United Airlines Flight Attendant

United Airlines

United Airlines is a United States airline. With 148,067,000 passengers in 2017, it is the world´s fourth-largest airline (after American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Southwest Airlines). Between 2010-2012, United Airlines and Continental Airlines merged, keeping the Continental logo and the United name. Its headquarter is located in Chicago, with the main base being Chicago-O´Hare airport. Apart from Chicago-O´Hare airport, United has seven additional hubs. In total, United employs approximately 22,000 flight attendants, most of which are US citizen. The corporate language is English.

The most important information follows below.

Promotion/Career perspectives:

1. Reserve flight attendant

For the first five years as a United Airlines flight attendant, you will be working as a so-called reserve flight attendant. This means that you will be "on call" at all working days. Every month, you will receive a schedule which shows the days that you are on call and the days that you are off.

The number of flight hours you work every month varies a lot, as it completely depends on how often you are being called in to work. In order to receive a basic wage, as a Reserve Flight Attendant you are being paid at least 78 flight hours, no matter how many hours you have actually flown.

2. Lineholder flight attendant (after a minimum of 5 years as a reserve flight attendant)

As a lineholder, you will be able to bid for flights and will therefore have more influence on the days you are working, the destinations you fly to and the aircraft type you fly on. This way, it is easier to combine with your private life.

Special qualification flight attendants:

Besides being a reserve or lineholder flight attendant, one can earn special qualifications:

a. Flight service leader (after a minimum of 3 years of active service as a flight attendant)

As a flight service leader, you will be leading and coordinating the flight attendants throughout the flight. You will be responsible for the briefings and will be the primary liaison between the captain and the flight attendants. For now, United only puts flight service leaders on international flights (excluding the Carribean).

b. Language qualified flight attendants

In case you speak a foreign language fluently, you might opt to become a language qualified flight attendant. You will then be providing customer service and translation services in a foreign language.

Payment / Wage / Salary:

The payment at United Airlines is completely based on an hourly pay per flight hour. This hourly pay depends on the seniority (years working as a United flight attendant) and multiple extra factors (see below). For each day of training (not during the initial training course), you will receive the payment of 3 flight hours.

Basic pay for reserve flight attendants is 78 hours. For Lineholders it is 71 hours. No matter how many hours you have been assigned to, you will at least receive the basic pay according to those hours.


The basic hourly pay per flight hour (effective from December 2018)

(depening on the seniority):

1st year: $27.76

2nd year: $29.45

3rd year: $31.32

4rd year: $33.36

5th year: $36.75

6th year: $41.62

7th year: $46.53

8th year: $48.02

9th year: $49.35

10th year: $51.19

11th year: $52.60

12th year: $55.11

13th+ year: $64.50

Extra´s (this list is not complete!):

- $2 per hour for flights outside the continental U.S. and Canada

- $2 per hour as a Reserve flight attendant (guaranteed minimum of 78 hours)

- $7.50 per hour working  as a Flight service leader

- $2.50 per hour working as a language qualified flight attendant

- $1 per hour working as the galley (the aircraft kitchen) flight attendant

- $5 per hour for every flown hour in excess of 200 hours per calender quarter (max. 330 hours)

Per Diem / Layover allowance:

- On domestic flights: $2.20 per hour

(including Puerto Rico, Canada, Mexico, Central America and Carribean:

- On international flights: $2.70 per hour

(including South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, Australia, Antarctica, and to/from Guam)


(The examples are not 100% correct, but give an idea on how the payment is put together)

1. Reserve flight attendant in his/her first year who worked 78 flight hours on national routes.

  • Basic pay based on 78 hours: 78 x $27.76 = $2,165
  • $2 per hour for 78 flight hours: 78 x $2 = $156
  • Total wage: $2,165 + $156 = $2,321

2. Lineholder flight attendant in his/her 9th year who worked 90 flight hours on intercontinental routes. For 10 of these 90 hours, he/she worked as a galley flight attendant and for 25 hours, he/she was working as a language qualified flight attendant. During the last two months he/she collected 160 flying hours. This is the last month of the calender quarter.

  • Basic pay based on 90 hours: 90 x $49.35 = $4,442
  • $2 per hour for intercontinental routes: 90 x $2 = $180
  • $2.50 per hour as a language qualified: 25 x $2.50 = $63
  • $1 per hour as a galley attendant: 10 x $1 = $10
  • $5 per hour in excess of 200 (160 + 90 = 250 hours this quarter): 50 x $5 = $250
  • Total wage: $4,442 + $180 + $63 + $10 + $250 = $4,945

3. Flight service leader in his/her 25th year who worked 85 hours on intercontinental routes. During the last two months he/she collected 150 flying hours. This is the last month of the calender quarter.

  • Basic pay based on 85 hours: 85 x $64.50 = $5,483
  • $2 per hour for intercontinental routes: 85 x $2 = $170
  • $7.50 per hour as a flight service leader: 85 x $7.50 = $638
  • $5 per hour in excess of 200 (150 + 85 = 235 hours this quarter): 35 x $5 = $175
  • Total wage: $5,483 + $170 + $638 + $175 = $6,466

Home base:

United bases its flight attendants at eight different hubs:

  • Chicago (ORD): largest hub
  • Houston (IAH): second-largest hub
  • Newark (EWR): third-largest hub
  • Denver (DEN): fourth-largest hub
  • Washington (IAD)
  • San Francisco (SFO)
  • Los Angeles (LAX)
  • Guam (GUM)

Where you will stay after a working day:

Sometimes you will stay at a hotel in another city or sometimes you return back to your home base at the end of the day.


There is a big difference between the schedule for reserve flight atttendants and lineholders (see text above):


  • A reserve has less planing possibilites than a Lineholder
  • A reserve can fly upto 100 hours
  • As a reserve, you receive a minimum of 12 days off per month. Even though these days are displayed on your schedule, only 4 days are displayed as immovable days off. The other 8 days can be moved to other days in the same month due to changes in the schedule when being needed for a flight


  • A lineholder can fly upto 95 hours
  • As a lineholder, you will receive a minimum of 10 days off per month. Every second month, you might still be on reserve for multiple days. Only the top 25% most senior flight attendants at each base will not be put on reserve.

After each flight you have a minimum rest period at your home base which ranges from 12 hours (for flights upto 8 hours) to 30 hours (for flights upto 18,5 hours). The minimum rest at the layover destinations ranges from 12 to 26 hours.


The number of vacation days depends on the seniority (completed years of service):

  • 1 - 4 years: 12 days
  • 5 - 9 years: 19 days
  • 10 - 16 years: 26 days
  • 17 - 24 years: 33 days
  • 25+ years: 40 days

Training course:

The training lasts for 6 weeks and is unpaid. United, however, offers a free shared hotel room during training.

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