Wanna Know the Cheapest Way to Travel The World?

Work for the airlines! You can travel alllll over when you’ve got that hook up. I did it for an entire year and will never forget it :)

But it’s not for the faint of heart – you will need to ROCK customer service or else it’ll eat you up a live.  (It’s seriously up there with debt collecting and working at the DMV! You’ve got to be GOOD.) And if you do get past all the passenger crankiness, you will be rewarded handsomely! In miles though, not money (more on that later).

And when I say cheap, I mean CHEAP. $10-$30 round trip tickets pretty much anywhere in the U.S.!  And only $50-$100ish anywhere in the world!!! At least when I was in the game (8 years ago by now). Whether you’re a ticket agent, flight attendant, baggage handler, operations, etc, everyone in the company gets hooked up. Oh, and you have the option of having these trips automatically deducted from your paycheck! Haha… Which was both good AND bad if you don’t watch yourself ;) I had many a friends lack a few paychecks here and there due to their sexy adventures.

You better believe I took advantage of it too!

  • Cancun: For 4 days right after “graduating” from training and against the advice of my boss!  I almost got cut too – right before starting ;) Showed up the first day of work w/ some Mexican Virus due to drinking tap water (never EVER do that!)
  • London: For a 3 day weekend to visit friends traveling there @ the same time. The week George W. declared war on Osama, actually. I was in a bar watching it on T.V. and not feeling so safe.
  • Mall of America (Minnesota): Flew out in the morning, shopped for a few hours, and flew back – all on the same day! Just because we could ;)
  • St. Louis: To visit a friend for the weekend.
  • San Diego: 4 day trip to visit another friend.
  • Puerto Rico: 2 Day quick weekend for some sun & cervezas!

And multiple trips to D.C., Miami, and many many others. I’ve also heard of people flying to places like Boston just for a nice lobster dinner too! It was pretty crazy.

Other pros of working for the airlines

  • You meet a lot of cool people!
  • You meet a lot of hot girls! (or guys, if you’re into that).
  • You learn other languages – especially if you work the international flights.
  • You can travel for FREE as a flight attendant ;) Or steward, or whatever they’re calling it these days.
  • You don’t even have to work full-time!  If you were good, you could trade away your days and work the bare minimum to stay “active” (like 10 hours a week or something)
  • You can fly first class a lot! Even business class!
  • You can trade around work schedules and pretty much travel whenever!
  • You become a customer service master.  Or you quit.

On the downside, you also get paid PENNIES – unless you’re a pilot or a 30+ year veteran. And all those free-ish plane tickets are also on standby ;)  (I remember getting confirmed seats too, but I think you only had a cple of those passes every year, the rest was standby)

Sooooo you may be able to get anywhere in the world for cheap, but once you landed you didn’t have much to live off.   So we were pretty much in and out of friends’ places and hostels here and there. And luckily there was always cheap beer no matter where you went ;)

Other cons of airline working

  • You work all hours of the day and night! 3pm-11pm, 5pm-1am, 4am-11am, pretty much any wacky schedule out there. And that’s just for ticket agents as I was, not flight crew. They go hours and hours through all sorts of late-night gigs.
  • You learn that baggage handlers really don’t care about your bags.
  • You meet a lot of whack jobs.
  • People get mad at you when it rains.
  • People get mad at you when volcanoes are erupting and you tell them they can’t fly back home or they’ll die! And then they complain to your boss and ask why we just don’t “try it.”
  • People also get mad when you tell them they’ll have to miss their own wedding because they showed up LATE on the very last flight out! The NIGHT BEFORE the wedding! (I swear, if you’re going to an extremely important event or destination, PLEASE, whatever you do, make sure to allow enough time for random problems!)
  • Everyone sleeps around – especially the pilots. They get more ass than anyone at the airlines! Seriously, it’s insane. And sadly I’ve never seen so much debauchery or cheating going on while working theretoo. (although it could just be a New York City thing)

So to summarize: Airlines are good for cheap tickets, crazy adventures, and lots and lots of debauchery. Basically a perfect job for all who’s single and ready to mingle ;) Or those with lots of time on their hands.

PS: I worked for Continental Airlines, in case you were wondering.

(Photo by Kossy@FINEDAYS)

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  1. doctor S July 30, 2010 at 9:43 AM

    whoa whoa whoa. You were a flight attendant for Continental Airlines? “Coffee? Juiiiiiiicccce?”.

    I have a few friends who work corporate jobs for airlines and they fly EVERYWHERE on the cheap cheap cheap! They consistently pick flights, go and wait standby, and then end up getting priority over some person who needs to get on the plane more. I guess that’s what they call a perk right?

    I think it would be cool to do it for a few years, if I was single, and early on in my career. To be able to see the world and, like you said, meet cool people in the same boat as you.

    I won’t lie, it def sounds like it beats my cubical job!

  2. philip July 30, 2010 at 10:05 AM

    Wow… sounds like fun! I wish I were brave enough to go broke and do something like that!

    One question… were you sporting the Hawk while doing this?!

  3. Jenni July 30, 2010 at 1:38 PM

    Working for pennies is a larger ‘con’ than it seems to be given credit for. My sister just started her new job as a flight attendant and called me yesterday. She’s worried about getting enough hours and making enough money. Flight attendants are only paid when the cabin door closes and until it opens. Plus she doesn’t have a schedule … they just call her if they need her. I’d prefer she had a job with more stability, and she’s starting to think so, too.

    I guess it’d be a good job if you were sitting on a buttload of cash and didn’t just graduate school with student loans.

  4. J. Money July 30, 2010 at 2:43 PM

    @doctor S – Haha…no, I was a ticket agent. That guy who would check you in and take your luggage from you. And the one people yell at when they have to wait in line to get to you ;) It’s not that glamorous of a job really, but the perks are insane. If you like traveling, of course.
    @philip – Nope! I had it high and tight ;) Although at one point I started growing it out like a hawk for the first time, but then just kept it down while working….I basically had a mullet. Until I was asked to cut it! haha… First time I wore a suit for a job too! Felt pretty pimp.
    @Jenni – Oh for sure, making no money is NOT fun. The airlines are really for people who want to do something fun and aren’t as concerned w/ $. Or for entry level jobs really, at least in my experience. Of course it depends on what avenue you’re trying to break into too. Pilots, regional managers, operations, HR, all have much better pay than the entry level CSR. And there’s really no job security either, it’s freaky. But if you’ve got 20+ years on your belt? You’ve earned the extra money and stability :)

  5. Sense July 31, 2010 at 12:01 AM

    I’m DEF gonna do this when I retire. I’m gonna travel the world on my retirement money!

    My cousin worked for Southwest the last 3 years of her college career. She traveled EVERYWHERE. Her immediate family got to travel for free on standby, too (unfortunately, no cousins allowed)!

    She worked ground and clean-up crew (the people that clean up the cabin before and after flights), and got some sort of awful coughing/lung illness from the plane exhaust. It’s one year later (she traveled to Australia for her final flight and lived there for a year), and she still has lung issues. that’s another con for that job… :)

  6. J. Money July 31, 2010 at 11:36 AM

    Woah! Never heard of that one. She was def. taking advantage of all the perks though! Good for her. There are hundreds of different jobs you can do with the airlines though so I’m sure you’ll find one that works better for you when it’s time :) PERFECT for retired people too – plus, passengers tend to like older people more I find. I was always treated as a “kid” and not really taken that seriously – except for the time I had to help 60+ people at 2 a.m. once and a stampede almost ensued. My manager at the time literally ran into her office and said it was “too unsafe” out there and called security. I ended up standing on top of the desk of computers and taking control of the situation, of course knowing security would soon back me up ;) It didn’t get too out of control, but at least I was respected for a few hours. And everyone got helped!

  7. myfinancialobjectives August 1, 2010 at 6:12 PM

    Wow that’s awesome J! Thanks for telling us your story. I was going to ask what you did when you worked for them. I’d say a ticket agent is probably one of the more preferred jobs. I don’t know how much I’d like dealing with customers on a plane, especially on long trips with lots of babies…

    That awesome though man. I’m surprised you never made it to some of Asian countries, those tickets are stupidly expensive!

  8. J. Money August 1, 2010 at 8:39 PM

    Oh, I would have had I been at the airlines longer! I was trying to hit a lot of the places closer to home first before venturing WAY out there (and since it didn’t take much finagling of work days off) but then our group got laid off. Which was actually pretty good timing because I wanted to move back to the DC area anyways by that point, but it also put a stop to my adventures. I used to live in Korea though so I’ve def. experienced the Asian culture :) Love it too!

  9. Financial Samurai August 1, 2010 at 11:06 PM

    J, tell us more about the pilots hooking up with all the attendants! Was it really that common?

    Do you suggest we work for the airlines as a retirement job, to help us see the world?

    Any tips on HITTING on flight attendants as a passenger?

  10. ToDHD August 1, 2010 at 11:35 PM

    I think the cheapest way to travel the world is to play the trip in a year in advance

  11. J. Money August 2, 2010 at 10:25 AM

    Haha…have you ever seen Top Gun? ;)

    Yup – a PERFECT job for retirees. You get to travel, make a little money, and be around lots of cool people.

  12. msflyerswife August 2, 2010 at 1:37 PM

    Well, I hate to say it but nowadays with the rise of the “regional” airline, it ain’t really so. Most flights (and jobs) are on regionals. Most regionals not only pay minimum wage, but with the entire travel industry pretty much still in the toilet, flights are also more full (meaning we get bumped) and if you have more people than just YOU to fly with, it sometimes gets hard. That being said, if I was single, totally unattached and was into travel, it might be a good way to get around while making no bucks at all.

  13. Forest August 2, 2010 at 5:17 PM

    I was a baggage handler in college for a season and I took some sweet trips but I think flying to Alaska first class for $75 roundtrip was the best one!

  14. youngandthrifty August 3, 2010 at 6:17 PM

    That’s my dream job too (not dream job as in salary wise, but dream perks job)

    I have a friend who’s a flight attendant and she gets to fly everywhere for dirt cheap!

    I guess you would want to work for an airline company that was large enough with multiple international destinations.

    I also know someone else who works “casual” as an accountant (like maybe once a month) and he gets SWEETASS deals to go to vegas. Like $25 return.

    So jealous.

    That would be ideal. Just work once a month and bam- you get the perks.

  15. J. Money August 3, 2010 at 8:23 PM

    Is your friend, ME? I’m a casual accountant for my place and flew out to Vegas on company dime just a year or two ago! :) this will bring a blast from the past:


    too bad all the fun is going away soon…