What are Air Cabin Crew?
Air cabin crew members are expected to deliver a high level of customer service to customers while they are flying to their destination. The comfort and safety of passengers will be your number one priority. You will have to serve refreshments and food and sell duty-free items.
Before flying you will need to do safety and security training to prepare yourself for emergency situations, this will include first aid. When you board the plane, you will also be responsible for making sure all the correct equipment is on the plane as well as enough supplies. You will then have to give a safety demonstration to ensure all passengers are aware of the safety protocols before taking off.
As an air cabin crew member, you’ll need to:
- Be professional, punctual and courteous at all times
- Attend a pre-flight briefing, during which you’ll be assigned your working positions for the upcoming flight. The crew are informed of flight details, the schedule, the number of infants on board and if there are passengers with any special requirements, such as diabetic passengers or passengers in wheelchairs.
- Carry out pre-flight duties, including checking the safety equipment and doing security checks, ensuring the aircraft is clean and tidy and that information in the seat pockets is up to date and all meals, drinks and stock are on board
- Welcome passengers on board and direct them to their seats
- Inform passengers about safety procedures and ensure that all hand luggage is securely stored away
- Check all seat belts and galleys are secure prior to take-off
- Make announcements on behalf of the pilot and answer questions during the flight
- Serve meals and refreshments
- Sell duty-free goods (which can count towards personal targets for commission) and advise passengers of any allowance restrictions in force at their destination
- Reassure passengers and ensure they follow safety procedures correctly in emergency situations
- Deal with any difficult or inebriated passengers (who may be acting in a rude or anti-social way) politely but firmly, to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone on the flight
- Give first aid where necessary
- Ensure passengers disembark safely at the end of a flight and check that there is no luggage left in the overhead lockers and no stowaways or suspicious items on board
- Complete paperwork, including writing a flight report.
This should only be used as a guide and different airlines will offer different forms of compensation - some offer a bonus if you speak a different language.
The majority of airlines will also offer some kind of flight discount to cabin crew, which can include free domestic flights, discounted international flights and discounted travel for immediate family. However, the extent of these discounts will vary. According to Glassdoor, the average national salary for air cabin crew is £45,707.
- Basic annual salaries can vary depending on the airline, but this will range from £12,000 to £14,000.
- However, once you gain some experience your basic salary will increase from around £15,000 to £19,000.
- Senior members of cabin staff will earn a higher basic rate of up to £23,000
- You will also be eligible for an hourly flight rate on top of your base salary while you’re on duty as well as a subsistence allowance for when you’re flying.
- Bonuses and commissions for inflight retail might also be offered. If you take these additional sums of money into the account, your income can increase up to £28,000 a year.
Cabin crew work shifts, which will often include irregular and unsocial hours. This will involve early mornings, late nights, weekends and public holidays. However, hours will vary depending on the airline and whether you work for long or short-haul flights. Flexible hours are possible, but you may also have to be prepared to work on your days off if your return flight is cancelled or delayed.
What to expect
- Airlines catering for the package holiday market tend to recruit air cabin crew on a seasonal basis.
- Some airlines require staff to live within a certain radius/easy travelling distance of the airport. Flexibility is vital, as staff may need to be on standby for work at short notice. You might also be based abroad.
- The work can be demanding as cabin crew have to deal with, and often work through, tiredness and jet lag if crossing over different time zones. You’ll work in confined spaces and will have to spend a lot of time on your feet. You’ll need to maintain a positive disposition even when dealing with challenging passengers.
- The airline will provide you with a uniform, and you’ll be expected to dress smartly and be well-groomed at all times.
- The amount of time spent away from home varies depending on the airline you work for, and whether you’re working on short or long-haul flights. In short-haul, you’ll typically be back within the same day while long-haul flights will require nights spent away from home.
- You’ll work with a variety of people from different backgrounds and cultures. If you’re on long-haul flights, you’ll get to experience the destinations you’re flying to although this may only be for a few hours/one evening at a time in some cases. With short-haul flights, you’ll typically have a tight turnaround of between 45 minutes and 2 hours before flying back. That time will be spent getting the aircraft ready for the flight and you won’t have time to see any of the destinations.
A degree, HND/foundation degree or postgraduate qualification is not required for entry into work as a cabin crew member. Instead, most airlines expect you to have a good secondary education, with some requiring grade 4 (C) or above in English and maths. Although not asked for by employers, a degree, HND or foundation degree in one of the following subjects can show the airline that you have an interest in the area:
- Hospitality management
- Leisure and tourism management
Being able to speak other languages is particularly useful and this could put you at an advantage over other candidates.
You’ll need to show:
- Excellent communication skills
- Exceptional customer service
- Confidence in dealing with a range of people
- Good cooperation skills as you’ll work with different teams day-to-day
- Compassion and the ability to support your colleagues
- Discretion when dealing with VIPs
- Competence in handling difficult situations and the ability to remain calm under pressure and in emergency situations
- The gift of being tactful and diplomatic with passengers but also assertive where necessary
- Commercial awareness and sales skills
- Flexibility in working unsocial hours on any day of the year
- The capability to work quickly and efficiently, often to tight time constraints
- Numeracy skills for handling cash, including foreign currency
- The capacity to work in a confined space
- The ability to diffuse situations calmly and quickly.
You may be requested to show relevant work experience instead of qualifications as they will be more interested in your skill set.
Previous employment in any customer-facing roles, such as sales, will show you have transferable skills. Roles, where you are able to demonstrate you have good teamwork and communication skills, will be important. A role within catering, hotels, travel and tourism will show you have industry knowledge.
Airlines operate on a chartered or scheduled basis, some will do a blend of both. Chartered flights will usually run during the summer and/or ski seasons to the most popular destinations for tourists, scheduled flights operate on a regular basis all year round to a range of destinations.
Employers will include both large and medium-sized airlines and international carriers. If you would like to see the specific airline and tour operators, these will usually be on the airport’s websites. It may be possible to find temporary seasonal opportunities directly through airlines and tour operators to cover the summer period. There is high competition for permanent contracts, to even be considered for one you will need to have several years of seasonal work experience.
You will be eligible for on-the-job training directly through the airline if you are new to the industry – these typically last between four and seven weeks. The most important training sessions will cover passenger safety, aircraft safety equipment, emergency procedures, security and first aid. However, you may also be required to do training and tests in areas such as:
- Cultural awareness
- Currency exchange
- Customs and immigration regulations
- Food preparation and service
- Galley management
- Passenger care and customer relations
- Personal grooming
- Product knowledge.
After completing your training you will then be put on a 6-month probationary period, where you will need to continue with certain elements of your training. After 6 months, you will have a review session where your performance will be assessed. If you pass this, you will then become a fully-fledged member of the cabin crew team.
Your career progression will purely be based on your experience and performance. From the role of a cabin crew member, it’s possible to progress to the position of purser or chief purser – which is the title given to the chief flight attendant.
While having similar responsibilities to general cabin crew, pursers will also have managerial responsibilities, such as looking after passengers in first or business class. From here, you can work your way up to supervisor or cabin service director positions – in these positions you will be responsible for the cabin crew on board.
A degree is not necessary for a career in the airline industry. However, if you wish to go to university you may want to consider the following degrees:
The BA Business course at UWS offers a broad-based and comprehensive understanding of business, from theory and strategy to operational issues.
Key elements of the course include talks from, and visits to, local and national employers and varied assessment formats, including case studies and portfolio building. Many of the course core module skills are in line with the requirements for graduate trainee programmes, helping you to prepare for a career in national and international organisations.
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