A. LIFE OF CABIN CREW
Let’s start with the glamorous part of the job, if you fly for a legacy carrier, you get to travel around the world for free, make friends from everywhere and taste all kind of exotic foods in different countries, go to well-known destinations such as Paris, London, USA, Singapore, Saudi Arabia and many others, and could fly with movie stars, celebrities and VIP personal. You may also have the privilege to enjoy tax-free shopping in designated duty-free stores. If you are married, your spouse gets free tickets. If you are single, bring your parents because they get discounted tickets as well. That’s the best privilege for being cabin crew. Being a member of a cabin crew team allows you to do many things. If you are a genuine, hardworking and positive person, you will be in good position to get along with many people and you will achieve much in your flying career.
Salary is variable each month, depending on the hours flown and destinations, it is made up of basic salary, flight pay, allowances and commission. Cabin crew receive an allowance for meals and accommodations while working away from home. Other benefits may include health and life insurance, uniform and laundry expenses as well as discounted travel after a qualifying period. In the Middle East, the salary is usually tax free and accommodation and transport are also provided.
If you choose to be a cabin crew as a lifelong career, after the first couple years on average, you can start to move up the career ladder and work in business or first class cabin, if the airline has them. You can also become a Cabin Crew Instructor or Purser (Senior Cabin Crew Member) after just a few years working as Cabin Crew. There are also non flying opportunities on the ground, such as In-flight Services Manager, Cabin Crew Performance Manager or Base Supervisor.
Different airlines have different promotional tiers for example in Malaysia Airlines or Singapore Airlines, there are four levels from a normal Flight stewardess to leading stewardess, chief stewardess and finally In-flight supervisor. As for Emirate Airlines, you first start off as a grade 2 (economy), then to Grade 1 (Business), Fg1 (First class), SFS (Senior Flight Stewardess), Purser and finally to the highest which is the SFP (Senior flight purser).
As a FP (Flight purser) or IFS (In flight senior), you are in charge of the overall cabin which may have as many as 400 to 850 passengers depending on which aircraft you operate. That is a huge responsibility and though it is a plane, that is comparable to a restaurant with 80 tables assuming there are 10 people assigned to one table. After the role as a FP or IFS, you can choose to become a cabin crew manager who oversees the overall welfare, performance and promotion of the cabin crew. Besides, you can also apply as a cabin crew recruitment manager. So, as you can see from the above, there is a steady progression in your career and promotion normally depends on how well you perform on the job.
The job as a cabin crew is very demanding and full of hard work. Working on board in the aircraft is a physical job. Most cabin crew work full time, but they usually have variable schedules. Cabin crew often work nights, weekends, and holidays because airlines operate every day and have overnight flights. New cabin crew must be flexible with their schedule and location. Almost all cabin crew start out working on call, also known as reserve status.
Flying life, even though the working hours are long, you must always look your best especially the ladies with full make up on. In addition, as crew we feel jetlag, eat and sleep at different times and have to be away from families or the inability to attend important function such as celebrate Valentine’s Day, Chinese New Year, Eid Mubarak, Christmas and special occasions with your love ones. These are peak periods and most of the time you will be flying unless you are lucky enough to get someone to swap flights with you. You may miss your family and friends.
Until relatively recently, airline cabin crew were subject to strict regulations. Some airlines prohibited marriage and most airlines had certain constraints on their height, weight, and proportions. Their clothing was similarly restrictive. At many airlines, cabin crew wore form fitting uniforms and were required to wear white gloves and high heels throughout the flight.
While it was a perfectly respectable occupation for young women, early cabin crew were generally underpaid, had minimal benefits and were in a subservient role to pilots. During the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s, cabin crew unions, as well as representatives from the equal rights movement, brought about sweeping changes in the airline industry that addressed these problems. Since the 1970s, the policy of the major airlines has been to hire both men and women as cabin crew and to have minimal restrictions on size and weight. Today cabin crew share many of the same benefits as pilots and airlines recognize them as a crucial component of the air travel industry.
B. ROLE OF CABIN CREW
It is still seen as a very glamorous profession, It is also very rewarding especially if you enjoy working in a team and providing excellent customer service. Many people have the misconception that a cabin crew’s job is mainly to serve passengers only and do not realize that their main priority is the safety of the aircraft, crew members and the plane itself. Apart from being trained on services, they also have training on first aid as well as safety and emergency procedures (SEP). During emergency, their role is to reassure passengers, opening doors and inflating emergency slides for evacuation. The actions of cabin crew in emergencies have long been credited with saving lives. In the United States, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and other aviation authorities view cabin crew as essential for passenger safety. Studies have concluded that assertive cabin crew are essential for the rapid evacuation of aircraft.
The role of a cabin crew airlines ultimately derives from that of similar positions on passenger ships or passenger trains, but it has more direct involvement with passengers because of the confined quarters and often shorter travel times on aircraft. Additionally, the job of an airline’s cabin crew revolves around safety to a much greater extent than those of similar staff on other forms of transport.
There have been many changes in training over the years, in response to certain incidents. One of the most significant was the introduction of Crew Resource Management (CRM). The training is based on work at NASA in 1979, which found that the main cause of many aviation accidents is human error. In several tragic incidents it was found that the aircraft were mechanically sound, the pilots and their crews technically competent. However, the systems and procedures in place simply did not catch fatal mistakes in time. In short, the systems were flawed. CRM focuses on interpersonal communication, leadership, and decision making in the cockpit. CRM training encompasses a wide range of knowledge, skills, and attitudes including communication, situational awareness, problem solving, decision making, and teamwork to improve air safety.
A typical work day begins with a briefing in which all cabin crew members will highlight any specifics of the flight on duty. It may start with team introductions, especially if the crew do not know each other. It will then include details of the particular flight (the flight number, destinations, departure time, estimated time of arrival, aircraft registration, 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. There will also be a review of the operating procedures to ensure that the cabin crew understands the importance of carrying out their duties in accordance with the Operator’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) and emergency procedures. It is part of the briefing to provide the cabin crew members with the chance to ask questions to clarify any details.
When the cabin crew members aboard the aircraft they go to their assigned stations. After stowing away their baggage, they perform an emergency equipment check at their crew station. The cabin crew is responsible for checking the emergency equipment at their station, in lavatories, in overhead bins, in cupboards, and under seats. It is the cabin crew’s 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 count passenger meals and crew meals, and advises the senior cabin crew member. The cabin crew is responsible for ensuring the cabin is safe for takeoff. 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.
Airlines are required by law to provide cabin crew for the safety and security of passengers. The primary job of cabin crew is to keep passengers safe and to ensure that everyone follows security regulations. Cabin crew also try to make flights comfortable and enjoyable for passengers. Cabin crew greet passengers as they board the aircraft and direct them to their seats, assisting as needed. Before the plane takes off, cabin crew instruct all passengers on the use of safety equipment, either by playing a video recording or demonstrating its use in person. They also ensure that seatbelts are fastened, seats are locked in the upright position, and all carry-on items are properly stowed in accordance with federal law and company policy. The cabin crew’s most important responsibility, however, is to help passengers in the event of an emergency. This responsibility ranges from dealing with unruly passengers to performing first aid, fighting fires, and directing evacuations. Cabin crew also answer questions about the flight, attend to passengers with special needs, help anyone else needing assistance, and generally assist all passengers as needed. Before the plane lands, Cabin once again ensure that seatbelts are fastened, seats are locked in the upright position, and all carry-on items are properly stowed. Before they leave the plane, cabin crew take inventory of headsets, alcoholic beverages, and payments. They also submit reports to the airline company on the condition of the cabin, as well as on any medical problems that may have occurred during the flight.
C. REQUIREMENT OF CABIN CREW
A cabin crew job attracts thousands of applicants throughout the world. How often an airline does hire cabin crew depends on their needs. You will be competing among the best applicants from freshies, current and former cabin crew. Minimum requirements dictate that you can be as young as 18 with a high school certificate. Those who work on international flights may have to be fluent in a foreign language. All applications should be made directly to the airline’s own career websites.
To have the opportunity to work for an airline, there are certain criteria you need to meet. These are:
Most airlines can’t set minimum or maximum age restraints on anybody wanting to work as cabin crew. For any international airlines the minimum age requirement may be set at 18, 19, 20 or even 21.
As stated above, most airlines require you to have qualifications with a high school certificate, however due to demand, some airlines are increasingly being selective and give preference to university graduates.
A good level of health is essential to cope with the demands of flying and if you are successful in the selection process, you will normally be required to undergo a medical examination.
Minimum of 5 feet 2 inches (157cm), maximum 6 feet 2 inches (188 cm) to enable you to wear the standard cabin crew safety harness. This applies to both men and women. This is for safety, as you will be required to reach equipment that is carried on board the aircraft.
The airlines do request that your weight must be in proportion to your height.
6. Second Language
A second language is an advantage, however not essential to most airlines. We do however recommend having a second language, especially in English, as this will help progress your application.
7. Customer service experience is an advantage
Customers are the highest priority, therefore airlines seek to recruit cabin crew who have enjoyed working and have excelled in customer contact positions. Having customer service experience, ideally in the sales and service industry would be an advantage.
D. QUALITIES OF CABIN CREW
What are recruiters looking for?
a. Passion for the job
Wanting to travel the world is not enough. You need to be an empathetic caring individual who genuinely wants to help people and provide excellent service as well as being the career and rescuer when things go wrong. Cabin crew must be aware of passenger’s needs to ensure a pleasant travel experience. They must also be aware of any security or safety risks.
Communicate with your colleagues, always have a smile and work as a team, this can change a whole day onboard. Understand your role, go the extra mile and never stop learning from each other. Be discreet when you need to be and don’t intentionally put another person down.
You must look the part and be aware of the image that you portray while in uniform as you will be a representative and an ambassador for the airline. You will be working long hours and should look as fresh as you did at the start of the flight right through the end of the day. Standards are high and we have to be able to see how you will present yourself in uniform.
d. Good timekeeping
Never be late, this is a good way to lose the job. If you arrive late for the interview, you just won’t make the grade. If you are late during training, say goodbye to your colleagues. If you are late and miss your flight, this will put you on the blacklist and you may only get one more chance. Timekeeping is an absolute essential, the aircraft will not wait for you.
You must take responsibility for your own actions and possess the integrity to admit it, if you made a mistake. You must cope well under stress and extreme pressure as this is something you will face almost on a daily basis. You need to be of a certain strength of character too, to be able to deal with emergency situations, and deal with all the scenarios on your training course, which will prepare you for every eventuality. Cabin crew must be able to act decisively in emergency situations.
f. Flexible and adaptable
Everything can change in an instant and often does like the working hour. You must be able to ‘run with it’ or “go with the flow” and carry on. Remember you will have standby duties too, so you may have to leave within 20 minutes of being called. Cabin crew may need to lift baggage and stand and walk for long periods. They often need to conform to height and weight requirements and many other things.
g. Customer service experience
Look after your passengers on a regular basis, the best you can. An excellent service and a smile can make or break someone’s day. This also reflects on the airline and how passengers see them and return for future business (or not). Cabin crew should have poise, tact, and resourcefulness to handle stressful situations and meet passengers' needs.
h. Teamwork and communication skills
We are a team and that team can change every day, so you need to be able to work well with strangers you have never met before and be open in working towards the same goal.
i. Ability to work under pressure
These are essentials on board in everyday practice and most certainly during any difficulty or emergency. And we must know how to problem solve and know how to listen to a passenger and deal with enquiries positively. Cabin crew should speak clearly, listen attentively, and interact comfortably with passengers and other crew members.
If you don’t have some of these qualities now, learn them and nurture them and they will serve you well in the future. Remember that the road to becoming cabin crew is often a long one and if one particular airline doesn’t work out for you, there will probably be another that will, you just have to find the right one for you. It takes very special people to become cabin crew and one day you should be proud of your airline and all that you have achieved to get there.