A Guide To Flight Attendants’ Varying Shift Patterns

One thing to say for sure is that the flight attendant will rarely have regular shifts at any given time. More often than not, it’s a mix of late nights, early mornings, and anything in between. It is certainly not a job for anyone who likes a set schedule and the nine to five.

Short-haul

Short haul flights can be anything from 30 minutes up to five hours depending on the airline and how they operate. Most of these flights operate between 05:00 and midnight. Flight attendants have to attend a briefing before their flight, so they have to arrive at their base well before.

A day may look like flying from London to Athens and back or flying London to Paris and back and then repeat. Sometimes, there may be just one flight and a layover, but these are becoming rarer. The minimum day would be around seven hours and the maximum twelve hours, depending on delays.

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Photo: Etihad Airways

Long-haul

Of course, long-haul flights do include a layover as it’s impossible to stay within duty hours otherwise. A minimum trip would be something like London to Dubai, 12 hours off, and fly back. The maximum would be London to Singapore, which in total is around 14 hours. Many long-haul flights are scheduled as night flights, so a flight attendant may actually be briefed at 21:00 and then be working overnight.

The return flights are also often overnight, arriving in the early hours of the morning. Some airlines often do ‘back to back’ for some of the routes traveling west. The flight attendant might fly from London to New York, have 12 hours of sleep , then fly back, 12 hours sleep and then repeat the whole thing again. On average, a long-haul flight attendant will have around five trips a month.

Standby

Standby is something that all flight attendants have to do, and it is basically to cover for any crew member who is late or sick at the last minute. So, a period of seven hours is assigned where the crew member has to be ready to operate any flight at short notice.This can be from home or from the airport, depending on the airline’s requirements.The problem is, you never know where you are going or how long you’ll be away and what to pack.If you get lucky , you might not be called at all. You may also be called an hour before the end of the standby period to do a long flight, as long as it is within duty hours.


Some flight attendants find more stability in low-cost airlines. Photo: easyJet

Available

Some airlines have a system of scheduling ‘available’ days into your work pattern. This is where you will be on duty but only receive notification the night before. The 05:00 standby is never a popular one!

international airlines

Many international airlines combine short-haul and long-haul routes, so a flight attendant roster may be a mix of the above. There may be options to bid for trips also, which helps you to fit work around your lifestyle or vice versa.

Low-cost airlines

With the rise in low-cost airlines, some flight attendants prefer the workload. More often than not, it means that they are home every night after their flights and can spend time with family. so for some, it offers more stability.

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