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People Are Conflicted After Learning American Airlines Doesn’t Pay New Flight Attendants For Six Weeks of Training

People Are Conflicted After Learning American Airlines Doesn’t Pay New Flight Attendants For Six Weeks of Training

It might be widely considered one of the best jobs in the world but the life of a flight attendant comes with plenty of sacrifices as well. Not only do flight attendants have to regularly spend weekends and holidays separated from their families, but it also turns out that one of the biggest airlines in the world doesn’t even pay its new hire flight attendants for the first six weeks in the job.

American Airlines is currently recruiting new hire flight attendants for a massive expansion planned for later this year but the competition to land a job is set to be intense. In fact, it’s widely claimed that it’s easier to secure a place at Havard than to become a flight attendant with one of the Big Three U.S. carriers.

But once you’ve got your foot through the door at American Airlines, you’re still going to have to wait a little longer before you start making any money because the Dallas Fort Worth-based carrier doesn’t start paying crew members a wage until they pass the initial training course.

And as you might expect, training to become a flight attendant isn’t an overnight process. AA’s training program lasts around six weeks during which time trainee flight attendants won’t receive a wage.

American Airlines isn’t the only airline that runs an unpaid training course for new flight attendants and the carrier doesn’t expect trainees to survive just on their savings.

Along with paid accommodation, trainees also get a meal card to the value of $27 a day to pay for food and drink, and transportation to and from the training center is also covered.

The fact that training goes unpaid is historical and is partly based on the fact that the offer of employment is conditional. Trainees must pass all their assessments throughout the course and trainers can flag flight attendants who might not be a great fit for the airline even after passing the recruitment process.

Of course, that still means some candidates might not be able to realize their dream job because they simply can’t afford to go six weeks without pay and that has left people conflicted over AA’s policy.

On Twitter, someone asked how American Airlines was going to convince people to go unpaid for so long while serving flight attendants said it was a small price to pay “for a lifetime of happiness”.

Others pointed out that AA doesn’t pay its flight attendants for boarding or deplaning so the training course was a good introduction to the unfairness of the job. Others noted that AA wasn’t the only airline to make flight attendants go without pay during the initial training course.

American Airlines opened flight attendant recruitment for the first time since the start of the pandemic in August 2021 with the hope of hiring as many as 800 new hire flight attendants. The recruitment window reopened last week for what is expected to be a very short duration.

Once flight attendants pass the initial training course, they could be posted to any one of AA’s 11 bases across the United States. The airline is only hiring candidates who are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 in compliance with President Biden’s federal vaccine mandate for government contractors.

View Comments (54)
  • Years ago, back when American West was still around, a lady I dated looked into a FA job while living in Phoenix. She quickly saw how bad the pay was and never gave it another thought.

    The whole pay, scheduling, etc. system should be redone. Too much is based on seniority, you should get paid anytime you are at work, etc.

    I always thought it strange that some restaurants wouldn’t pay servers while they were training. Often the person they were training with felt bad and would share their tips with them.

    • I wasn’t paid for an entire year when I attended college to become a NURSE And they worked the student nurses HARD.without pay.

      • Student teaching is another example of free labor. Plus you have to pay the school for the credits. Some Student teaching programs weasel an entire year of free labor from prospective teachers

  • Who is conflicted??? That is a stupid title. What about the pilots who have to spend 100k to get all their certifications? Most of the AA flight attendants are crabby and suck at their job anyway…

    • Maybe that’s why the customer service is inferior. Hard to treat the customer right when the employee isn’t respected. I recently flew AA and had one problem after another. I was put in a potentially dangerous situation and the AA customer care agent didn’t care AT ALL.
      No more AA for me!

    • Maybe because of the pay and working conditions. Also, I hope you realize the complete lack of sense your comparison makes in the real world.

    • “Most of the AA flight attendants are crabby and suck at their job anyway…”

      That’s because they’ve screened out all the good ones by their tight-fisted policies.

  • You have to look at it like this , American is giving you free training and room and board . When you go to massage school or a trade school you have to pay for the training .. To be a flight Attendant job is a certification job. Mandated by the FAA .

    • So? If you’re training to be an electrician, you get paid, most jobs you get paid while I’m training because you are still at work. American airlines made 1.7 billion in profit in 2019, they could easily pay their flight attendants in training.

    • I had a part time job and student loans to get me through massage school. When I began to work as a certified massage therapist I did not train for free. In fact, I would have refused to do so. In the real world, many people seeking employment at that level of compensation don’t have the resources to go 6 weeks with no pay. I certainly didn’t.

      • Unless you read the article: “ Along with paid accommodation, trainees also get a meal card to the value of $27 a day to pay for food and drink, and transportation to and from the training center is also covered.”

        • Mateusz,
          Your ignorance is showing- Ignorance to reality.
          Fellow Pole, do the math. $27 per day is ONLY $135 per five day work week.
          The attraction to the supposed romance of the job soon runs into the reality of its lies.
          Being a flight attendant just isn’t as advertised

    • Are flight attendants working flights during this period or simply in a classroom setting? You mention other training being unpaid but American makes clear a degree is preferred for flight attendants, there isn’t a preference for a masseuse or electrician with a university education.

    • Your commen was excellent. There is a way you can get paid for training. I did with the other guys in 1979. If you are unemployed, you can get paid for attending a federally approves training program. You said the answer. The FAA approves the training program. I was paid unemployment compension from the State of Ohio for my six weeks
      (State or Commonwealth Doesn’t Matter.) Retired International Domestic Flight Attendant Thirty-six ✈ years 🌎

  • There are several airlines that don’t pay for training. It’s a lot of younger generation that don’t understand this. At least American doesn’t hide it until you’re at training. People just want to complain for no reason

  • AA keeps the same rule for training reservation agents. I started training on the MLK holiday and my first day of pay (seniority date) was Mar 14. TWO months without an income. 40% of the students dropped out due to costs.

  • @jack I suppose one could argue that people who train with AA knowing they won’t get paid must REALLY want the job. Those who apply with DL can say “I’ve got nothing to lose, I’m getting paid anyhow”. I think more important are the standards the individual airlines set for their new hires.

  • They get the six weeks pay after they complete the training. They had too many issues of people quitting just so they could get the quick pay check.

    • That makes more sense, good to know if people are actually committed and not just there to eat and run. I feel like the paid accommodations and meals would make up for the training, if they are decent for living. Better than paying for everything, I guess…

  • Why in the world would they not pay the FA’s for boarding and deplaning?.?? They are working. Isn’t this a labor law???

      • We call it deplaning (De-Plane-Ing) I’m the industry, they even say it in the announcements, your comment is unwarranted. Bye.

    • Hi Terry. They are paid per diem from the moment they check in through the entire trip. However, flight pay is once the doors close prior to takeoff and ends when doors open to deplane..

      It’s weird, but that goes for all airlines that I’m aware of.

  • For God Sake training cost is a business expense that AA could deduct dollar for dollar in their business expenses ledger beside that . how about streamlining the training to 3 to 4 weeks and pay your future flight attendants minimum of $15 an hour as a training work wage. Here is an idea that dump senator Ted Cruze from TX could ask AA to start paying their training crew or no taxpayers money when AA face another crisis.

  • “In fact, it’s widely claimed that it’s easier to secure a place at Havard than to become a flight attendant with one of the Big Three U.S. carriers.”

    It’s Harvard, not Havard, but in any case, what a ridiculous statement.

  • This is a stupid story. No airlines pays you while you are in training. Most airlines may give you 100.00 a week while you are in training but your going to pay it back. The airlines are housing them, feeding them, training them It’s alot cheaper then getting a student loan.

    • Delta does pay trainees. Their philosophy is “We choose you to join our team and want you to get through the training program and join us on the line taking care of our customers.” Other airlines take a different approach: “Yeah, you got selected for training. Now let’s see if you can make it through and if we still like you afterwards. Then maybe you can work with us.”

  • Eh. Don’t know how I feel about this. I never got paid for going to college or when interning. I was the one paying for the education and training that opened the doors to my career where I now make a good living. So yup.

  • Morally this is horrible, and anyone rationalizing this should be ashamed of themselves. I honestly don’t understand how this isn’t wage theft under the FSLA.

    • Most countries except for The U.S flight attendant are required to hold a flight attendant certificate before applying, meaning that we have to pay for a school to be a flight attendant. In the US the companies provide those training to people. You are not hired until you pass the training. I wish I was in the US, those companies are actually awesome.

  • Hire on with American Airlines as Fleet Service and receive Paid Training and fly for free after two weeks of employment, start out with America West in Sky Harbor, been on the Ramp since 2002.

  • Flight attendants no pay for 6 weeks but get room & board? Well, sorry no sympathy here!!!! Be a teacher in Oklahoma! We must do 6 MONTHS OF TRAINING WITHOUT PAY, WITHOUT ROOM & BOARD! We are abused as substitutes so the district can keep the money. Yeah and teachers in Oklahoma make less than managers of Gas stations! We are 50th in the nation on pay!! That’s with a bachelor degree and mandatory yearly additional education on our own time! Plus, that 6 months I had to pay for childcare with no income!!! I swear, I didn’t whine like a big baby! I put my big girl panties on & dealt with it!

  • It is, in no way shape or form – “easier to secure a spot at Harvard” than to be hired as a FA at a major. This is a little trick used by recruiters to make people feel special for having been selected. The ratio of job applications to job offers is one thing… but the *difficulty* of getting a FA job versus an admission to Harvard are not even remotely similar.

  • I see a lot of people comparing this to paying for college. That’s not what this is. When you start a job you go through training the first few weeks right? Compare this to starting a job a Starbucks and then Starbucks says “we’re not going to pay you for the first 6 weeks because we’re training you how to make drinks and learn the cash register.”

  • I was an FA at AA for many years. No, they do not pay you for training. They do provide room, board and transportation during training. You pay for your first set of uniforms by payroll deduction. They do not provide funds for housing at your new base. You must report immediately. Their rationale for not paying during training is if they did pay you, you would be considered an employee. They want to be able to release you without complications or good reason if you prove to be unsatisfactory in some way or if something in your background check is problematic. It was a six week job interview. I spent years resenting their failure to complete my background check before I reported for training. I was at the mercy of former employers to provide accurate information without recourse to correct it. That’s what really sucked. I quit a job, got out of a lease and moved across country. They didn’t have the courtesy of completing important paperwork first. I did enjoy the job.

  • As much fraud as the airlines commit, this surprises you people? They violate labor laws requiring their employees to work hours every flight without pay for their entire careers. US airlines are criminals folks, get over it or grow a pair and boycott them until it changes, mock outrage at something that has been common knowledge for years is not going to change anything.

  • If there aren’t any expenses, then I don’t see a problem. If life is going on and you have no income, then yeah, absolutely.

  • The majority of airlines do not pay for training. Your room, transportation and some meals are paid. Some offer Graduation Bonuses when training and Operating Experience flights are successful. You are not considered an employee until you have graduated from the training program.
    I’ve been a Flight Attendant or in Inflight Management for 32 years and would not trade it for anything. I’m grateful each and every day. Your first 6 months or year is much like an internship. Most airlines refer to it as a Probationary Period. You are still being evaluated and observed. If you follow the guidelines and do what you are supposed to be doing, you will not have a problem. Working as a Flight Attendant requires a great deal of self-control and self-discipline. Many cannot handle not being supervised directly. Like most careers, it becomes what you make of it.

  • Bottom line is why would anyone make it there crusade to look out for someone else’s work details? And it seems the crusade can be called off as article loosely mentions a comparison between getting into Harvard and into airline union. Simple logic would suggest if you don’t like industry policy pursue a different one and don’t worry there’s apparently endless others who are happy to wait in line to fill spot

  • I did the trainee program and it is emotionally exhausting I literally had nightmares they expect you to learn all the aircraft with minimal training being that you have to learn so many at once and if you do not pass the many exams they cut you it was heartbreaking and down right unethical to measure people based n a test that you barely had time to study for it was long days and sleepless nights studying and then on the days we had off you spend it studying for the next test. That meal card is good but they only really want you to eat at one of the 3 food courts they have. Imagine packing up your life giving 100% getting no pay only to be let go because you failed a test by one point and they have no compassion we cried together because we new how hard we worked. And the head lady over the training coming in to escort you out the building and put you on a flight it was the worst experience of my life.

  • There is one common denominator that is present in all airlines that treat their people, and the customer, terribly- Doug Parker

  • It’s so disrespectful they are expecting 6 weeks of your time without proper pay. Lodging is covered, but what about the rent or mortgage payment due on the trainee’s actual home. Don’t forget mention utilities and other monthly expenses. Meals covered $27 a day. $9 dollars a meal. $9 barely covers a combo meal at a fast food restaurant.

    Very embarrassing for American Airlines and all other airlines that have this policy

  • United don’t pay for 9 weeks nothing new this is happening forever everyone here is 18 years old is coming practices for all the airlines

  • The best part of this article was the comments. Interesting indeed. Flight Attendent school is not a comparison to college in my thinking. The free expression is good and insightful.

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