A cabin crew attendant is responsible for ensuring the safety and comfort of all passengers travelling on a particular flight.
Cabin crew attendants have been specifically trained in customer care and customer service. They are responsible for ensuring that passengers remain safe throughout the duration of the flight and they will be expected to take charge in emergency situations. They make sure that the cabin is a safe environment for its occupants and also make sure that passengers are as comfortable as possible. They will do everything they can to make the flight enjoyable and will attend to the needs of all passengers throughout the flight.
Whilst the airline industry attracts more men than women, particularly in senior roles such as pilots and airport managers, many more women than men work as cabin crew attendants. The gender imbalance has been recognised by airlines during recent years and many have taken steps to address it.
Individuals who have just started working as cabin crew attendants can expect to earn between £12,000 and £15,000 per year. After a few years in the role, individuals can earn between £15,000 and £20,000. Senior cabin crew attendants, who will have worked as a member of the cabin crew for approximately ten to fifteen years, may earn up to £25,000. The precise salary provided to a cabin crew attendant will differ depending upon the airline.
The typical tasks performed by a member of the cabin crew include:
- Ensuring that their own luggage contains the appropriate content and does not go against safety regulations
- Attending pre-flight briefings during which cabin crew attendants are informed about their role as well as unusual elements of the upcoming flight which may need special attention. These include passengers with particular requirements or medical conditions
- Checking the safety equipment on board
- Making sure the cabin is clean
- Checking that all the meals and drinks are ready to be served after take off
- Making sure all the safety information is in the seat pockets
- Helping passengers board the aircraft
- Performing safety demonstrations
- Ensuring luggage is stowed away and that seat belts are fastened
- Making announcements during the flight
- Serving meals and drinks
- Attending to the particular needs of the passengers throughout the flight
- Selling duty free products
- Taking responsibility in emergencies and providing first aid
- Providing information about the destination and any immigration requirements
- Helping passengers disembark
- Making sure the cabin is empty after the flight
- Writing flight reports and alerting officials about any problems
There are no formal requirements for individuals who wish to start cabin crew training. However, individuals who hold degrees in subjects including languages and business studies may have an advantage. Many individuals apply without a degree and good GCSE grades will be expected. There are several courses which can be completed that will look good on a CV, including NVQ courses in air cabin crew services. A valid passport will obviously also be needed.
Air cabin crew attendants should possess the following skills:
- Good communication and interpersonal skills
- The ability to work well as part of a team but also use own initiative
- Problem solving skills
- Ability to remain calm under pressure and in emergency situations
- Good literacy and numeracy skills
- The ability to use tact and keep passenger information confidential
- Physical fitness
Cabin crew attendants spend most of their time in an aircraft but they also work on the ground, writing reports and taking part in briefings in the airport. Shifts may be long and the hours are irregular. Weekends, public holidays, and evenings will often be taken up by work. Cabin crew attendants may be able to work on a part-time basis but hours will still be unsocial at times.
The job can be stressful, particularly if cabin crew attendants encounter a security threat whilst in the air. Long hours and jet lag can also cause stress and some individuals may find it hard working in a confined space for so long.
Any experience in an environment which shows the ability to deal with members of the public will be valued by an employer. This can be gained in a shop, restaurant, or other commercial environment. This kind of experience may be more valuable than a degree or relevant qualification. Experience in a team based job may also look impressive.
Cabin crew attendants are employed by airlines, some of which include:
- British Airways
- Virgin Atlantic
- Thomas Cook
- First Choice
After a few years, cabin crew attendants can apply for a position as a purser. This individual will be in charge of the entire cabin during a flight. Pursers can then progress to the position of Cabin Manager. Other career progressions include Customer Service Trainer and Safety Equipment and Procedures Trainer.
Also known as…
- Flight attendants
- Air hosts/hostesses
What’s it really like?
Stephen Lovering is 40 years of age and is a cabin crew attendant working for British Airways. He started working for British Airways in the 1980s. He was initially based at Heathrow airport but then decided to take a break for nine years, before returning to British Airways in June last year. He is now based at Gatwick airport. During his break from flying with British Airways, Stephen worked as a pub manager and then purchased his own pub. He also spent a short time working for EasyJet.
Stephen joined British Airways straight after leaving college and he started out working on the ground in flight enquiries. He then joined cabin crew operations before becoming an official part of the cabin crew. Stephen believes that there is no typical day when flying as part of the cabin crew but his day usually starts with double-checking that he has everything he needs for his trip before leaving his house eg light weight clothing for a warm destination. Upon arrival at the airport, Stephen checks his suitcase in at the security point and then checks in on the computer system. At this point, he is usually presented with a list of the other members of the cabin crew who will be on the same flight.
After these initial security measures, Stephen checks recent safety notices and then progresses through the final security check. He meets with the other crew members in the briefing room and the cabin manager provides useful information about the flight and the service. At this point, the working positions are chosen and each member of the crew fills in a safety and medical questionnaire in order to ensure that they are still familiar with emergency procedures. Approximately one hour before the departure, the cabin crew arrives at the aircraft.
During Stephen’s most recent flight to Orlando, he was positioned in the World Traveller cabin and was responsible for looking after passengers who needed extra assistance as well as families with young children. After boarding the aircraft, he checked the emergency equipment in his seating area and then checked the entire cabin for potential security threats. The galley is then prepared so that service can begin as soon as possible following take off. During boarding, Stephen helps passengers find their seats and then performs a safety demonstration before securing the cabin for take off. After providing young children with entertainment packs and setting up sky cots for babies, Stephen starts the meal service.
During a typical flight, Stephen provides passengers with drinks and completes paperwork at the bar area. Depending upon the duration of the flight, a second meal may be offered and then the cabin must be prepared for landing. This involves collecting headphones, distributing landing cards, and ensuring that all passengers have their seat belts fastened and hand luggage safely stowed away. After the aircraft has landed, Stephen helps the passengers disembark and then he checks that nothing has been left behind. After going through immigration and collecting baggage, Stephen takes a bus to his hotel.
Stephen loves the fact that every day at work is different. He rarely works with the same cabin crew members and he enjoys working on a mix of long and short haul flights. He really enjoys meeting new people and working with members of the public. He has met so many interesting passengers and often finds himself chatting for hours to people who cannot sleep in the middle of the night whilst flying across the Atlantic. The only negative feature of the job that Stephen could think of was collecting the meal trays. He thinks that it can be very difficult to fit the used trays back into the trolley and this can be embarrassing!
Stephen had some useful words of wisdom for those wishing to become cabin crew attendants. He believes that individuals should firstly try to look beyond the perceived glamour of the job and realise that the working days can be really long and very tiring. Furthermore, potential applicants should think about how they would feel if they had to be away from their families and loved ones over Christmas and New Year. The airline industry is one which operates throughout the year, without exception, and employees can find themselves checking in for a flight in the middle of the night on a Friday when all their friends are hitting the pubs.
Keeping physically fit is essential, since flying can place unreasonable demands on the body. However, Stephen believes that the hard work is worthwhile when you land in Barbados and have a couple of days relaxing in a top hotel! With regards to career progression, Stephen believes that working as a cabin crew attendant opens many doors. When he was looking to manage a pub, he was told that his flying experience, which made him comfortable around customers, had helped him achieve his ambition.