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Airline cabin crew are responsible for the comfort, safety and welfare of passengers travelling on aircrafts during short-haul and long-haul flights.
Many airlines require cabin staff to live within close proximity of a particular airport.

What does an airline cabin crew member do? Typical employers of airline cabin crew | Qualifications and training | Key skills

Working as a flight attendant for a major airline provides plenty of contact with people as well as opportunities to travel. The air cabin crew of a commercial airline share responsibility for the safety and comfort of its passengers. Duties include:

  • greeting passengers as they board and exit the plane
  • showing passengers to their seats and providing special attention to certain passengers, such as the elderly or disabled
  • serving meals and refreshments
  • checking the condition and provision of emergency equipment and information for passengers
  • demonstrating emergency equipment and safety procedures
  • administering first aid
  • dealing with emergencies
  • supplying passengers with newspapers, magazines and in-flight entertainment
  • selling duty-free commercial goods and pursuing sales targets
  • producing written flight reports after completing a journey.

The role can be physically and emotionally demanding and there is a high degree of responsibility involved. Cabin crew are expected to deal with all passengers diplomatically – even when feeling the effects of travelling through time zones and spending extended periods of time on their feet.

Many airlines require cabin staff to live within close proximity of a particular airport and crew members may have to go to work at short notice if on call. Working hours may involve long shifts and unsociable hours, and it may be necessary to work during public holidays. However, many cabin crew members enjoy the chance to interact with a wide range of people and the opportunities to explore and enjoy global destinations are almost unparalleled. 

Hours may be slightly more regular if you work on short-haul flights than if you work on long-haul flights. If you work on long-haul flights, overnight stays may be required and there may be additional payments for this. You may have access to discounted travel for your immediate family and are likely to be paid a base starting salary of around £12,000 to £14,000 to start with, rising to around £20,000 with experience, with additional hourly payments for time spent on flights and bonuses for in-flight sales and performance. You may also receive additional payments for being able to speak more than one language. 

Advertisements appear in local, regional and national newspapers and magazines and their websites. Useful publications include Travel Weekly, FlightGlobal and Travel Trade Gazette, also known as TTG.

Typical employers of airline cabin crew

Specialist recruitment agencies advertise roles on behalf of major commercial and budget airlines from across the globe. Providers of training courses often have close links to recruitment agencies and airlines, which can be helpful. 

Qualifications and training required

A degree is not usually required to work as airline cabin crew. However, a degree in travel, tourism, hospitality management, leisure or languages may be helpful. A nursing degree could also be relevant.  

Personal qualities, appearance and good health and fitness are normally more important than academic qualifications, although many airlines do ask for at least five GCSEs (including English and maths) at grade C or above. There are also some vocational qualifications (NVQs and BTECs) available that are suitable for cabin crew. For international travel, you'll need a valid passport. You will also need to pass a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check. 

Work experience with the public in a customer service role will help you to show that you have the necessary skills. Experience gained within nursing, catering, or the hotel, tourism or travel trades is likely to be an advantage.

Most airlines require cabin staff to complete a training course covering such things as safety procedures, legal/immigration issues and customer service upon entry to the organisation. A range of preliminary training courses are also available, which introduce students to skills and recruitment processes. Such courses often have useful links to major recruiters and can be an advantage, but do not guarantee entry to the profession.

With experience, you could progress to a senior cabin crew or cabin management role, or specialise in working with wealthy clients on private aircraft. You may also be able to develop your career by moving into a ground-based role in an area such as marketing, sales, HR, passenger services or cabin crew training.  

Key skills for air cabin crew

  • Good communication skills
  • Excellent interpersonal skills
  • The ability to remain calm in emergencies or when dealing with difficult passengers
  • Diplomacy and tact
  • Good colour vision and hearing
  • Good general health and fitness – many airlines require cabin staff to be able to swim at least 25m
  • Assertiveness
  • The ability to keep a cheery countenance when you've been on your feet a long time and you're out of your time zone

Employers often have physical requirements due to space restrictions within the galley; these may include minimum/maximum height requirements and proportionate bodyweight. Visible tattoos and piercings are strongly discouraged, and staff are required to look smart, often wearing a uniform.

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