The dream of being a flight attendant may have appeared suddenly, developed out of desperation (like it did for me), or has existed in your mind for as long as your memory can remember. But, do you actually know what type of flight attendant you want to be? I recently covered the pros and cons of being a commercial flight attendant. Now, I’m following up with the pros and cons of life and work as a corporate flight attendant.
Most people automatically think “Airline cabin crew,” but did you know there are other options? Men and women have created lucrative careers and endless adventures working as flight attendants on private jets. Although a career in corporate aviation is insanely competitive and can be incredibly demanding, if you want it— if you want ANYTHING in your life— it can be yours. It won’t land in your lap without hard work, sacrifice, and a little luck, but you can be a commercial flight attendant, corporate flight attendant, or whoever the hell you want.
I can’t tell you which path is right for you— commercial aviation, corporate aviation, or pilot life— but I can give you insight into what I know. So, here are some of the pros and cons of being a corporate flight attendant.
There are so many variables and nuances to the job scope of a corporate flight attendant. Because of that, not all corporate flight attendants have freedom. I’m so lucky because I do now. It took time for me to get here, but I’m glad I stuck it out. Part of the reason I have so much freedom is because I use my digital marketing work as my base “salary,” This means, I don’t need to fly to support myself. I can come and go when I want. If I get a trip— great. If I don’t, no problem. I’m in absolute complete control of my schedule. I have so much freedom right now and that’s what I value more than anything. It’s amazing and new and an aspect of my career I’m currently reveling in completely.
Some corporate flight attendants have an INCREDIBLE amount of freedom; while others do not. They can take trips when they want and fly as many, or as few days, as they want. Generally, these types of private cabin attendants are called “contract” in the United States and “freelance” in Europe. You essentially work for yourself. Also, when I say “freedom,” I’m not referring to how it’s in very bad taste for contract corporate flight attendants to say ‘No’ to a trip. Also, fulltime corporate flight attendants can’t say no to trips and are essentially tied to their aircraft. But, if you crave freedom and the chance to determine your career destiny to a greater degree, the possibilities of corporate aviation may entice you.
Initially, the pay difference between commercial aviation and corporate aviation is what enticed me. I mean, who wouldn’t want to work five days a month (corporate) and make as much as you do in thirty days (commercial)?! It sounded so nice in theory, but the thing is, not all corporate flight attendants are paid well. Some corporate flight attendants make $35k a year, about the equivalent of commercial flight attendants. And corporate flight attendants have to work SO much harder! Although some corporate flight attendant jobs are listed as $175k a year, that is NOT the norm and you should NEVER go into this career if only for the money. Besides that, if you are a contract cabin attendant, don’t expect to fly a full schedule every month. Some months, you might get a one-day trip and other months you may get thirty days of straight flying. You just never know what you will get. Flying one day will make you $450-$650. The potential for how much you could make as a corporate flight attendant is incredible, considering it essentially takes you between $2,000-$6,000 of training to be certified. Ask a Physical therapist, with a doctorate degree, how much they spent on their education or a pilot and how much they make. Quite seriously, being a corporate flight attendant is an amazing career if you have the tenacity to hang in there when no one wants to fly you.
You really never know where you are going to go, when you are going to go, and who you are going to go with. You may have never stepped foot on that aircraft before. It’s new and exciting. This is the life of a contract corporate flight attendant, whereas a fulltime corporate flight attendant might have a LITTLE more predictability. They at least know what plane they will be on and often, jet owners have a rhythm to their travels. I’m a contract corporate flight attendant, so I don’t know when I will fly again. For a recent trip, I was called to fly any dates between the end of August and mid-sept. Between that time, the trip changed where it was going, who was going, when it was going, and how long it was going for. This unknown is so exciting for me. I loved being able to go to Copenhagen and London over and over and over again with The Airline, but this corporate flight attendant life is so incredible because the world is truly my oyster.
Commercial flight attendants often complain that they have stopped using their brain serving diet cokes and methodically going through the safety demo. Obviously, both are important, but everything is pretty much the same when you work for a commercial airline. As a corporate flight attendant, you are challenged to coordinate last minute plans, constantly communicate with your pilots, and create incredible and perfect experiences from nothing. I like the challenge to make something for clients that they are thrilled about. I like discovering how much I am capable of and learning from my mistakes. There are always new things that happen as a corporate flight attendant that require you to be engaged and use your brain. If you are bored with your private jet career, that could be an indication that you need to reinvent yourself.
I feel that as a corporate flight attendant, I am treated like a professional adult. No one is giving me a manual or doing “ramp checks” to make sure I have all of my required items. You show up on time because that’s what professionals do. You look the part because you better damn well be sure that if you don’t, there are hundreds of other girls who do. People do take you seriously and you don’t spend your time making sure your passengers buckle their seatbelts. They are professionals and so are you.
As a corporate flight attendant, you become a “solutions finder.” Never do you have impossible problems, but instead, you become insanely creative and resourceful. You learn to think quickly, out-of-the-box, and become like the clients you fly— the people who don’t ever take ‘no’ for an answer.
Half the time, you probably wonder, “How the hell did I pull that off?” but you do and no one ever knew you were challenged. Because, you show up with a new sense of confidence and sureness, because of what you have been able to overcome and how hard you have worked to get to the place you are now. In my career, I gained confidence from my job as a commercial flight attendant, but not in the way that I have as a corporate flight attendant. I’ve learned that people only know how little or how much experience I have if I tell them, so I show up with the attitude that there is no better person for the job. I would NEVER have found this type of confidence without going through the discouragements before I began flying— with being grounded for eight months and breaking my ankle. I have this tenacity and passion that only exists in those who fight and work and remain grateful for the incredible life that is opening before them. I don’t know if being a corporate flight attendant will give you this, but it truly is an irreplaceable ‘pro’ of the job.
I worked with large crews, and now I have the chance to work alone on smaller, immaculate aircraft. I liked my big crews, but it’s also nice to the one who coordinates and creates an entire flight. You are responsible and the person in charge in the cabin. You have your pilots, but it’s much more of an autonomous and independent style of flight attendant life.
You may not get free flight benefits as a corporate flight attendant or corporate pilot, but just watch how many free hotel nights and business class airline tickets you will score because you use your credit cards SO much.
Hotels and food are usually covered by the company— or you get a per diem. This is great because you will often stay in much nicer hotels than commercial flight attendants do. This is not always the case though. There are some companies who actually pay an incredibly high rate for per diem and you have to pay for your own hotel and all expenses when traveling. Seriously, this industry is so varied, I can’t tell you it’s always one way or always another. What I can say is that it’s worth looking into.
You are never friends with, or on the same level, as the clients who you fly, but working as a corporate flight attendant allows for a different view into an ultra-exclusive world. You see how nice, quirky, jerky, and overall human these people are “in real life.” You learn to keep secrets and never say where you actually go or who you actually meet. Often, you also work with an interesting and cool flight crew.
You have to accept that you never know what you are doing with your days. The unknowns of corporate fly life can be daunting and difficult for you (and others) to understand. Although a definite pro to the job— the surprises that it entails— the unknowns of day-to-day can be one of the hardest parts about private aviation (at least I think so). Not knowing if you will get trips or when is a challenge financially. There is little stability and every flight feels like a “job interview.” There is no such thing as job security and for some, that is not a risk that they want to take on. But what is said about ‘big risk; big reward’ is true.
If you think commercial flight attendants can’t plan their lives, go talk to a corporate flight attendant. Literally, your schedule as a corporate flight attendant is having no schedule. I don’t know if it’s something that you ever can get accustomed to, but it just is. I never wanted to be a corporate flight attendant, because when I was growing up, my dad was a corporate pilot. We couldn’t go on vacations like regular people because he never knew when he would get called to fly. I remember being on our way to the beach one day and twenty minutes from home, Dad got a call, so we canceled our adventure. That is such a vivid disappointment for a little girl that I swore I would NEVER be in private aviation. The irony is a bitch, right?
How can this be number one on one list of the pros section and on the cons section as an opposite? Well, because with some corporate aviation jobs, you don’t have freedom. You are always tied to someone else’s schedule and what your plane and owner is doing. And, if you are a contract flight attendant, you technically can say no to whatever trips you want, but the thing is— when you say no— companies will stop calling you.
You will always have to have your phone near you and on. You may always be on call. You have to be ready to go at a moment’s notice.
This statement of working alone is only partly true. You do work alone in the cabin, but this job would be impossible without the support and assistance from your team of pilots and the jet operator/scheduler. These people help coordinate, get you important information, and make your job easier. I just flew with two of the most amazing pilots, and because the guest doesn’t like when the flight attendant does the dishes during flight, once we landed, the pilots came to the back of the aircraft and help me wash and dry dishes. You are always working as a team and you always need your team to make things run smoothly.
If you don’t have a company card, you will be maxing out your credit cards often. You have to put catering, aircraft supplies, hotel bills, transportation, and odds and ends on your credit card first and be reimbursed later. This can become problematic if you are flying a lot, because, in one flight, you can easily put $700 of catering on your credit card. If you have a lot of flights in a week, that adds up.
It would be so nice if corporate flight attendants had flight benefits like the airline crews have, but ultimately, your paycheck is so much better, that you can afford to buy your own flights.
Your layovers are NOT just ‘playovers.’ As a commercial flight attendant, once you step off the plane, you have NOTHING to do for your flight anymore or in the future. As a corporate flight attendant, you need to coordinate picking up food at one restaurant on one side of Manhattan and go shopping on the other side. You literally can be running around like a crazy person just trying to find a certain brand of chocolate or type of bread. It’s rewarding when you bring it all together and the client is happy, but your time is filled with flight things and not just play.
It costs about $5,000 or more to train to become a corporate flight attendant, and every year, you have to pay for a recurrent training. That’s a lot for some people to consider, but also consider this— it’s possible that, in one week of flying, to make that investment back. The thing is, you can’t guarantee you will ever fly. My first year in corporate aviation, I flew two trips. Two. That’s it. No one lives off of two trips a year, but if you are willing to risk and work hard, you will be rewarded.
If you work as a contract corporate flight attendant, you need to find your own health insurance. You really have no job security or no sureness of what will happen with your paychecks.
Curious. Bubbly. Creative. Curating a life I don't need an escape from and inspiring you to do the same.