11 July, 2023

Cabin crew – not just drinks and duty free

Photo  https://www.istockphoto.com/portfolio/1shotproduction?mediatype=photography
Every plane journey begins and ends with a cheerful smile from the cabin crew, and throughout the trip they will be on hand to ensure your comfort and safety. Artemis Aerospace investigates a career with rigorous training which ranges from serving drinks to saving lives.

You may think that a career as a cabin crew member involves little more than looking immaculately turned-out while wielding the tea urn and calculating the duty-free allowance. However, it’s a job which requires stamina and initiative as well as good grooming.

If you’re thinking about applying for a cabin crew job, the list of necessary attributes is a lengthy one. You need to be a team player, have excellent communications, time management, interpersonal and customer service skills, be able to stay calm and smiling under pressure, be adaptable, flexible, as well as fit and healthy. In addition, cabin crew work long, irregular and anti-social hours which will often include weekends, holidays and night shifts.

As a result, cabin crew training is extremely intensive and, depending on the airline, the pass rate is around 95%, which leaves no room for error or carelessness. For the large commercial carriers, such as British Airways, training lasts for four to six weeks, and is often preceded by preparation to bring entrants up to speed, such as researching terminology, airport codes, the phonetic alphabet and time differences. Around 2,000 aspiring cabin crew will attend BA’s training centre every year, and, having passed, each member will return annually for a refresher course.

Customer service is at the heart of the job. BA’s Customer Service Course includes modules on:

  • Setting the tone
  • Creating a good impression
  • Uniform and appearance
  • Fundamentals of communication
  • Listening skills
  • Transactional analysis
  • Building relationships
  • Getting to know your customers and their needs
  • Service recovery
  • Feedback
  • Practical exercises

If there’s an emergency during the flight, it’s the job of the cabin crew to keep passengers safe. Training involves operation of all the on-board safety apparatus, including firefighting equipment, and advanced first aid which covers the use of defibrillators and CPR.

Confined conditions on a plane mean this is a more complicated process than it would be on the ground. By the end of training, a cabin crew member should be able to assess a passenger’s condition, identify the injury or illness, give the correct treatment, prevent deterioration and assist recovery until the plane can land and transfer them to hospital.

In July 2022, cabin crew from Emirates Airlines saved two separate passengers from cardiac arrest on different flights; using a defibrillator and CPR techniques they kept both passengers stable until the planes were able to land. However, it’s far more common for cabin crew to have to deal with fainting, respiratory issues or nausea. They also have to be up to speed with procedures to restrain aggressive or drunken passengers, and conflict management techniques to resolve issues between passengers which may become heated.

Other essential training involves learning about the safety of the aircraft and the emergency procedures. Different situations are taught and repeatedly rehearsed so that response becomes second nature.

Decompression is what happens when the aircraft’s pressurisation system fails to maintain its correct pressure, and it can be caused by a system malfunction or structural damage to the aircraft such as a faulty door seal. A cabin crew member’s first duty in this situation is to don their own oxygen mask in order to ensure they are able to look after passengers during an emergency descent to a safe altitude of 10,000 feet, and ensure everyone’s oxygen masks are worn. The crew themselves will have portable oxygen cylinders so they are able to move around the cabin to help anyone who needs it.

One of the worst case scenarios on a flight is an emergency evacuation. As a passenger, you have hopefully read the instructions on the card in the seat pocket in front which tell you what to do in the event of this happening, but in a real-life situation nobody can tell how panicked passengers will react when faced with having to jump down the inflatable slide. Cabin crew are prepared to deal with every eventuality in an evacuation – it might have to take place on the ground while escaping from a fire, or in the middle of the ocean, in which case the slide might need to be changed into a raft. Keeping people calm, getting everyone out, and dealing with any injuries or smoke inhalation is all part of the training, as is survival following evacuation in case the aircraft has come down in a jungle, polar conditions or the middle of a desert.

In order that this training should be as realistic as possible, cabin crew train on flight simulators which are specific to the type of aircraft they will be working in. Situations which can be covered include:

  • Door and emergency exit preparation
  • Emergency evacuation from varying heights depending on the type of plane
  • Fire and smoke training
  • Secure cockpit procedures
  • Pilot incapacitation training
  • Oxygen mask drop simulation
  • Cabin communications

At Artemis Aerospace, we understand how important flight simulators are for both pilots and cabin crew. If a simulator goes wrong for any reason, vital training can quickly back up, causing delays in certification and personnel who are temporarily grounded. Our flight simulator manufacturing support team is ready to assist all pilot and cabin crew training facilities twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week to solve issues, whether sourcing parts from original equipment manufacturers or elsewhere, or carrying out rapid refurbishment, and we support all commercial, regional and executive aircraft types.

Becoming a cabin crew member involves some of the most widespread training an aspiring job applicant can undergo, ranging from serving meals to delivering a premature baby. So next time you heave your bag into the overhead locker, settle down for your flight (and hopefully read the emergency instructions) - relax and remember you’re in very capable hands.