Air cabin crew look after airline passengers and are responsible for their comfort and safety during their flight. They serve food, sell goods and deal with any problem or emergency that arises. They are sometimes called flight attendants.
Air cabin crew have a range of tasks, before, during and after a flight.
Before taking off you could be:
- attending a pre-flight briefing, to find out about passengers with special requirements, safety matters and which section of the aircraft you will cover
- preparing the aircraft for flight, checking on-board supplies and safety or comfort equipment
- welcoming passengers and helping them find their seats
- ensuring that passenger numbers are as expected and everyone is accounted for
- explaining and demonstrating emergency and safety rules
- checking that passengers have fastened their seat belts and stored their luggage in the correct place.
During the flight you could be:
- dealing with passengers' requests and ensuring their comfort and safety
- serving meals and drinks, tidying up and selling duty-free goods
- dealing with payments in cash, including foreign currency, and by credit card
- communicating with the pilots regarding safety and comfort, such as turbulence warnings
- reassuring passengers and making sure they follow safety procedures if there is an emergency
- calming nervous or sick passengers and giving first aid
- dealing with any drunk or aggressive passengers.
Once the plane has landed you could be:
- making sure passengers leave the plane safely with all their belongings
- checking food and duty-free stocks
- filling out flight reports.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary depending on:
- where you work
- the size of the company or organisation you work for
- demand for the job.
Basic starting salaries can range between £12,500 and £18,000 a year. With experience, this can rise to £28,000 a year for a cabin services manager. In addition to a basic salary you can earn commission for on-board sales and performance related bonuses.
You would have subsidised travel costs and possibly a living costs allowance when you work away from home.
- It can be cramped, noisy and warm on a plane.
- You would spend a lot of time on your feet and the work can be physically demanding.
- You may have to work long shifts and be on stand-by to work at short notice.
- Many airlines require you to live within 60-90 minutes of your airport base.
- You may have to work at weekends and on public holidays.
- You may have to spend some nights away from home, especially if you work on long-haul flights.
- You might spend most of your time in different airports without seeing much of the countries you pass through, especially if you work on short-haul flights.
- You would have to wear a uniform and keep a smart appearance.
- Occasionally you may suffer from jet lag.
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- You should have a good general education. Some subjects, including English and Maths, at National 4 or 5 are helpful. A foreign language is also useful.
- City of Glasgow College run a City and Guilds Diploma in Air Cabin Crew Operations Level 2. Contact the college for details.
- There are also some online courses which can provide training – see below for websites.
- The minimum age for entry to some airlines is 18, while some are 21. There are also usually height restrictions, and your weight should be in proportion to your height.
- For many airlines you need to be able to swim up to a distance of 25 metres.
- You need to have a medical examination, and you should have good health, hearing and eyesight. You should not have any visible tattoos or piercings that can't be covered discreetly.
- You must have the right to live and work in the UK.
- You often need previous experience of working with people in a customer service role. Some airlines have a minimum requirement of 6 months to 2 years.
- You will require a satisfactory criminal record check from Disclosure Scotland to show that you are suitable for this type of work. Contact Disclosure Scotland for details on the type you would need.
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What Does it Take?
You need to be:
- smart and well presented
- confident and assertive
- tolerant and tactful
- pleasant and helpful
- good at working in a team
- good at coping in an emergency
- able to deal with difficult passengers
- able to meet sales targets, depending on the airline you work for.
You need to have:
- good communication skills
- a calm and reassuring manner
- maths skills for dealing with cash and handling foreign currency.
- Airlines provide 3-7 weeks of training, covering topics such as safety and first aid; customer care; immigration, customs and security rules; currency exchange; preparing and serving food; pre- and post-flight checks, sales and report writing.
- With some airlines you may have to pay for your own training or repay a certain amount if you leave within a specified time, for example 12 months. Check conditions with the airline you apply to join.
- This is followed by a period of several months of in-flight training, supervised by experienced staff.
- There are several training schemes which will help your chances of gaining employment. See the website www.cabincrewwings.com.
- With experience you may gain promotion to posts such as senior cabin crew member, cabin services manager or purser.
- Alternatively, you might move to ground based work in areas such as ground operations, recruitment services or training.
There is a lot of competition for this kind of work. You might find temporary work during busy holiday seasons before getting a permanent job. There are vacancies and information on training on various websites such as Aviation Job Search and www.cabincrewwings.com.
You can also check the vacancy sections of airline websites.
The following organisations may be able to provide further information.
People 1st - Careers That Move
People 1st is the Sector Skills Council for the hospitality, passenger transport, travel and tourism industries.
Careers That Move is in association with People 1st and the UKSP. It is the careers website for passenger transport and travel.
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