Flight Attendant Schedule: What it Looks Like

Airlines · 5 min read · Sep 02, 2022
flight attendant schedule

Being a flight attendant has its benefits and challenges, but all these are based on each person’s perspective. Let’s try and demystify some of the frequently asked questions about this role.

What does a flight attendant’s schedule look like?

A typical schedule of flight attendants deviates from the popular “9 to 5” schedules. They can run for over 12 hours depending on the nature of the route and the airline’s requirements. However, there are two general schedules, a reserve schedule, and a line holder schedule.

The reserve schedule is popular amongst new flight attendants who have to remain available throughout the 24 hours a day to take up trips dropped normally by senior attendants. On the other hand, line holders bid for specific workdays or routes that they desire and they can swap trips.

A schedule is therefore a breakdown of what a flight attendant’s days and nights throughout the month would look like. It contains the following information, although not exhaustive:

1.      Days that the flight attendant will be off.

2.      Show-times, which are the clock-in times at the airport.

3.      The number of flights and flight length for each working day.

4.      What flights the attendants will be working on.

5.      Days that the flight attendant will be on reserve schedule or call.

6.      Layover time and destinations.

Flight attendant working on a scheduled flight, debriefing passengers on safety.

Therefore, a flight attendant would normally try to bid for specific flights to have a schedule that is more favorable to their needs. As such, a perfect schedule is relative to each flight attendant because month-in-month-out, the schedules change.

However, there are general guidelines by the civil aviation authorities such as the Federal Aviation Authority that guide the scheduling of the flight attendants, especially in dictating the rest periods or free time. For example:

  • Over 18 hours duty period calls for at least 12 hours rest period.
  • Over 14 hours duty period calls for at least 9 hours rest period.
  • A threshold number of flight attendants for a given number of passengers onboard an aircraft to ensure adequate rest periods or free time during flights or trips.

Equally, there are different types of trips:


A flight attendant accomplishes one flight leg to a destination without a layover and then flies back to base.

Two-day trips

A flight attendant accomplishes a flight leg in a day, has a layover then returns to base the following day. Normally, the layover is 10-24 hours, whereas a typical day for most airlines would have three flights each day.

Three-day trips

These trips make the flight attendant be away from base for three days, with two layovers or one lengthy one.

Four-day trips

These trips involve multiple flight legs that last for at least three days and are the longest a person would be gone away from the base. One can be asked to fly for seven days consecutively before having free time.

Long-haul trips

These are mostly international flights that are longer than seven hours. Airlines generally train their staff on specific aircraft types with an allocation of international or domestic trips to the specific crew. Based on the seniority or experience level of flight attendants, a more senior flight attendant would take up these long-haul flights ahead of a junior flight attendant.

An example of such long-haul flights is Chicago, the USA, to Auckland, New Zealand.

How does seniority affect flight attendant schedules?

The longer one stays in a given position, especially if within one firm, the more the perk and benefits. This is directly relatable to senior flight attendants, who enjoy the following privileges:

  • Higher earnings in terms of salaries.
  • A choice of the base where the flight attendant will be and the aircraft type they would fly in.
  • A say on the monthly flight attendant’s schedule and the rest periods.
  • The quick rise of ranks up to that of a chief flight attendant (purser), and a transition to a major airline from a regional airline.
Flight attendant working on her scheduled flight, closing overhead lockers before flight.

Can flight attendants swap flights with other flight attendants?

Yes, the flight attendants can swap flights but the airline management must be made aware of the changes before the given flight. This serves as a safety or security protocol that airlines have to follow as per the Federal Aviation Administration requirements.

That is to say, as a flight attendant, you are at liberty to informally engage and agree with another flight attendant to take up a trip that was originally assigned to you. However, there must be a formality put to the gentleman’s arrangement.

This requirement ensures that there are no instances of a “no-show” where a flight attendant fails to report to duty and provides an excuse of having informed another colleague to step in on their behalf.

Such inconveniences could not only be costly for airlines when there is a need to call for an urgent replacement hence higher compensations but also embarrassing. As such, the requirement natures discipline amongst the flight attendants and the entire workforce.

Today, most airlines even have an electronic platform where dropping and picking of trips can be done by flight attendants. All the flight attendant needs to do is to drop the given trip in the portal and if there is another crew interested in taking up the trip, he or she just accepts the trip, which then registers in his or her name.

When do flight attendants get their flight schedules?

Each airline will have its unique way of going about giving the flight schedules to the flight attendants. Whereas some airlines ensure that most flight attendants receive their schedules by the end of the month, others provide them at the start of the month or a month prior.

However, regardless of when they receive them, a typical schedule would be issued to a flight attendant at least a fortnight before the commencement of the schedule to allow for adequate preparation.

Time away from home and standby crew members

Remember, the airlines must be sensitive to the flight attendants because they mostly spend their time away from home. As such, unless under unavoidable or unforeseen circumstances, it is prudent for the roster to come early enough so that there are no inconveniences caused as a result of poor planning.

Nonetheless, it is sometimes required that the flight attendants remain on standby should other flight attendants who were to report to duty fail to do so perhaps due to illness. In such cases, depending on the employment contract, both the employer and the staff must reach a revised bargain. If it happens that a designated flight attendant cannot show up for the flight, the standby fight attendant is usually deadheaded to the departure airport at the expense of airlines.

Do flight attendants work during holidays or weekends?

This role is not for the faint-hearted. Of course, nobody in the aviation industry would acknowledge that their role is easier than their counterparts’, but some roles, just as the one of a flight attendant, push people to the edge more than others due to strict requirements, the amount of contact with passengers and tiring schedules.

So, yes. Many flight attendants work during holidays, nights, and weekends. Have you ever failed to travel because it is a holiday or a weekend or at night? Perhaps not. If anything, you would probably schedule to have a late-night flight so that you arrive at your destination in time before your business meeting, wouldn’t you?  

Remember, the aviation industry is a 24-hour operating sector, which means that the days are as active as the nights. For this reason, a flight attendant can spend many nights away from home each week of the month based on the schedule of the airlines. In such cases, hotel accommodation is provided, plus a meal allowance.

What is the pay rate for flight attendants?

A flight attendant is paid per duty hour or flight hour. Duty hour is calculated from when the shift starts during clock in up to when the shift ends during clock out. The flight hour is calculated based on the number of hours flown, door close to door open.

However, there is a guaranteed minimum pay of 75 hours irrespective of the few hours flown, with an average pay of $19 per hour for every flight hour beyond 75 hours.

A per diem of about $1.75 per shift hour is also paid to cater for meal expenses among others.


There is no blanket answer to justify that flight attendant jobs are lucrative and Porsche or strenuous and tedious. These are based on an individual’s angle of view. As long as you are enjoying your role, give it your “A” game.

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Jet pilot @NASA

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