Air cabin crew, also known as flight attendants, are primarily responsible for ensuring passenger safety during a flight.
Prior to a flight, they receive a briefing on the flight and schedule, and check all cabin equipment, making sure the plane is carrying sufficient supplies.
Before take-off they greet the passengers, direct them to their seats, ensure luggage is stored safely and give a safety demonstration showing passengers what to do in an emergency.
During a flight the crew serve meals and drinks, and sell duty free goods. In an emergency they stay calm, make sure the captain’s instructions are followed, and check safety equipment is being used correctly. If a passenger becomes sick, all cabin crew are trained to administer first aid.
Cabin crew are required to complete some paperwork before the end of a flight, including, customs and immigration documents, accounts of duty-free sales, and meal and drink orders.
Hours and Environment
Hours of work can vary and include weekends, nights and public holidays. The amount of time spent away from home may change from job to job. Delays and cancellations could mean hours are disrupted.
Conditions on the aircraft are restricted, with a lot of time spent standing or walking. Jetlag may be a problem when crossing time zones, and air cabin pressure may cause fatigue or other health problems. Bad weather can make flying conditions uncomfortable or even dangerous.
Air cabin crew are expected to have a smart appearance, and usually wear a uniform.
Skills and Interests
As a member of an air cabin crew, you should:
-be tactful but assertive
-enjoy team work
-be calm under pressure and in emergencies
-be confident, friendly and good with people
-be sensitive and reassuring towards people who are anxious or upset
-be able to work quickly and efficiently
-be confident with money, including foreign currency.
Entry requirements vary between airlines so it is important to check, however, most will require you to have some GCSEs (A-C)/S grades (1-3), particularly in English, Maths and a foreign language.
Air cabin crew are normally required to meet certain height and weight restrictions, and be physically fit with good eyesight. Some airlines demand that you can swim at least 25 metres. You should be fluent in English, and some airlines expect knowledge of a second language. A smart appearance is essential, and visible tattoos or body piercings are not usually permitted.
Previous experience in customer service is desirable, and nursing, or hotel and catering experience may be particularly useful.
The minimum age for recruitment is normally 19 years. The maximum age varies between airlines, however, many have a compulsory retirement age of 50 or 55. A valid passport is necessary to allow unrestricted world travel.
There are two main nationally recognised qualifications for people who want to work as air cabin crew. They are the Edexcel BTEC Certificate in Preparation for Air Cabin Crew Service and the EMTA Awards Ltd (EAL) Vocational Qualification for aspiring Air Cabin Crew. Contact Edexcel and EAL for lists of approved colleges and training providers offering these courses.
For details of qualification equivalents see:
Qualifications and Curriculum Authority (England, Wales and Northern Ireland)
Scottish Qualifications Authority
Successful interviewees undergo four to six weeks’ training. Areas studied include: safety and emergency procedures, fire fighting, first aid, security and hijack procedures, crowd control, cabin service, dealing with passengers, foreign currency and personal grooming. Some airlines have introductory distance learning courses, which can be taken before starting basic training.
On completion of basic training, a probationary period of three to six months is served, during which performance is monitored by trainers or senior crew. Air cabin crew have to pass regular examinations that test knowledge of safety and emergency procedures, and ensure official first aid requirements are met.
Competition for places with airlines is very intense. Air cabin crew are usually required to live near the airport where they are based. They could be based overseas as international cabin crew with a British airline.
Promotion to senior crew member is possible with experience, as is the possibility of a transfer to ground-based employment with an airline.
Figures are intended as a guideline only.
A new recruit earns around £9,000.
Air cabin crew with experience could earn £11,000.
Salaries for senior crew are around £17,000.
There may also be a flying allowance, which can be up to £4,500 extra a year for a new entrant.