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How long are flight attendants gone at a time?

Flight attendants have a unique job that requires them to be away from home for extended periods of time. Unlike a standard 9 to 5 job, flight attendants can be gone for multiple days or even weeks at a time depending on their flight schedule.

Typical Flight Attendant Contracts

Most flight attendants sign contracts with airlines that dictate their work schedules and time away from home. A standard full-time flight attendant contract requires between 75-90 hours of flying per month. This averages out to 15-20 hours of flying time per week.

However, those hours are not just time spent in the air. Flight attendants are required to show up at the airport 60-90 minutes before domestic flights and 2-3 hours before international flights. This time is used for check-in procedures, security, briefings, plane inspection and boarding.

In addition to pre-flight duties, attendants must remain on board after flights to assist with the unloading process. So the actual time away from home is significantly more than just the flight duration.

Monthly Flying Time

On average, most flight attendant contracts require between 75-90 block hours of flying per month. A block hour includes flight time plus taxi and gate time before and after. For example, a 4 hour flight would be around 5 block hours to account for 30 minutes on each end for taxiing.

Based on FAA regulations, flight attendants are limited to no more than 100 block hours per month. Some airlines set caps even lower than FAA limits. For example, a typical Delta Airlines flight attendant flies between 70-80 block hours monthly.

Weekly Flying Time

To reach their monthly block hour requirement, most flight attendants will fly an average of 15-20 hours per week. Some newer flight attendants with less seniority may even fly up to 30 hours per week.

Duty time regulations limit flight attendants to no more than 30 block hours in any 7 consecutive days. Most contracts set weekly limits around 20-25 block hours.

Annual Flying Time

Over the course of a year, flight attendants generally log between 900-1200 block hours annually. This comes out to an average of 75-100 hours per month.

Some very senior attendants may hold positions that fly less, around 600-800 hours per year. Newer attendants tend to fly up to 1400-1500 hours annually.

Time Away From Home

Since flight attendants don’t usually fly for the full duration of their duty time, the actual time spent away from home is longer than just flight hours. Here is an overview of typical time away:

Single Day Trips

Many flight attendant schedules involve turnarounds or out-and-backs in the same day. These single day trips can keep attendants away from home for 10-16 hours at a time including:

  • 1-2 hours pre-flight duties at the airport
  • 5-8 hours of accumulated flight time
  • 1-2 hours post-flight unloading and airport transit

A turnaround with a long-haul flight or multiple flight segments can keep attendants away from home up to 16 hours even without an overnight stay.

Overnight Layovers

In addition to single day trips, flight attendants frequently have trips requiring overnight layovers away from home. These layovers last 24-48 hours typically and involve:

  • 1-3 hours pre-flight at the airport
  • 5-12 hours flight time
  • 24-48 hours layover away from home
  • 1-3 hours post-flight & airport transit

International layovers can last 48-72 hours depending on the destination. Long-haul trips to Asia or the Middle East require longer layovers to adjust to time zone changes.

4-7 Day Trips

Flight attendants schedules are issued in monthly bid packets. These packets contain trips ranging from 1 day up to 4-7 days in length. Multi-day trips keep attendants away from home for extended periods:

  • 2-5 days of flights with 1-2 overnights
  • Up to 7 full days away from home

Trips are usually grouped into blocks or reserve days where attendants fly multiple days consecutively before receiving days off at home.

Average Number of Nights Away Per Month

On average, most flight attendants spend 8-15 nights away from home each month. For newer attendants with junior schedules, they may spend up to 20 nights away per month.

Contract minimums require around 75 hours of flying monthly. With an average of 5 block hours per duty period, that comes out to roughly 15 days of flying. Given required rest times, attendants can only fly about half of the days in a month.

More senior flight attendants hold better schedules that maximize days off at home. However, nearly all flight attendants spend a significant portion of each month away.

Nights Away for Domestic vs International Airlines

Flight attendants working for major US airlines fly a mix of domestic and international routes. Their overnight layovers can include destinations across the Americas, Europe, Asia and Oceania regions. The average domestic flight attendant spends:

  • 8-14 nights away per month
  • 6-10 domestic layovers
  • 2-4 international layovers

Flight attendants at international carriers like Emirates, Singapore Airlines or Lufthansa spend even more nights away each month. International airline flight attendants average:

  • 15-22 nights away per month
  • 10-15 long-haul layovers

The ultra long-haul flights these airlines operate require longer crew rest periods at layover destinations before returning home.

Schedule Bidding & Patterns

Most airlines use a monthly bidding system that allows flight attendants to set their own schedules within company requirements. Seniority determines who gets their preferred trips and days off.

Bid Packets

Around the 20th of each month, the airline releases the upcoming month’s set of trips or “bid packet.” Attendantspreference bid for trips based on seniority. Top seniority gets first pick. Bid periods usually last 5-7 days.

Trip options range from 1 day turnarounds to multi-day trips up to 7 days long. Bids also include reserve blocks where attendants are on call at the airport.

Trip Patterns

When creating monthly schedules, flight attendants typically use trip patterns that maximize days off at home. Some common patterns include:

  • 4 days on, 3 days off (4/3)
  • 3 days on, 4 days off (3/4)
  • 2 days on, 3 days off (2/3)
  • 5 days on, 2 days off (5/2)

Working longer trips allows more days off at home later. Attendants try to avoid single day trips that increase time away.

Reserve Blocks

Less senior flight attendants may be assigned reserve blocks instead of regular trips. On reserve days they are on 24 or 48 hour airport standby:

  • Must be able to report to airport within 1-2 hours if called
  • Spends entire reserve block at or near the airport
  • Lower flexibility and control over schedule

Reserves lead to unpredictable schedules and more total days away per month. As seniority increases, attendants gain ability to hold full trip schedules.

Total Overnights Per Year

Based on average overnights per month, flight attendants spend between 100-200 nights away from home annually. Some variations by airline and seniority include:

Airline Nights Away Per Year
Major US carrier – junior 120-150
Major US carrier – senior 100-120
International airline 180-200

Newer flight attendants with maximum monthly trips and reserves can spend up to 200 nights away their first few years. Very senior attendants at US airlines get around 100 nights away.

Longest Stretches Away

Most flight attendant schedules involve a mix of short 1-2 day trips and longer stretches of 4-7 days away in a row. Here are the longest trips possible:

  • Domestic US airlines – up to 7 days maximum for a trip
  • International airlines – 8-10 day trips

These ultra long hauls include multiple flights and layover destinations. They represent the furthest limits of time away in a single stretch.

In addition to long trips, flight attendants can also be away for extended periods spanning their days off:

  • Domestic US airlines – up to 14 days away including days off
  • International airlines – up to 18 days away

By scheduling the longest trips back-to-back with days off in between, attendants can maximize flying time before returning home.

Impact of Seniority

Seniority plays a major role in determining how long flight attendants are gone each month. Here are some key seniority impacts:

Total Overnights Away

Junior flight attendants spend more nights away per month to meet their higher schedule minimums. Their typical range is:

  • 12-20 overnights away per month
  • Up to 200 nights away annually

Senior attendants hold mimimum duty schedules getting them home more. Their normal nights away per month are:

  • 8-12 overnights monthly
  • 100-150 nights away annually

Control Over Scheduling

Lower seniority means more reserve blocks and less ability to preference bid work schedules. Junior attendants have:

  • Higher chance of reserve blocks
  • Less flexibility picking trips
  • Less home time

Senior flight attendants can build schedules maximizing days off and minimizing overnights. Perks include:

  • No reserve blocks
  • First choice of trips
  • Can customize schedule each month

Destinations Worked

Airlines often restrict the trips that the most junior attendants can fly. They often work:

  • Mostly domestic US trips
  • Fewer international destinations

Higher seniority unlocks the opportunity to fly longer international trips. Perks include:

  • International long haul routes
  • Premier destinations
  • Higher paying trips

Days Off Per Month

Flight attendants schedules rotate through a cycle of working days followed by days off. Although junior attendants have less control, most try to maximize days off within CBA limits.

On average, the typical flight attendant has:

  • 11-15 working days per month
  • 16-19 days off per month

Schedules often follow rhythms like 4 days working followed by 3 days off. This allows blocks of home time between trips away.

Guaranteed Minimum Days Off

Flight attendant union CBAs stipulate minimum monthly days off that airlines must provide. These ranges are:

  • Domestic US carriers – 11 to 15 days off monthly
  • International airlines – At least 12 days off monthly

Any monthly schedule that meets attendants minimum block hours must align with their minimum days off requirement.

Scheduling to Maximize Days Off

When bidding schedules, attendants use patterns that maximize their days off. Some examples include:

  • 4 days on, 3 off (4/3)
  • 2 days on, 3 off (2/3)
  • Grouping trips to leave 3+ days off between

Quality of life improves when flight attendants can group working stints into longer blocks with more days home in between.


Flight attendants have unique schedules requiring extensive time away from home each month. Work stints range from single day turnarounds up to trips lasting a week or longer. Layover overnights also keep attendants away for 1-3 nights between flights.

On average, flight attendants spend 8-20 nights away per month on trips. Annually that equates to 100-200 overnights away from home base. Maximum stretch away is typically 7-14 days in a row.

Seniority is key in determining how optimized an attendant’s monthly schedule can be. Senior flight attendants hold preferential bids enabling more days off and fewer overnights away each month.