Flight attendant: Wikis


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Flight attendants or cabin crew (historically known as stewards/stewardesses or air hosts/hostesses) are members of an aircrew employed by airlines primarily to ensure the safety but also the comfort of passengers aboard commercial flights as well as on select business jet aircraft.[1]



Flight attendant, circa 1949-1950, American Overseas Airlines, Flagship Denmark, Boeing 377 Stratocruiser

The role of a flight attendant 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 a flight attendant revolves around safety to a much greater extent than those of similar staff on other forms of transportation. Flight attendants on board a flight collectively form a cabin crew, as distinguished from pilots and engineers in the cockpit.

The first flight attendant, a steward, was reportedly a man on the German Zeppelin LZ10 Schwaben in 1911.[citation needed]

Origins of the word "steward" in transportation are reflected in the term "steward" as used in maritime transport terminology. The term purser and chief steward are often used interchangeably describing personnel with similar duties among seafaring occupations. This lingual derivation results from the international British maritime tradition dating back to the 14th century and the civilian United States Merchant Marine which US aviation is somewhat modeled. Due to international conventions and agreements, in which all ships' personnel who sail internationally are similarly documented by their respective countries, the U.S. Merchant Marine assigns such duties to the chief steward in the overall rank and command structure of which pursers are not positionally represented or rostered.

Imperial Airways of the United Kingdom had "cabin boys" or "stewards"; in the 1920s. In the USA, Stout Airways was the first to employ stewards in 1926, working on Ford Trimotor planes between Detroit and Grand Rapids, Michigan. Western Airlines (1928) and Pan American World Airways (Pan Am) (1929) were the first US carriers to employ stewards to serve food. Ten-passenger Fokker aircraft used in the Caribbean had stewards in the era of gambling trips to Havana, Cuba from Key West, Florida. Lead flight attendants would in many instances also perform the role of purser, steward, or chief steward in modern aviation terminology.

The first female flight attendant[2] was a 25-year-old registered nurse named Ellen Church. Hired by United Airlines in 1930, she also first envisioned nurses on aircraft. Other airlines followed suit, hiring nurses to serve as "stewardesses" on most of their flights. The requirement to be a registered nurse was relaxed at the start of World War II, as many nurses enlisted into the armed forces.

In 1962, St Bona of Pisa, a 12th-century pilgrim, was canonised by Pope John XXIII as patron saint of air hostesses.[3]


Flight attendants on Tiger Airways
Busy Lufthansa flight-attendants in crowded kitchen

The role of a flight attendant is not restricted to customer service although it is part of ensuring that passengers have a pleasant journey, flight attendants are also trained to have a pivotal role in ensuring that safety and security regulations are followed as well as being capable of administering first aid, all of which are prioritised above customer service.[4] The primary and overriding responsibility of flight attendants is passenger safety.[5]

The number of flight attendants follows from international safety regulations. For planes with up to 19 passenger seats, no flight attendant is needed. For larger planes one flight attendant per 50 passenger seats is needed.


Safety responsibilities

A Lufthansa flight attendant performing a pre-flight safety demonstration

The majority of a flight attendant's duties are safety related. Prior to each flight, flight attendants attend a safety briefing with the pilots and purser. During this briefing they go over safety and emergency checklists, the locations and amounts of emergency equipment and other features specific to that aircraft type. Boarding particulars are verified, such as special needs passengers, small children traveling as unaccompanied minors or VIPs. Weather conditions are discussed including anticipated turbulence. Prior to each flight a safety check is conducted to ensure all equipment such as lifevests, flashlights and firefighting equipment are on board, in the right quantity, and in proper condition. Any unserviceable or missing items must be reported and rectified prior to takeoff. They must monitor the cabin for any unusual smells or situations and maintain certain precautions such as keeping doors disarmed or open during fueling on the ground. They assist with the loading of carry-on baggage, checking for weight, size and dangerous goods. They then must do a safety demonstration or monitor passengers as they watch a safety video demonstrating the safety features of the aircraft. They then must "secure the cabin" ensuring tray tables are stowed, seats are in their upright positions, armrests down and carry ons stowed correctly and seatbelts fastened prior to takeoff. All the service between boarding and take-off is called Pre Take off Service.[4]

Flight attendants must conduct cabin checks every 20–30 minutes, especially during night flights to check on the passengers, and listen for any unusual noises or situations. Checks must also be done on the lavatory to ensure the smoke detector hasn't been deactivated, there are no issues with the equipment, nobody having trouble in there or smoking, and to restock supplies as needed. Regular cockpit checks must be done to ensure the pilot's health and safety. They must respond immediately to call lights dealing with special requests and smaller emergencies including a wide variety of in-flight emergencies that do happen from time to time. During turbulence, crosschecks must be conducted and during severe turbulence all service equipment must also be stowed. Prior to landing all loose items, trays and garbage must be collected and secured along with service and galley equipment. All hot liquids must be disposed of. A final crosscheck must then be completed prior to landing. They must remain aware as the majority of mechanical emergencies occur during takeoff and landing. Upon landing, flight attendants must remain stationed at exits and monitor the airplane and cabin as passengers disembark the plane. They also assist any special needs passengers and small children off the airplane and escort children, while following the proper paperwork and ID process to escort them to the designated person picking them up.

Flight attendants are highly trained for a wide variety of emergencies and how to respond. More frequent situations may include a bleeding nose, illness, small injuries, intoxicated passengers, aggressive and anxiety stricken passengers. Emergency training includes rejected takeoffs, emergency landings, cardiac and in-flight medical situations, smoke in the cabin, fires, depressurization, on-board births and deaths, dangerous goods and spills in the cabin as well as land and water landings including the preparation of passengers and the cabin, the emergency evacuation with evacuation slides or rafts and then the follow-up survival skills which include environments as open water, jungle, water, tropical and Arctic climates, along with a variety of emergency equipment. Flight attendants are now also given basic training on defense against terrorist attacks.

Many regions mandate the presence of flight attendants on commercial aircraft, based on the passenger capacity of the aircraft and other factors. This mandate generally relates only to their function as safety technicians.

Passenger care responsibilities

Flight attendant in an Embraer ERJ 145 LR of PBair, Thailand
Swiss stewardess serving orange juice
Stewardess in a Swiss flight from London to Zurich

The main and always primary duty of a flight attendant is for safety but they do also provide a caregiving and customer service role on board commercial flights. Customer service duties include the preparation and serving or selling of on-board food and beverage. Flight attendants also offer comfort items including blankets, pillows, hot towel service, handing out headsets, magazines, newspapers, amenity kits, games and on certain airlines hand out pyjamas and set up and make the lie flat beds. They also distribute customs forms on international flights and assist passengers with their proper completion prior to landing.

Inflight Service Manager

The Inflight Service Manager (ISM), Cabin Service Manager (CSM). The title associating with this crew member differs from airline to airline. These crew are mainly found on larger aircraft types and are in charge of the running of the cabin. They report when the cabin is secure for takeoff and landing, deliver on-board announcements, and any broken or missing emergency equipment items to the pilots after the preflight check. They generally operate the doors during routine flights as well as hold the manifest and account for all money and required paperwork and reports for each flight. 2-4 Senior Crew Members may also be on board the larger aircraft types. Inflight Service Managers are flight attendants that have been promoted through the ranks- Flight attendant → Senior crew member → Purser → Inflight Service Manager. To reach this position the crew member must have had a mandatory amount of service years within the airline or airlines prior to changing airline. Further training is mandatory, and Inflight Service Managers typically earn a higher salary than flight attendants because of the added responsibility.


The purser will, on board larger aircraft with multiple flight attendants, assist the ISM and have similar roles and responsibilities. 2-4 Senior Crew Members may also be on board the larger aircraft types. Pursers are flight attendants or a related job, typically with an airline for several years prior to application for, and further training to become a purser, and normally earn a higher salary than flight attendants because of the added responsibility.



Singapore Girls, female flight attendants of Singapore Airlines

Flight attendants are normally trained in the hub or headquarters city of an airline over a period that may run from six weeks to six months, depending on the country and airline. The main focus of training is safety. One flight attendant is required for every 50 passenger seats on board in the United States, but many airlines have chosen to increase that number. One of the most elaborate training facilities was Breech Academy which Trans World Airlines (TWA) opened in 1969 in Overland Park, Kansas. Other airlines were to also send their attendants to the school. However, during the fare wars the school's viability declined and it closed around 1988.

Safety training includes, but is not limited to: emergency passenger evacuation management, use of evacuation slides/life rafts, in-flight firefighting, survival in the jungle, sea, desert, ice, first aid, CPR, defibrillation, ditching/emergency landing procedures, decompression emergencies, Crew Resource Management and security.

In the United States the Federal Aviation Administration requires flight attendants on aircraft with 20 or more seats to hold a Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency. This is not considered to be the equivalent of an airman certificate (license), although it is issued on the same card stock. It shows that a level of required training has been met. It is not limited to the airline at which the attendant is employed (although some initial documents showed where the holder was working), and is the attendant's personal property. It does have two ratings, called Group I and II. Either or both of these may be earned depending upon the type of aircraft (propeller or turbofan) on which the holder has trained.[6]

There are also training schools that are not affiliated with any particular airline, where students generally not only undergo generic, though otherwise practically identical training to flight attendants employed by an airline, as well as having modules in the curriculum to help students gain employment with an airline. These schools often use actual airline equipment in their lessons, though some are equipped with full simulator cabins capable of replicating a number of emergency situations.

Aviation Australia, based in Brisbane, Queensland is a notable example, as its facilities are comprehensive to the point that multiple airlines use the school for either the training or retrain and re-certification their staff.


Multilingual flight attendants are often in demand to accommodate international travellers. The languages most in demand, other than English, are Mandarin, Cantonese, Japanese, Hindi, French, Arabic, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Italian. In the United States, airlines with international routes pay an additional stipend for language skills on top of flight pay, and some airlines hire specifically for certain language when launching international destinations.

Height and weight

Most airlines have height requirements for safety reasons, making sure that all flight attendants can reach overhead safety equipment. Typically, the acceptable height for this is 160 to 185 cm (5 ft 3 in to 6 ft 1 in) tall.[7] Some airlines, such as EVA Air, have height requirements for purely aesthetic purposes. Regional carriers using small aircraft with low ceilings can have height restrictions.

Flight attendants are also subject to weight requirements as well. Weight must usually be in proportion to height; persons outside the normal range may not be qualified to act as flight attendants.[8]

Uniforms and presentation

Malaysia Airlines regional cabin staff

The first stewardess uniforms were designed to be durable, practical, and inspire confidence in passengers. The first stewardesses for United Airlines wore green berets, green capes and nurse's shoes. Other airlines, such as Eastern Air Lines, actually dressed stewardesses in nurses' uniforms.

Perhaps reflecting the military aviation background of many commercial aviation pioneers, many early uniforms had a strongly military appearance; hats, jackets, and skirts showed simple straight lines and military details like epaulettes and brass buttons. Many uniforms had a summer and winter version, differentiated by colours and fabrics appropriate to the season: navy blue for winter, for example, khaki for summer. But as the role of women in the air grew, and airline companies began to realise the publicity value of their stewardesses, more feminine lines and colours began to appear in the late 1930s and early 1940s. Some airlines began to commission designs from high-end department stores and still others called in noted designers or even milliners to create distinctive and attractive apparel.

Flight attendants are generally expected to show a high level of personal grooming. Female attendants are expected to use appropriate cosmetics, and all attendants must have very high levels of personal hygiene.

Flight attendants must not have any tattoos visible when a uniform is worn. These requirements are designed to give the airlines a positive representation.

In advertising

In the 1960s and 1970s, many airlines began advertising the attractiveness and friendliness of their stewardesses. National Airlines began a "Fly Me"; campaign using attractive stewardesses with taglines such as "I'm Lorraine. Fly me to Orlando." (A low budget 1973 film about three flight attendants, Fly Me, starring Lenore Kasdorf, was based on the ad campaign.) Braniff International Airways, presented a campaign known as the "Air Strip" with similarly attractive young stewardesses changing uniforms mid-flight.[9] A policy of at least one airline required that only unmarried women could be flight attendants.[10] Flight attendant Roz Hanby became a minor celebrity when she became the face of British Airways in their "Fly the Flag" advertising campaign over a 7 year period in the 1980s. Singapore Airlines is currently one of the few airlines still choosing to use the image of their stewardesses, known as Singapore Girls, in their advertising material. However, this is starting to be phased out, in favour of advertising which emphasises the modernity of their fleet.


Flight attendant unions were formed, beginning at United Airlines in the 1940s, to negotiate improvements in pay, benefits and working conditions.[11] Those unions would later challenge what they perceived as sexist stereotypes and unfair work practices such as age limits, size limits, limitations on marriage, and prohibition of pregnancy. Many of these limitations have been lifted by judicial mandates. The largest flight attendants union is the Association of Flight Attendants, representing over 50,000 flight attendants at 22 airlines within the US.

In the UK, cabin crew can be represented by either Cabin Crew '89, or the much larger and more powerful Transport and General Workers' Union.

In Australia, flight attendants are represented by the Flight Attendants' Association of Australia (FAAA). There are two divisions: one for international crews (long-haul) and one for domestic crews (short-haul).


Airline managers commonly subjected flight attendants to various forms of discrimination from the early days of the profession until the 1990s.[12] Flight attendants at United States-based airlines, and others as well, were forced to resign or were fired if they got married, if they were overweight, wore eyeglasses, if they turned 30 years of age (or 32 at some airlines). These discriminatory policies came under attack in the U.S. after passage of Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Flight attendant unions like the Association of Flight Attendants used Title VII, in the courts and at the bargaining table, to bring an end to such practices and recognize the professionalism of the flight attendant career. The no-marriage rule was eliminated throughout the US airline industry by the 1980s.[13] The last such broad categorical discrimination, the weight restrictions[14] were eliminated in the 1990s through litigation and negotiations.[15] By the end of the 1970s, the term stewardess had generally been replaced by the gender-neutral alternative flight attendant. More recently the term cabin crew or cabin staff has begun to replace 'flight attendants,' in some parts of the world because of the term's recognition of their role as members of the crew.

Roles in emergencies

Actions of flight attendants in emergencies have long been credited in saving lives; in the United States, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and other aviation authorities view flight attendants as essential for safety, and are thus required on Part 121 aircraft operations. Studies, some done in light of British Airtours Flight 28M, have concluded that assertive cabin crew are essential for the rapid evacuation of airplanes.[16][17] Notable examples of cabin crew actions include:

September 11, 2001

The role of flight attendants received heightened prominence after the September 11 attacks when flight attendants (such as Sandra W. Bradshaw and CeeCee Lyles of United Airlines Flight 93, Robert Fangman of United Airlines Flight 175, Renee May of American Airlines Flight 77 and Betty Ong and Madeline Amy Sweeney of American Airlines Flight 11) actively attempted to protect passengers from assault, and also provided vital information to air traffic controllers on the hijackings.[18]

Ironically, in the wake of these attacks many flight attendants at major airlines were laid off because of decreased passenger loads.[18]

All US based airlines sent their flight attendants back to training. This revolutionised training and focused more on physical protection in the events of emergencies. Flight attendants are now trained to be offensive during attacks, rather than obeying commands.

Other emergencies

  • Naila Nazir, Pakistani air hostess (employee of Pakistan International Airlines) who received 1985's Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) Heroism Award for her brave handling of tense and dangerous situation during 13 days of flight PK-326 hijacking ordeal.[19][20]
  • British Airtours Flight 28M, the two forward flight attendants, Arthur Bradbury and Joanna Toff, repeatedly crawled into the smoked filled and burning cabin to drag a number of passengers to safety, and were subsequently awarded the Queen's Gallantry Medal. The two rear flight attendants, Sharon Ford and Jacqui Ubanski, who opened the rear doors but were overwhelmed by fire and smoke were awarded the same medal posthumously.
  • Scandinavian Airlines Flight 751, when cabin crew recognised an emergency landing was imminent and commanded the passengers to "bend down...hold your knees" to adopt the brace position.[21]
  • Atlantic Southeast Airlines Flight 529, whose sole flight attendant, Robin Fech, provided emergency briefings, brace and evacuation commands to the passengers when the Embraer EMB 120 Brasilia aircraft sustained serious damage to one of its engines and crash landed. The NTSB accident report commended "the exemplary manner in which the flight attendant briefed the passengers and handled the emergency".[22]
  • BOAC Flight 712, where a flight attendant, Barbara Jane Harrison died saving passengers from an on-board fire and was posthumously awarded the George Cross.
  • British Airways Flight 5390, in which a flight attendant was able to prevent a pilot from being lost through a cockpit window that had failed.
  • Southern Airways Flight 242, on which the cabin crew provided safety briefings to their passengers, and on their own initiative, warned passengers of the impending crash by commanding passengers to adopt the brace position. At least one flight attendant is known to have assisted in rescuing trapped passengers.[23]
  • Air Florida Flight 90, in which the lone surviving flight attendant passed the only lifevest she could find to another passenger. She is recognised in the NTSB report for this "unselfish act."[24]
  • TWA flight attendant Uli Derickson who protected passengers during the TWA Flight 847 hijacking by assisting with negotiation efforts.
  • TWA Flight 843, when a TWA Lockheed L-1011 aircraft crashed after an aborted takeoff in 1992. The aircraft was destroyed by fire. Nine flight attendants, along with five off-duty flight attendants, evacuated all 292 persons on board without loss of life. The NTSB in their after accident reported noted, "The performance of the flight attendants during the emergency was exceptional and probably contributed to the success of the emergency evacuation."[25][26]
  • On British Airways Flight 2069, cabin crew stopped the plane from being crashed by a mentally ill passenger.[27]
  • Crew on American Airlines Flight 63 prevented shoe bomber Richard Colvin Reid from blowing up the plane.[28]
  • Flight attendants on Qantas Flight 1737 prevented their plane from being hijacked by a passenger with mental health issues. Two of them were taken to hospital with stab wounds.[29]
  • Aloha Airlines Flight 243 suffered a decompression which tore an 18-foot (5.5 m) section of fuselage away from the plane. Despite her injuries, flight attendant Michelle Honda crawled up and down the aisle reassuring passengers.[30]
  • Senior Purser Neerja Bhanot saved the lives of passengers and crew when Pan Am Flight 73 was hijacked. She was killed while protecting children from the terrorists. After her death she received the Special Courage Award from the United States Department of Justice.
  • Flight Attendants on Air Canada Flight 797 (Sergio Benetti, Judi Davidson, Laura Kayama) used procedures which were not specifically taught in training such as moving passengers to the front of the aircraft to move them away from the fire and smoke, and passing out towels for passengers to cover their nose and mouths with while the cabin was filling with smoke.
  • Flight Attendants on US Airways Flight 1549 successfully evacuated all passengers from the aircraft within 90 seconds despite the fact that the rear was rapidly filling with water.
  • Nine cabin crew members aboard Air France Flight 358 successfully evacuated the aircraft within 90 seconds after the A340-300 overran a runway at Toronto Pearson International Airport. The NTSB stated that the actions of the cabin crew contributed to the 100% survival rate.

Notable flight attendants

  • Kate Linder, actress on The Young and the Restless, who continues to fly with United Airlines on weekends, when not filming scenes for the soap opera.
  • Jan Brown Lohr, lobbied in Washington for lap babies' safety belts after the crash of United Airlines Flight 232
  • Catherine Maunoury, French winner of the Aerobatics World Championship in 1988 and 2000
  • Avis Miller, Playmate
  • Jane McGrath, co-founder of the McGrath Foundation for breast cancer
  • Froso Papaharalambous, singer
  • Iris Peterson, flew for United Airlines from 1946 until 2007, retiring at the age of 85
  • Lyudmila Putina, wife of Russian President Vladimir Putin, was a flight attendant early in her career
  • Linda Louise Rowley, former beauty queen who held the title Miss Alaska USA
  • Lee Seung-yeon, Korean actress/talkshow host
  • Ellen Simonetti, first flight attendant to be fired for blogging
  • Tania Soni, beauty pageant winner
  • Silver Tree, writer and producer
  • Sharon Luk, 2005 Miss Hong Kong 1st Runner Up
  • Skye Chan, 2008 Miss Hong Kong 1st Runner Up, Miss World 2008 Contestant
  • Vesna Vulović, Guinness World Record holder for surviving the highest fall without a parachute
  • Julie Woodson, Playmate
  • Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir, Prime Minister of Iceland and first openly homosexual Head of Government.
  • Naila Nazir, Pakistani air hostess who received 1985's Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) Heroism Award for her brave handling of tense and dangerous situation during 13 days of flight PK-326 hijacking ordeal.[19][20]

Flight attendants in pop-culture portrayals


  1. ^ Cabin Managers - Corporate
  2. ^ The Original Eight: Genesis of the Modern Day Flight Attendant
  3. ^ Independent.co.uk, "The art of naming babies"
  4. ^ a b BLS.gov
  5. ^ Occupational Outlook Handbook, Flight Attendants - Nature of Work, U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  6. ^ Flight Attendant Certificate of Demonstrated Proficiency
  7. ^ "Requirements for flight attendants - Air New Zealand". http://www.airnewzealand.co.nz/aboutus/careers/career_options/position_details/flight_attendants.htm#requirements. Retrieved 2009-03-02. 
  8. ^ U.S. Department of Labor -- Bureau of Labor Statistics | Occupational Outlook Handbook -- Flight Attendants
  9. ^ Ask the pilot
  10. ^ Flight attendant history 2
  11. ^ From Skygirl to Flight Attendant, Women and the Making of a Union by Georgia Panter Nielsen, ILR Press/Cornell, Ithaca, New York (1982)ISBN 978-0875460932
  12. ^ Skies Often Overly Friendly, Early Flight Attendants Faced Sexism, by Dawn Klingensmith, Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Illinois, Lifestyle Section, March 7, 2007.
  13. ^ United Settles Sex-Bias Case, New York Times, July 11, 1986.
  14. ^ Public & Private; In Thin Air, by Anna Quindlen, New York Times, May 16, 1993.
  15. ^ Accord on Flight Attendants' Weight, New York Times, August 30, 1991.
  16. ^ "Evacuate, Evacuate, Evacuate"
  17. ^ Evacuation Commands for Optimal Passenger Management
  18. ^ a b Flight attendant history 10
  19. ^ a b "History of PIA". August 2, 2009. http://www.historyofpia.com/hijackings.htm/. 
  20. ^ a b "FSF Heroism Award". August 2, 2009. http://www.flightsafety.org/hero.html/. 
  21. ^ Det gælder dit liv!
  22. ^ NTSB Atlantic Southeast Airlines, Inc., Flight 529
  23. ^ Am I alive?
  24. ^ Full NTSB Accident Report
  25. ^ NTSB Report
  26. ^ TWA Flight 843
  27. ^ Crew's training saved terror flight
  28. ^ Explosives scare forces down plane
  29. ^ Heroes foil Qantas hijack attack
  30. ^ '243' is horrific Aloha flight story

External links

Flight Attendant Labour Unions:


Simple English

[[File:|thumb|right|250px|Malaysia Airlines regional cabin staff]] In aviation, flight attendants — also known as cabin crew, stewards, air hosts/hostesses, or stewardesses, — are members of a cabin crew employed by airlines to ensure the safety and comfort of the passengers aboard commercial flights as well as on select business jet aircraft.

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