Private flight attendants perform all the duties of commercial flight attendants but usually at a higher rate of pay. Like their commercial counterparts, private attendants check the aircraft doors for safety, ensure the first-aid kit is on board and assist with boarding. However, unlike commercial airline flight attendants, those who work on private jets cater more specifically to the individual needs of the passengers.
Nowhere is the distinction between commercial and private flight attendants more apparent than in the area of salary. New commercial flight attendants for major airlines can make $18 to $19 per hour. However, they are only guaranteed 80 hours of flying per month, with pay only applied to actual flight time. As a commercial attendant gains more seniority, her pay increases. The Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that commercial attendants earned a median annual wage of $37,740 in 2012. Private and corporate flight attendants net much more, earning an average of $57,000 annually, reports the job site Indeed. Those who speak multiple languages earn an even greater annual income, with figures showing an average of $60,000 a year.
Metropolitan Means Higher Pay
Private flight attendants based in states with major metropolitan areas command the highest salaries of flight attendants. For example, private flight attendants in New York earn an average of $70,000, while those in Washington, D.C., and California make $68,000 and $62,000 on average. The pay drops considerably for other regions, such as Tennessee. Private flight attendants there earn $53,000 per year, while their peers in Wyoming earn $49,000. Attendants based in Oregon and Michigan earn comparable salaries at $54,000 and $58,000 a year. Hawaii and South Dakota show the lowest annual salaries for private flight attendants at $37,000 and $43,000.
Job Expectations and Requirements
The flight attendant job market is a competitive one. Though private and commercial airlines alike require at least a high school diploma, the BLS indicates that candidates with a bachelor's degree fare better in the selection process. Customer service experience is a must, with most airlines looking for at least one to two years of prior experience in direct customer contact. Upon successful completion of training, private and commercial flight attendants receive Federal Aviation Administration certification. Private flight attendants should also have a passport. While most airlines do not require a passport at the time of application, one must be obtained upon hire. Like their commercial counterparts, private flight attendants are put through intense training for anywhere from three to six weeks depending on the carrier. (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/flight-attendants.htm#tab-4) They must pass emergency safety drills and customer service tests. A private flight attendant is also tested on the airline's aircraft fleet. She is expected to be familiar with the aircraft and how to secure the doors and overhead compartments. In addition to these duties, private attendants are required to learn how to properly administer first aid. Some airlines even train flight attendants on using defibrillators.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics indicates no projected growth for flight attendant positions for the decade spanning 2010 through 2020. However the BLS does indicate some growth in air travel, but the increase is offset by higher fuel prices and union contracts. Flight attendant hopefuls can look to smaller, regional airlines to get started, due to a slightly better opportunity for employment than major carriers. (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/transportation-and-material-moving/flight-attendants.htm#tab-6)
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Flight Attendants
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment Statistics -- Flight Attendants
- Monster: Flight Attendant Jobs
- Indeed: Private Flight Attendant Salary
- Indeed: Private Flight Attendant Salary in South Dakota and Hawaii
- Indeed: Private Flight Attendant Salary in New York and Washington, DC
- Indeed: Private Flight Attendant Salary in California and Tennessee
- Thinkstock/Stockbyte/Getty Images