I understand that airline pilots are generally paid for their time "in flight", which means the clock starts when the aircraft begins to move away from the gate. Are flight attendants paid in the same way?
It mightn't be a bad idea to specify which country you are talking about, as practices can vary throughout the world, and potentially even amongst individual airlines within the same country.
Last year I looked into becoming a FA for a smaller Australian airline. The pay arrangements were:
- A guaranteed minimum annual salary (which was about $45k)
- On top of that, flying wages based on scheduled flight times (4.20 per hour, a bit extra per hour for the hours worked above an agreed number of hours in a month). Note that even if a flight is delayed it is still issued with adjusted scheduled times. The 'padding' applied to regular scheduling works in favour for the employees here.
However, I believe the US works completely differently. And as I said, this is an example from only one airline.
It really all depends on the airline and their CBAs with various unions. Practically every major job role you encounter while taking a plane trip is represented in the U.S. by a different trade union; there's a pilot's union (several actually, biggest is the ALPA but some major carriers like AA and USAir have their own), a flight attendants' union (AFPA and AFA-CWA plus some carrier-specific affiliates), a mechanics' union (AMA and AMFA), a ground crew's union (mainly AFL-CIO or TWU), a baggage handlers' union (also either TWU or AFL-CIO but it can differ from the one for maintenance crews), an ATC union (NATCA), and even the TSA screeners are now unionized through the American Federation of Government Employees.
All of these unions negotiate more or less independently with the airlines on many things, including pay structure. It's often a matter of who gets there first when there are rumors of increased airline profits; on one airline the flight attendants might be treated like gold while the pilots are making peanuts and pushed right up against FAA regs on working hours and conditions, while the exact opposite may be true just one gate down. Exactly how they're compensated is usually public information since the airlines themselves are publicly traded and this information is part of their cost structure, but it is more likely to be different between airlines than the same, especially for a major U.S. carrier whose flight crews are represented by company-specific unions.