A day in the life of a cabin crew
We are trained to the highest standards in emergency and standard operating procedures, first aid and keeping our passengers happy with our inflight service. Our primary role onboard any aircraft however is safety. Forget your life jackets, safety cards, oxygen masks and seatbelts; should an unlikely emergency happen, we are the only ones that can provide guidance the passengers will need to get them off the aircraft.
PRE-FLIGHT MEETINGS & SAFETY CHECKS
At two hours before the scheduled departure time, we are called into the briefing room. In the briefing room we have our documents checked (passport, flying license, vaccination booklet, etc) as well as grooming checks to make sure our uniform is up to standard. The seniors introduce themselves, and we also receive information about the flight, ensure common understanding between all crew members to quickly establish synergy, any updates to our operating procedures and to check we know our stuff by answering safety, security, or aviation medicine briefing question.
Our cabin crew pre- flight briefing will usually include the en-route weather, the estimated flight time, information on any unusual situations, cockpit entry procedure, emergency and communication procedures, and anything that the flight crew or the cabin crews need to discuss related to the flight, (e.g. special cargo, flight crew meals, etc.). It will also include any special information, such as number of passengers and any special requirements for passengers or maintenance issues that may affect the flight. The Purser will define responsibilities for the flight and will often ask safety related questions to ensure that each crew member is aware of what is expected in specific situations in their designated position on-board the aircraft.
We make our way onto the bus which takes us to the aircraft. Once we are all onboard we start preparing, so putting blankets and headphones on the seats and making sure everything is clean and ready. When we board the aircraft we go to our assigned stations. After stowing away our baggage, we perform an emergency equipment check at our crew station and we have to also do this every half hour when the aircraft is airborne. We are responsible for checking the emergency equipment at our station, in lavatories, in overhead bins, in cupboards, and under seats. It is our responsibility to write all discrepancies on the Emergency Equipment Checklist. The assigned cabin crew member then ensures that all catering items, food, dry goods, bars, and duty-free are on-board and are stowed in their appropriate places before passengers arrive. The cabin crew member responsible for the galleys counts passenger meals and crew meals, and advises the Senior cabin crew member. The cabin crew is responsible for ensuring the cabin is safe for take-off. Security checks will also be done under seats, in seat pockets, in overhead bins and compartments, in magazine racks and in the crew seat area. This will also be carried out in waste bins, galley lockers and in the trolleys, as well as all areas of the toilets. Any suspicious items are reported to the Senior cabin crew member.
For us cabin crew, boarding is the time when direct contact with passengers begins. As we cabin crew are, in effect, the face of the airline, the passengers’ first impressions should obviously be good and the service promised in our publicity must now begin. Our primary duties here are safety and the comfort and well-being of the passengers. This is evidenced by the many checks done on the plane before boarding.
After all checks have been carried out, the Senior cabin crew member will liaise with the pilot and the ground personnel regarding when to board the passengers. We cabin crew are responsible for challenging anyone who attempts to board without either a boarding pass. We look out for passengers with reduced mobility, passengers requiring oxygen, unaccompanied minors, expectant mothers, intoxicated passengers, suspicious and high risk passengers, nervous passengers.
Boarding can be a stressful time of cabin crews and we have to deal with a number if possible problems, including lost boarding passes, passengers blocking aisles, disagreements over seating, over-sized luggage, nervous passengers wanting to use the toilets before the facilities can be used. There is sometimes a delay before take-off, which can cause further tension. Cool headedness and politeness are crucial in these situations. We also have to be vigilant looking and hearing for things that may not be right and to raise this with our seniors.
As well as providing assistance to passengers, on-board services also include providing meals, drinks, and entertainment. There are also duty free shopping and communication facilities. The nature of these services will vary from airline to airline and class to class. Airlines, like any business are looking for ways to increase their revenue.
Once we’ve taken off and the seatbelt sign goes off, we change into our cabin shoes and waistcoat and start preparing for the service. We prepare the carts with all the drinks and heat the croissants up in the ovens. Any special meals that have been pre-ordered are handed out first, and then we take the carts into the cabin and serve the meals and drinks.
During flight, we are also aware that health and medical issues may arise e.g. passenger with heartburn and starts to vomit, recognise the symptoms of heart attack, asthmatic attack, performing CPR, wound treatment, air sickness, epileptic seizures etc. We are also trained to sue defibrillators for cardiac issues. All of these medical issues require communication with cabin and flight crew to alert ground paramedics and medical staff on stand-by in case of flight diversion.
SAFETY & EMERGENCY
In the event of an emergency the behaviour of passengers and crew is critical in determining the extent of passenger survival. In such circumstances flight crew often have to deal with behaviour ranging from sheer panic through
to helpless dependency and frozen immobility. We also have to deal with a great variety of personalities. An understanding of human response to sudden traumatic events will predict the conditions where inappropriate behaviour is likely to occur. It may also indicate where behaviour more adaptive to survival can be encouraged. We are trained to be assertive as this is essential for the rapid evacuation of the aircraft. There are many notable examples of cabin crew actions which have led directly to the saving of many lives.
The majority of a flight attendant’s duties are related to safety. Prior to each flight, flight attendants attend a safety briefing with the pilots and purser. During this briefing we go over safety and emergency check lists; boarding particulars are verified, weather conditions are discussed, including anticipated turbulence, and a safety check is conducted to ensure all equipment is on-board and the cabin is thoroughly checked. Flight attendants must conduct cabin checks every 20–30 minutes and regular cockpit checks must be done to ensure the pilot’s health and safety.
We are also given training in land and water landings, which includes the preparation of passengers and cabin, the emergency evacuation of the cabin via inflatable slides or rafts, and the follow-up survival skills for environments such as open water, jungle, and tropical or arctic climates.
Once everybody is off the plane, we do our checks to make sure nobody has left anything behind, and collect any stray blankets and headphones. As soon as everyone is ready we go through to immigration, collect our bags and head to the hotel.
Getting a job as a cabin crew
These are the five most difficult questions but you need to ensure you are able to answer them well, and confidently.
Give an example of a situation where you had to handle a disgruntled customer and the outcome.
Give an example of a situation where you were not being supported by your employer and how you handled it.
Give an example of a situation where you had to go the extra mile to please a customer.
Give an example of a situation where you worked as a team to complete a task.
Give an example of when you were glad you had checked something.
Finally, we are here to help you through the process. Do not use an online book to answer those questions as you are likely to fail. Why? It has to be answered in light of your own unique experience. They aren't exam questions and do not have a standard answer as they are unique to you and your experience. Talk to us, and let's work together to make sure you get your dream career at your first attempt!