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Crewed Talk: Domestic Goddesses v. International Queens — What’s the Difference?

The photo above makes me laugh, because it captures a moment that most flight attendants have come across in their career. Sometimes it’s just perception and sometimes it’s true, but there is sometimes an image of snobbery from the International operation towards the Domestic one. While we do the same job and have the same training, some of the finer points can make the two operations feel quite different, for better or for worse. That’s why each kind of flying has its fans – and haters.

It won’t need explaining to you that it simply sounds more fun to say, “I’m flying to Paris!” than “I’m flying to Tulsa!” That alone could explain why International tends to be more popular. Some might say, after you’ve laid over in a city 726 times it can, in a way, feel like any other. Still, no one will coo, “Oh, that sounds amaaaazing,” because you get to go to Duluth five times per month.*

Last week’s article touched on one common difference (see below), but let’s look at other aspects that drive the loyalties behind #TeamDomestic and #TeamInternational – or short-haul v. long-haul as most foreign carriers would divide it.


Last week I mentioned that international trips are a surer bet for a nice long layover. Longer flights require longer rest, and giving us the bare minimum on long-haul would usually put us flying at awkward times, like leaving London at midnight to arrive in the U.S. at 3 a.m. It exists, but many airports and immigration checks won’t accept such times, and it’s too inconvenient for most passengers.

There are long Domestic layovers, true, but they seem to be more and more rare. On the flip side, stews who fly super high time don’t want a lot of rest away from home. They want to cram in the hours, so long layovers wouldn’t be their dream.


At most airlines, international/long-haul crews get paid a bit more. So even for stews who prefer Domestic flying, the higher pay is tempting.

Comfort & Amenities

Both passengers and crews get some extra comforts on long flights. International trips traditionally get the roomiest planes, and we all know how much a square inch is worth in the sky. Those planes also get tricked out with more entertainment options for the passengers, not to mention pillows and blankets, complimentary meals and some alcohol, too. I’m not sure if you know this, but passengers love free things! Happy passengers are drama-free, and thus, make happy crews. It’s so much nicer to say, “Of course I can,” than, “I’m sorry, but…”

Certain other hassles are minimized on long-haul for crews, too, like rarely running out of overhead bin space during boarding and being catered with large teabags to brew full pots instead of dinky single serve ones we have to hoard from multiple flights to make sure we have enough. That last item is something only a flight attendant would know or care about, but now you’ve got the inside scoop!

Body Clock

Short-haul flights get a gold star in this category. While domestic has way too many 4 a.m. and 5 a.m. sign-ins for my taste, many flight attendants prefer those to always flying all-nighters and jerking your body clock back and forth so terribly, especially as research continues to reveal serious, long-term side effects.

Three hours maximum difference (read: the continental U.S. flights) is a cake walk, relatively — although flight attendants based on the West Coast might take issue with me saying that!

Flight Time

As you probably recall, crews only get paid for flight time, when the brakes are not engaged on the aircraft. The longer a flight, the more hours of pay you are earning relative to how many hours you are actually at work. Your average long-haul trip will be worth 14-20 hours in just two flights. To get that many hours on domestic, one often has to work five to seven flights. That involves a good bit of uncompensated time, e.g. boarding and connecting to other flights, and may be paired with those short rest times.

It can really be worth it for a work schedule of somewhat normal waking hours, milder jetlag, and less intensive service to complete on each flight (at least in Coach). The body difference feels huge when I find I can work more domestic trips without the need for an entire day to recuperate in-between.

In the long-term over a career, this difference in flight length might be the main factor in whether one will prefer to fly domestic or international. Some flight attendants prefer “one and done” – that’s one boarding, one flight, one deplaning (etc.) for a day’s work. Others hate staying awake all night and find long flights for “endless hours” dull and confining. They like their flights “short and sweet” and to keep moving.

So while International is more coveted, and it does get some perks, it’s truly in the eye if the beholder, especially when you realize that all of these differences are generalizations. On International you’ll still find short flights with Domestic-levels of service and Paris flights on dinky 757s, and on Domestic there are routes with the amenities to rival any international destination (Hello, Transcons!) and certainly some all-nighters.

Everybody has a niche that works for them and the key to making the flying life work is to find that niche – whatever it is at your seniority – and work it. In my view, that’s far more important than whether it takes you to Toyko, or Tallahassee.

* I like you, Duluth! But this can’t be news to you.

[Photo: BBC]

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Bootman4U July 22, 2015

A "stew?" How very 1950's!!!