparing the job to a normal 5-day work day doesn’t equal the same amount of work put in.
How Many Hours Do Flight Attendants Work in a Month?
It’s stated above that the airline cannot assign more than 190 duty hours in a consecutive 28 days.
If the airline assigns me a 180 duty hours, working 10 hours for 18 days, then I must be making a lot of money!
Duty hour is work hour starting when you sign in and begin your trip for the day until about when the last of the passengers deplane for the day.
It includes boarding time, waiting time between landing and takeoff for the next flight, and deplaning time.
Unfortunately, most airlines pay by flight time: the time spent in the airplane with the doors closed.
Your duty day can be 10 hours but if you have a long sit time between flights, staying in the airplane with the doors closed for only 6 hours, it means you only get paid for 6 hours… sorry.
How Many Days Off Do Flight Attendants Get in a Month?
This greatly depends on the airline and the individual flight attendant.
- If you’re a flight attendant for Emirates, you get minimum 9 days off a month, not including vacation time.
- If you’re a reserve flight attendant for United Airlines, you get 12 days off a month.
The difference between a line (monthly scheduled) flight attendant and a reserve flight attendant at United Airlines is that they have a straight reserve system…
It means that until you reach a certain seniority at your base, you will be serving reserve, getting your 12 days a month no matter what.
However, if you’re a flight attendant who can hold a line, then your schedule becomes more flexible to have more days off.
- If you need to go to a wedding and would like to have 3 more days off, you can simply get more time off by giving away your trip to a willing taker.
- If you’re a mom who would like to work only 3 days a week? If you’re senior enough to hold a line and drop your trips, you could!
Conclusion: So, How Many Hours Do Flight Attendants Really Work?
It’s not so simple to answer how many hours a flight attendant works.
A huge portion is regulated by the government to limit working hours to a reasonable and safe medium, while the airlines would like to have policies to maximize their employee work output, and the individual flight attendant wants what is best for their lifestyle, whether to make as much money as they can or to work the least amount of hours to do something else.
While it is not easy navigating all these needs, if the mundane 9 to 5 lifestyle is not for you, flight attendant work hours just might be what you need.