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Name: Melissa

About Me

Countries Visited (not including Turnarounds): Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Brazil, Canada, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Ghana, Great Britain, Greece, Iceland, India, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Latvia, Libya, Lithuania, Malaysia, Malta, Mauritius, Moldova, Monaco, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, North Korea, Philippines, Romania, Russia, Singapore, Senegal, Serbia, Seychelles, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Switzerland, Tanzania, Thailand, Tunisia, Turkey, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United States, Vatican City

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London | Perth | Sydney | Melbourne

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Skin by Falter

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Latest Updates
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Per Diem – adv. \(ˌ)pər-ˈdē-əm, -ˈdī-\
Latin – by the day/for the day
The monetary allowance an airline gives to pilots and flight attendants in order to reimburse them for meal costs incurred.

Quite often I get emails from potentially new recruits asking me what I would earn on average as a flight attendant. The reality is, the average is difficult to work out, so I normally reply with the salary + flying pay amount. “No, I need to know what you would earn every month, INCLUDING MEAL ALLOWANCES.” Well I’m sorry hon, I can’t answer the question.

When I first started in this job I was looking forward to collecting coins from different countries, even getting some of my batch mates to give me a couple of low value coins from their home countries whilst we were all in college. Now I can’t stand coins, especially when it’s from a country that doesn’t have the Hindu-Arabic numbers stamped onto the coins (US money included!)

When I first started flying layovers I would exchange whatever Per Diem I had left as soon as I arrived into Dubai. Then after realising I was losing out on money this way I no longer thought it was worth the hassle, so kept everything in a little coin purse. Then the coin purse changed into a large LAGS-type bag, then I ditched the bag for the original allowance envelopes (one for each country) and then about 2 years ago I decided to get myself organised. I bought about 50 small envelopes, labelled them clearly with the country and ISO code and bought a brand new box to house them all in.Very rarely would I attempt to save my allowance for something long term, I believe if this is what the airline gives me for food, then I will spend what I want on the food I eat, and whatever’s left is just a bonus.

The amount we’re given is dependent on a number of factors – Firstly it depends on the hotel we stay at and the main dining restaurant’s average price for a main meal. So we would earn more at a landmark 5 star hotel in the city than we would at a 3 star hotel located near the airport. Secondly this rate would vary depending on the amount of discount we get in that main dining restaurant – a higher percentage discount results in a smaller Per Diem. Thirdly, the meal allowances we get are broken up into different rates for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, with Breakfast earning the least and Dinner the most amount of money. As the layovers are calculated from chocks on to chocks off, a city that we operate to more than once a day would have the crew from both of those flights earning different amounts of Per Diem despite the crew having the same rank, flight hours or what not.

Lets take for example my recent flight to Perth. I land into PER at 5.30pm and depart the next day at 10.30pm. I would be earning 2 Dinners, 1 Breakfast and 1 Lunch (I also earn a ‘night stop’ allowance, but have never understood the need for this, so we’ll exclude it from now on) If breakfast was 10 AUD, Lunch was 20 AUD and Dinner 30 AUD then my allowance for the trip would be about 90 AUD. My batch mate Melanie is operating on the other Perth flight, and it arrived that morning at 3.00am, and left the next day at 8.00am. She would then earn 2 Breakfasts, 1 Lunch and 1 Dinner, and despite the fact that we’re both first class crew, and both have a 29hr layover, she’d be earning only 70 AUD.Confused yet? Well not only are we not only able to assign a guaranteed Per Diem rate on any one city, the rates are reviewed (to the best of my knowledge) once every six months!

And the difference in the money you earn can be significant – Whilst I was a Business Class crew member I came to a point where I would operate 4 Moscow flights in 2 months, all of which arrived at the same time and left at the same time. One Moscow flight was Feb 2008, whilst the other three were in Jan 2008. All three of the Moscow’s I operated in January were very lucrative, as in addition to being quite good for Duty Free commission, the allowance was 128 USD! Saving the allowance on that trip wasn’t hard either, as I would have over 80 USD left over from each layover. Then I operated the Moscow trip in February and went to collect my allowance, and after the 6 monthly review it had plummeted to 93 USD! I could not believe it, but sadly it’s just a way of life here. If economically the exchange rate booms again then the allowance can increase, but for the time being I’m just happy bidding and swapping onto flights that make me happy to be there, not places where I can earn the most allowance.

The inevitable collection of the Per Diem does have it's downsides. If you're not organised then it can be very easy to get the coins all mixed up with each other. The ones I get confused with the most are the coins from Japan, China and Korea. It doesn't help that more than one country call their currency the same thing, like the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Hong Kong calling their currency the Dollar, and India, Sri Lanka, Mauritius and Seychelles calling their currency the Rupee. Even Morocco use the Dirham, which is what we use here in the UAE. There is another downside however, though since I am an Australian citizen living in Dubai I don't have to worry about this, though my US colleagues certainly have to. The amount of Per Diem you collect is considered taxable income, so this is something you would have to declare when you fill out a tax report. And knowing how organised I am now with still very little knowledge of how much money I have here in Per Diem money, I just thank my lucky stars I don't have to worry about the tax department as well.

So what is my method? Well I have two wallets - The layover wallet and the Dubai wallet. The layover wallet is a cheapo one and inside I keep all my smart travel cards from overseas (such as a London Oyster card) plus my proof of age (which they never ask for in Dubai). I have one credit card in there for emergencies, so in case it does get stolen I cancel the stolen card and still have my Dubai credit card to use while the other one is replaced. It also helps me to keep track of what I spend overseas, separate to what I spend in Dubai, and if any debt needs to be reigned in I know where to start. The wallet is stocked with whatever currency I need for my next layover, so I end up changing it out maybe 5 times a month. And right before I go on my annual leave to somewhere cool or relaxing, I empty out all my Per Diem wallets of notes and change it all in Dubai, so I now have some spending money for my trip, and this usually yields enough cash to pay for the hotel room.

So there you have it, the mystery of the Per Diem. If there are any international flight attendants out there who earn Per Diem I would love to hear what you do with them :-)

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