At AviatorJob our worldwide connections enable us to chat with many different aviation professionals and ask them about their careers in aviation. We recently spoke with a cabin crew professional with over 25 years of experience. Here is what she shared with us about her role.
This article is designed to give you an insight into the role of airline Cabin Crew.
When you have been on a flight, you will have seen what the Cabin Crew do onboard but I'd like to take you behind the scenes and show you what happens before a passenger steps on the aircraft, so you can gain a better understanding of the job, which hopefully will help you to decide if this is the career for you. Also, by understanding the role a little better, you will be better equipped in the application process to convince the airline that you are perfect for the job!
Being Cabin Crew is more of a lifestyle than just a job. If you are looking for a set 9 to 5 routine, stability and being surrounded by the same people every day then this job is probably not for you. However if you are attracted to the idea of every day being different, constantly working with and meeting new people and a varied, challenging, exciting and often hectic lifestyle, then read on!
People often have the misconception that Cabin Crew start their day a few minutes before passengers board the plane. This is definitely not the case as Cabin Crew usually report for their allocated rostered flight around 1.5 - 2 hours before the flight is due to depart. There is lots of preparation to be done!
Cabin crew start their day with a flight briefing, taken by the incharge crew member (all airlines have different names for this role.. Cabin Director, Purser, Senior, Number 1, etc). To make it easier, I will just refer to this role as the ICM - incharge crew member. Whatever their title, their job is to oversee and lead the rest of the Cabin Crew team on the flight. They work alongside the Captain who has overall responsibility for all the Crew, the aircraft and the passengers.
The briefing starts with a welcome and introduction by everyone (in a large airline, you rarely fly with the same crew so this is your first opportunity to meet the people you will be spending your next day/days/week with). Then follows a discussion on safety and emergency procedures. The prime reason Cabin Crew are onboard is to deal with emergencies (fire, evacuation, medical incidents, etc). The ICM might ask specific questions to each individual (eg “how long does an oxygen bottle last for” and “what medication do we give for angina”), or it may be a general discussion covering a scenario (“we’re in the middle of a flight when you hear a loud bang, the aircraft descends quickly and there is mist in the cabin, what is happening?”). The answer (if you’re interested!) is a rapid decompression.
Once the ICM is satisfied everyone is up to speed on their safety knowledge, the briefing will then cover the number of passengers on the flight, any medical, mobility or dietary needs (diabetic, babies, wheelchair access, etc), the flight time, destination/arrival information, etc. Then working positions (where each crew member will work on today's flight) will be allocated. This might be done on a seniority basis (longer serving crew get to choose first), or it is allocated according to experience, or it might be left to each individual crew member to speak up first.
Each airline has its own format. The aim is usually to allow each crew member to experience different working positions. Each working position has an allocated exit responsibility (in the case of having to evacuate the aircraft), the emergency equipment they are responsible for (eg fire extinguisher, oxygen bottle) and an area of the cabin to work in (eg Business class, Economy class, etc). Each position has a set role within it which is dictated to by the airline's service standards.
After the briefing has finished, all the crew pass through a security search (just like passengers) and either walk to or are coached to their aircraft. Once onboard everyone first checks the safety equipment they are responsible for (based on their working positions). These checks are passed onto the ICM who passes them onto the Captain and once s/he is happy that the aircraft is safe and ready, will allow the passengers to board.
Depending on their allocated working positions, some crew members will be greeting passengers at the door, some assisting in the aisles, someone will be making onboard announcements to passengers regarding luggage and others preparing the galley for the food and drinks service. Every role is allocated in advance so that the boarding phase is as smooth and efficient as possible.
After all passengers are onboard and the luggage and cargo safely stowed, the command will be given by the Captain to “engage” the emergency doors.
Each airline has a different phrase for this (eg “doors to automatic”, “doors to engage”, “arm the doors”), they all mean the same thing - before take off, all the cabin doors have to have the emergency slides engaged so they will inflate automatically in the event of an evacuation and after landing they are then disengaged.
The aircraft will start to taxi out to the take off position on the runway. During this time the Cabin Crew will be demonstrating the safety procedures particular to this aircraft type and making sure all passengers and luggage are secure. The Crew will then be notified by the ICM to take their seats and the flight will take off.
I hope this article has helped you gain some insight into what being Cabin Crew involves and will help you decide if a job in the skies is the role is for you.
J Pearce has 25 years’ experience as Cabin Crew for British based airlines.