Thinking about working as a flight attendant for Southwest? I’m sure one of the first questions that comes to mind is, how much will I get paid?
Understanding the compensation structure is an important aspect of any career decision, and the aviation industry is no exception.
I’m a Southwest flight attendant and in this article, I’ll provide you with a detailed overview of the remuneration package for Southwest flight attendants. I’ll examine all the factors that contribute to the pay, leaving no detail unexplored.
So, if you’re considering a flight attendant career with Southwest, this information is a must-read.
Table of Contents
How Much Do Southwest Airlines Flight Attendants Make?
Southwest flight attendants typically earn an average of $30-35k in their first year of service, which is more or less $2,500 per month after taxes. However, their pay increases significantly after reaching certain milestones, such as completing the one-year probationary period and reaching five years of service. At the “topped out” pay rate, a senior flight attendant with 13 years of experience can earn $65k per year or more. There are also smaller raises that occur every year on each employee’s hire date.
However, this calculation isn’t as precise as that for typical hourly or salaried positions.
There isn’t just one type of pay.
A flight attendant at Southwest can receive multiple types of pay including inflight pay (getting paid when the main cabin door is closed), per diem (getting paid while we snooze), holiday pay, bonuses, and scheduling modifications aka ‘duty rigs’ (what the heck?)
Sounds complicated? I’ll explain.
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Factors That Affect a Southwest Flight Attendant’s Salary
Let’s go over some of the different types of pay rates…
1. Flying pay
Southwest Airlines uses a pay scale table to determine the hourly rate for flight attendants.
The pay that flight attendants receive for flying is counted only when the plane doors are closed. This means that the boarding process, for instance, is not included in the paid time.
For a first-year flight attendant, the hourly rate starts at $25.14. This rate gradually increases with years of service, with a senior flight attendant who has been with the company for 13 years earning $63.30 per hour.
As an example, I, with 5 years of service, currently earn an hourly rate of $39.92.
The contractual minimum credit that an assigned trip can be worth is 19.5.
In other words, 19.5 x our hourly rate = how much the trip is worth in pay.
19.5 is the minimum, most trips pay more than 19.5
2. Per diem
A small hourly rate that is always in effect while on duty to cover meals, whether a flight attendant is sleeping in their hotel or lounging at the beach in Fort Lauderdale.
Southwest Airlines Flight Attendant Per Diem layover allowance is $2.30 for domestic flying and $2.80 for International flying.
Let’s see an example:
If per diem is $2.30 for domestic flying: 2.30 x 50 hours away from base = $115
💡 Pro tip #1: Meal prep your own food from home to avoid those $27 salads at the pricier airports – I’m looking at you, LAX.
3. Deadhead pay
Another way to catch some paid Z’s.
Sometimes the airline will send a flight attendant on a plane as a passenger for the sake of repositioning them to work a flight that starts from a different city.
This is paid at a regular working flight time rate and yes, we can and do nap (and sometimes even snore)😴😆
4. Trip Hour Ratio (THR)
Flight attendants receive 1 hour of pay for every 3 hours away from their base – meaning report to release.
This is already calculated into the original trip credit, but it also guarantees that we still make money during unpredicted extended ground delays while on duty but not in flight.
5. ‘A position’ pay
For those who love to be in the spotlight, the ‘A position’ is perfect for them!
This flight attendant works up at the front of the aircraft. Their cheery face is the first one to greet the passengers as they board the aircraft.
This flight attendant is also tasked with extra duties such as assisting disabled and special needs passengers, handling unaccompanied minor procedures, and delivering important safety announcements to the passengers (this is sometimes the “funny” flight attendant with all the jokes you see in the internet videos).
Needless to say, this position deserves a little extra for their hard work and comedic skill, so an extra $2 is tacked into their hourly inflight pay rate.
6. Reserve (on call) guarantee
72 hours per month or 6.0 per day. This is the contractual minimum rate of pay for flight attendants on reserve, but the company can assign up to 102 hours per month.
7. Time and a half
This pay rate is sometimes applied to trips by the company when they need to find extra coverage.
8. Double time
Working past 12 hours (it does happen.) This is also the holiday pay rate.
Flight attendants received double time pay for Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Day, and New Years Eve.
And as a bonus for working on the holiday, our hotels offer a big, free holiday dinner for working crew members.
The best part? No washing dishes!
9. Triple time
Working past 16 hours (yikes)😬
10. Quadruple time
😜 Kidding, this isn’t one of them, and we probably wouldn’t want to know the nightmare of a circumstance it would take to get it…
11. Duty Rig: minimum pay rule example
So, now we know how we get paid when things go smoothly. But, what about when the unexpected happens?
This is a good time to jump into that duty rig topic I mentioned earlier.
A duty rig is the ‘minimum pay rule’.
So, what does that mean exactly?
A duty rig is a contractual agreement that ensures a flight attendant receives a minimum rate of pay for their time when irregular operations occur, or to prevent their pay from falling below a contractually agreed minimum rate. It serves as a form of protection for flight attendants to guarantee they receive fair compensation for their work.
There are lots of different types of duty rigs, but here is one example:
Imagine you’re in Detroit on your last leg of a trip, ready to get home and cuddle with Fluffy while binge watching your latest Netflix obsession, when suddenly, boom – Mother Earth sends down a nasty impromptu thunderstorm, your flight cancels, and now you’re stranded in Detroit, your home away from home for the night.
In this situation, the following duty rig kicks in:
The flight attendant will receive their pay at 1.5 times the rate for all trips flown above schedule AND an extra 1 hour of credit for every 3 hours spent away from home.
12. Sick Pay
What about when we’re feeling a little sniffly?
Thankfully, we probably have some sick pay in the bank to cover our time off. The accrual rate is 1 hour of sick pay for every 10 hours flown each month.
For the lucky ones who made it through the month of December without calling in sick, flight attendants receive 1.5 times the normal rate of sick pay accrual.
As you can tell, there are so many factors in play that it’s tricky to pin down the exact pay of a SouthWest Flight Attendant. But here’s the cool part: you have a lot of control over your earnings.
If you’re up for it, you can grab more flights to pocket some extra cash.
Southwest Flight Attendant Salary Breakdown Example
Okay, let’s math!
Here’s an example of my pay rate in a given month, as I am at $39.92 with 5 years of service at Southwest:
My trip is worth 19.50 (the minimum a trip can possibly be worth when assigned by the company), and the entire time on duty for the trip is 26.10
$39.92 x 19.50 = $778.44
Now we add the per diem at $2.15 per hour: 26.10 x $2.15 = $56.11
Total pay for the entire 3-day trip: $834.55
Now just for fun, let’s pretend the company is offering that 1.5x rate pay I mentioned.
Now, the trip pay jumps to: $1,223.66
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Other Benefits of Being a Southwest Flight Attendant
You might also be wondering about retirement perks, as this is an important topic when it comes to financial planning in the long term.
Southwest offers strong retirement benefits, such as a 401k flight attendants can elect to put 1-50% of their compensation into from their paycheck, with a company dollar-for-dollar match up to a generous 9.3%.
➡️ Profit sharing plan
Profit-sharing bonuses are also distributed annually, where the company contributes a percentage of their profit into a collective trust fund for eligible flight attendants who have worked at least 1,000 of service during the plan year.
➡️ SouthWest Airlines Gratitude (SWAG)
One thing about Southwest, the company loves to show off their SWAG.
That is, Southwest Airlines Gratitude!
The company SWAG program is an employee recognition tool that allows employees to earn points and exchange them for various rewards such as gift cards and goodies that can be found in an online award catalogue.
➡️ Travel Rewards Program
Additionally, through the Travel Rewards program, flight attendants also have the option to receive annual Rapid Rewards points or quarterly guest passes to gift free flights to their friends.
But shh, don’t tell everyone we get these, or else old “friends” start to pop up out of the woodwork, if you know what I mean.
➡️ Vacation pay
Speaking of travel, let’s not forget about the most fun type of pay – vacation pay! We love vacations.
All flight attendants receive vacation time, but the amount of vacation per year is based on seniority.
Junior flight attendants receive 2 weeks of paid vacation at 1-4 years of service, 3 weeks of vacation at 5-9 years, 4 weeks of vacation at 10-17 years, and a whopping 35 days of vacation at 18 years or more for those senior mamas and daddies out there!
💡 Get ready for hot tip #2, this one is really for the go-getters:
Once our trips are pulled for pay during our vacation time, we can either take the paid free time to jet set off to Paris to finally meet that suave, European partner of our dreams, or we can pick up trips right over the ones that were pulled and basically receive a double paycheck! Life is full of tough choices.
Do Southwest Flight Attendants Get Paid Weekly, Bi-Weekly or Monthly?
Technically, Southwest Flight Attendants only get paid once a month – on the 20th.
However, the company offers an advance to those of us who are less than skilled at budgeting for one paycheck a month (guilty).
The advance occurs on the 5th and is $1,200 before taxes for first-year flight attendants, and increases by $150 each year on the anniversary of our hire date.
When the advance is taken, the remainder is paid out on the 20th.
Conclusion: How Much Do Southwest Flight Attendants Make?
Remember, even though a Southwest flight attendant makes anywhere between $30-65k depending on their years of service to the company, there are many options for us to earn above our basic hourly rate from bonuses, scheduling modifications, and different rates of pay.
We can even just pick up extra flying on our days off! Considering the sheer volume of flight attendants who work for the company (approximately 19-20k), there is always extra work to snag, so a flight attendant can usually max out those hours for that fatter paycheck.
What better way to save up to use those sweet flight benefits for a relaxing vacation in Aruba! Did I mention we love vacations?