Happy Monday all! I’m thrilled to bring you a guest post from the one and only Miss Mazuma! She is definitely a rising star in the personal finance community, and I’m honored to publish her very first guest post. You like to travel? How about as a JOB? Read on!
Hey all! When Steve asked me to write a guest post about my job, my first reaction was shock (me?!) and my second was excitement. Finally…someone asked to hear more about it and I’m tickled pink to have this platform to dish!
Over the years I have been employed as a waitress, bouquet arranger, and a nanny. I’ve worked in retail, at a preschool, 9-5 as a secretary, and ridiculous hours as a Realtor…I’ve done it all. But the job I stumbled into last was the one that I’ve now stuck with the longest (15 years!!) and is also the one that intrigues outsiders the most. I am a Flight Attendant….and I freaking LOVE my job.
When people ask what I do for a living, their response to my answer is often, “I’ve always wanted to be a flight attendant!”. Whether or not it’s true, I totally get the allure. The life of a Flight Attendant has been glamorized over the years in movies, magazines, and the hearts of all who love to travel…but the reality of life in the sky is not as it once was. I mean, we all have our pet peeves when sharing office space with others, but for the love of God why do people wait until they get on the airplane to decide their toe nails need a trim? Clip, clip, clip…Yup. Oh, it gets worse… Going in the lav with no shoes on (that’s not water on the ground), changing a poopy diaper on the tray table (yes, the one YOU eat off of), repeatedly passing gas regardless of the fact we are all sharing the same tube of air. Gross.
It’s a shame the glitz and glam of the Pan Am era has disintegrated. Though the job may have some downsides, including the dark side of my industry and that specific date that many don’t dare utter on a plane, there is still plenty of light to go around. So, in an effort to not bust your glamour bubble any further, I want to keep this post as fun and enjoyable as possible for you ground creatures. 🙂
Here are the most frequently asked questions of Fly Life (minus “Can I get a buddy pass?”)…this way you NEVER have to ask a flight attendant in person:
1. Do you always fly the same route. No… That is the most amazing aspect of my job – flexibility. Having done my time on reserve (thank god that’s over!), I now have the seniority needed to bid the days and times I want to work. Ahhhhhh freedom! Beyond days, I also get a say on where I fly, which takes me to the second most asked question…
2. What are your favorite overnights? Such an easy question to answer for this Chicago based girl – pretty much anywhere warm within walking distance or public transportation to large bodies of water, hiking, or good food. San Diego, Los Angeles, San Juan, and Punta Cana are my faves. Seattle and Portland are not always warm but I love their city scenes so they both make the cut. And, of course, any overnight I can bring my BF or meet up with a friends/family that don’t live in my home town…those are the best!
3. What famous people have you had on board? Since we don’t have First or Business Class our sightings are few and far between but they happen and when they do it’s always a thrill!
- Kathy Griffin – I was shocked that, despite her incredibly outspoken persona, she didn’t speak a single word the entire flight.
- Pete Rose – He sat in the exit row and signed an autograph for me even though I didn’t ask and had to later be told who he was!
- Richard Simmons – He worked up a sweat in the terminal by getting the whole waiting area to join in some line dancing then slept it off in the front row of the plane maybe (or maybe not) sucking his thumb contentedly (poor little guy was all tuckered out).
- Peter Facinelli – I had just finished binge watching Nurse Jackie so I was super excited to see him…until I remembered how he left Jennie Garth (aka Kelly Taylor for you 90210 fans!) so I didn’t dare gush. Whatevs… He also had a huge hole in the crotch of his jeans.
- Greg Grunberg – Yeah, you know him. Felicity? Heroes? Nicest guy ever.
There have been others – sports peeps (not my bag), singers, political figures… They mostly walk in and sit down and, unless someone points them out, I usually have no idea.
But, let’s face it, none of those questions are what interests you the most. Nah, you came to Think Save Retire for lifestyle AND finance, right? This brings me to the last of my most frequently asked questions and the one responsible for how I intend to retire in 5.8 years…
- What/How do you get paid? Simple. None of your business! Haha – just kidding – I can’t leave you guys hanging! We get paid per FLIGHT HOUR + per diem (more below) for all hours we are away from our base. We do not get paid for time on the ground or delays. Our pay starts when the door is shut and the pilots pull the breaks – flight hours is the industry standard.
Though I am unable to share our exact pay scale (I kind of want to keep my job), to give you an idea, last year I worked an average of 110 tfp a month and my W2 shows about 80k in earnings. Not bad considering I only work about 10 days of the month – Yup, I consider myself semi-retired. 😉
Back to that per diem... It took me a few years to realize eating out for an entire trip cost a small fortune more than what we were being allotted…especially if you factor in the outrageous cost of hotel and airport food! Ever since, I have always packed a “food bag”. I very rarely eat out on the road unless it is planned for a good overnight (San Fran!!). My frugal side takes pride in the amount of money I save by packing yogurt/granola for breakfast, salads with tuna or hard-boiled eggs for lunch, and burritos or veggie burgers (precooked) for dinners. Since our planes have no refrigeration or heating elements for cooking, I rely heavily on ice packs and the coffee maker’s hot plate…which only takes about an hour to warm a burrito. You definitely need to be creative and plan in advance!
Other benefits include:
Flexibility – again, with the flexibility?? Yes! It is THAT important! We are awarded a “line” (schedule) with typically 3 days on and 4 days off. If we want to trade or giveaway our trips to other flight attendants that’s our prerogative. We can work as little or as much as we want as long as we schedule a 24 hour break in a 7 day period. I once took 2 years off so I could focus on another gig and was still able to keep my health insurance and collect my vacation pay! If that isn’t flexible, I don’t know what is.
Travel – Duh, isn’t that what draws most people to this job?? All that flexibility gives us a ton of time off which translates to plenty of opportunities to travel. Last year I bought a ticket to Hong Kong for super cheap then used my flight benefits to fly to Chiang Mai to volunteer for a week at an elephant rescue park. This trip of a lifetime was made possible by cheap flights and a flexible schedule. Besides Thailand, in the past 4 years I’ve traveled to Spain, Ireland, Mexico, Portugal, and a hiking trip that took me from Austria through 6 different countries ending in Italy. I’d say I take full advantage of the travel. 🙂
And, of course…
Medical, 401k, Employee Stock Purchase Program, Vacation Pay, Sick Pay, and Profit Sharing – These are the meat and potatoes that make this gig more than a job – it’s a career.
All together, these perks are A M A Z I N G, but the thing I love most about my job is the interactions that I get to have with people. Every single day I hear a story or have a conversation that reminds me of why I do this job. Excited families flying to weddings, reunions…oh, and that one man who asked me to accompany him to a funeral (weird, but true). All the folks that clap in agreement when I make an announcement to thank our military personnel for allowing us to sleep a little better at night. The baby I get to hold and snuggle while the single mom sneaks off to the bathroom. The endless stream of little boys that want to take a picture in the cockpit and the old man who tells me stories of flying in WWII. The little girl who stopped to hug me as she walked off the plane and, in contrast, the 92-year-old woman in the front row with arthritic gnarled hands that reached up to feel my face and tell me how beautiful I am. I know she can’t see me, but she sees me. All of these personal interactions occur because we take a moment to truly say hello. These moments are the reasons that I love my job…the rest is just icing on the cake.
Thanks for taking time out of your day to read about mine and special thanks to Steve for giving me a chance to write about it. If you have any questions or if I missed something, feel free to reach out at any time. If not, perhaps I will see you on a future flight? If you could, please take a second to say hello – you never know what that moment will bring. 🙂
Until next time…
Steve is a 38-year-old early retiree who writes about the intersection of happiness and financial independence. Steve is a regular contributor to MarketWatch, CNBC, and The Ladders. He lives full-time in his 30′ Airstream Classic and travels the country with his wife Courtney and two rescued dogs.