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A day in a flight attendant life

A day in a flight attendant life - By Ahmed Haouaria

23 Août 2020

Working as a flight attendant, an extraordinary job which allows, during a flight, to cross time zones from one country to another and to live on each flight exceptional human experiences. In this post, I will present a typical day for a Cabin Crew Member scheduled to ensure a flight. 

For those of you who are reading this blog for the first time, my name is Ahmed Haouaria, I am a former flight attendant, Instructor/Examiner and Inflight Services Manager in two airlines and it is always a pleasure for me to write and share ideas and hints via my blog posts related to airlines and tourism industry.

Prepare at home

Depending on the time of the flight, the Crew begins to prepare for his/her flight on average 1 hour to 2 hours before departure for the airport.

This starts with good physical preparation and good hygiene; a female or male Crew must always be fresh. Physical appearance and hygiene are keys when working as a Flight Attendant.

As flight attendants reflect the image of the airline, physical appearance is one of the first and critical criteria to consider by airlines during recruitment processes. Staff must, therefore, ensure that they always maintain good a presentation.

Since flight attendants have to endure hard changes; they can take off from an airport where it is 22 degrees Celsius and land in another where it is minus 5 Celsius, long flight hours and jet lag, between countries of departure and countries of destination, one of the qualities of a flight attendant is to have the excellent physical condition and a good ability to adapt and resist fatigue, stress and thermal shocks.

The preparation of the Crew personal suitcase varies according to the nature of the flight, short, medium, or long haul.

The suitcase is always ready, with clothes suitable for almost any climate of the flight destinations.

A must: checking the official flight documents, passports, crew member card, Staff ID, checklist, Manuals, and potential mandatory work equipment ... based on company requirements. Finally, the Cabin Crew put on uniform to be ready to head to airport.

Arrival at the airport

Once at the airport, the Flight Attendant goes through the police formalities / In general, the crews use dedicated passages to the personnel to facilitate their access to Company Operations Center. Depending on the flights and the airlines, the Flight Attendant will report to operations between 1hours and 2 hours before the initially scheduled departure time.

Before starting the pre-flight briefing at the operations Briefing room, the Cabin Crew Member reports his/her arrival to the "Flight Operations Officer" or depending on the of the company organization to a member of the Inflight Services Management, make acquaintance with the flight crew and Cabin Crew members scheduled to ensure the flight together consults the company memos if there are any.

Pre-flight briefing

The hostesses and stewards proceed to the briefing room, an important moment when all the team meets, under the responsibility of the Cabin Chief. 

The briefing aims to make sure there is a common understanding between all crew members. The focus will be on Teamwork, good communication, and planning. Many Cabin Crew and flight crew have to work with colleagues they may not have met before for extended periods and it is important to create a team synergy for safety coordination purposes. 

There is an emphasis on the principles of Crew Resource Management (CRM) to ensure that the crew works as an effective team. 

The pre-fight briefing will include information on any normal and abnormal situations, cockpit entry procedure, emergency and communication procedures, and anything that crews need to discuss related to the flight. 

Usually, briefings start with crew introductions. It will then include details of the particular flight (the flight number, destination, aircraft registration, etc.). The SCCM will assign responsibilities and work zones and/or classes and will often ask safety, security, and first aid questions to ensure that each Cabin Crew member is aware of what is expected in specific situations, especially emergency ones. There will also be a review of the operating procedures to ensure that the Cabin Crew understands the importance of carrying out their duties by the Operator’s Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs). It is part of the briefing to allow the Crew CCM to ask questions to explain any details related to the flight.

In the event of the absence of a scheduled crew member, the operations officer will assign a replacement Hostess or Steward; in airline jargon, we speak of back up staff. Several Cabin Crew Members are scheduled to face this kind of event.

While the Flight Attendant carry out their briefing, the flight crew also prepare for the flight, on a more technical level: flight plan, fuel, weight, expected freight, weather forecast, condition, and technical features of the aircraft.

Pre-flight Safety and Security checks

The hostess and stewards go to the briefing room, an important moment when all the team meets, under the responsibility of a Purser. 

Once the briefing is finished, the crew proceed to the aircraft to carry out their pre-flight checks which are used to check the compliance of the 2 aspects of the flight.

The regulation aspect includes the presence, verification, and function of mobile and fixed safety equipment referring to a document entitled aircraft layout.

Checks include:

o       Life jackets under each passenger seat;

o       Checking the doors and exits, see if they work and if the slide is ready to operate in the event of an evacuation (pressure gauge in the correct operating range);

o       Checking the extinguishers: validity of use, accessibility;

o       Checking in the toilets: smoke alarm working, automatic extinguisher ;

o       Checking oxygen bottles;

o       Checking that each passenger has their seat belt on the seat;

o       Checking the windows;

o       Microphone check (P.A.: Public Address).

Aircraft security is an essential component of the pre-flight visit. 

Annex 17 to the Convention on International Civil Aviation  Organization ICAO defines security as a "Combination of measures as well as human and material means aimed at protecting international civil aviation against acts of unlawful interference".

Aviation security aims to protect and prevent any act of unlawful intervention, in particular terrorist acts and hijackings. Security measures must prevent entry into airports and airplanes of weapons, explosives, dangerous substances, or any other object likely to harm civil aviation.

In their designated area, as per crew position, CCM make sure the correct procedures are followed for suspicious/found items before passenger boarding

Among other things, they also make sure the trolleys are stowed and locked with seals. They have to check seals numbers comply with those on the security sheet hands by catering provider. Before use, check behind the trolley to make sure no-one has stored anything.

In-flight services, pre-flight check

Catering meals and material is carried out using high-loader trucks that enable trolleys to be rolled on and off aircraft. Once loaded, trolleys and other items need to be stowed onboard to ensure the microbial safety of edible items and the security and safety of the crew, passengers, and aircraft. Cabin Crew will then proceed to related checks including:

-    Service equipment;

-    Trolleys for service;

-    Passengers and crew Meals ;

-    Products sold on board/duty-free;

-    The presence and operation of entertainment tools; videos, newspapers and magazines, children's games, etc..

The control of cabin cleanliness is also an essential part of the pre-flight visit.

Once all these verification operations are carried out in good synergy between the crew members, each Cabin Crew in charge of a specific area reports in writing to the Senior.

Welcoming passengers

Passenger boarding can begin in coordination between the Captain, the SCCM, and the flight supervisor.

The Flight Attendant begins welcoming the passengers and settling them in the seats assigned to them by ground operations. This phase must efficiently take place to respect the time scheduled for take-off- On-Time Performance is key- while ensuring boarding in the best conditions of safety, security, and comfort for passengers.

Depending on the weather, day or night, the type of flight (long or medium-haul); the class; Economy, Business, or First and the destination, one or more in-flight services are scheduled.

The rest time of crew members

Depending on the policy of each company; On long-haul, especially at night, once the inflight service has ended, the crew can schedule rest periods.

A first group will ensure the safety of the flight while carrying out regular safety rounds in the cabin, visiting the cockpit in general, every 30 minutes, and checking the toilets every 15 minutes to prevent the risk of fire.

The second group will take their time off. The two teams will change roles depending on the agreed rest time.

On medium-haul, after a rotation of two to four legs, the crew returns to the base, or spend the night in another stopover.

Plans for the stopover

Usually during a well-deserved rest in stopover, and arrival at the hotel, where very often, the crews meet after their installation for the traditional: "crew drink". It is a privileged moment of relaxation, where conviviality after a good flight is generally the keyword and where the crew members tell their respective anecdotes relating to the flights. For some, it is also the moment to put together a stay agenda, by scheduling such and such day trip, visit, excursion alone, or with other colleagues. It is unfortunate to be in Paris for example without visiting the Eiffel Tower or in Cairo without visiting the pyramids.

Back to home base

The return to the Cabin Crew Member's main base always takes place after the flight, whatever its category; round trip, or rotation.

The real advantage of this job is that each flight is unique in terms of the nature and categories of passengers. The pilots and Flight Attendants are never the same for two successive flights.

This work organization is not only a real asset for the Crew and but  also a source of continuous joy  and learning.






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