How To Become Cabin Crew
Patricia Green explains how to prepare for the role, and what it really takes to become great cabin crew.
16 Oct 2017
Written by Patricia Green
Being Cabin Crew is a dream job, and something that is too often just dreamed about. The road to becoming cabin crew and the competition for jobs makes it all the more challenging.
Where do you start?
How do you decide whether it’s right for you?
Many people believe it's all high-flying glamour, designer uniforms and travelling the world eating breakfast in New York and dinner in Paris.
So, is it really a dream job, or are flight attendants merely a ‘flying waitress/waiter’?
What do cabin crew really do?
How do you shine above all the other candidates?
Firstly, you need to check the airline’s careers website to see if they are recruiting for cabin crew, and check you meet their requirements.
These are very strict, and very similar airline to airline:
· Minimum age of 18 years (some ask for candidates to be over the age of 21 to meet the licencing laws regarding the service or sale of alcohol),
· A minimum education of 4 GCSEs at grade C, two being English and Maths or the equivalent of a high school diploma,
· Minimum height of 1.58m, maximum height 1.90m (this may vary depending on the type of aircraft operated),
· Arm reach of 210-212cm, in order to reach emergency equipment on the aircraft (this may also vary depending on the aircraft operated),
· Weight in proportion to height, must be able to fit into a crew harness and through an over-wing emergency exit,
· No visible tattoos when wearing uniform,
· No excessive piercings (only one in each ear for females, none for males),
· Good health and fitness (tested at a medical),
· Eyesight 6/9 or corrected to 6/9 by use of glasses or contact lenses,
· Must have a current and eligible passport,
· Must be able to swim a minimum of 25m,
· No record of criminal offence,
· A strong level of English language (as English is the language of aviation, used on-board the aircraft),
· Customer service experience (between 6 months and 2 years),
· A high standard of personal presentation.
Other requirements (depending on the region of the airline) can be age or gender specific, or may require a certain nationality. Some airlines also request that the crew member must be able to be at their base within 45 minutes and have their own transport. This can be for standby duties or ad-hoc work.
If you meet all the requirements, you can apply online to become cabin crew or attend an open day or walk-in day, if available in your country.
If you pass the first stage, you will then be invited to an assessment day where you will meet the recruiters, see a company presentation, and take part in a group task with your fellow candidates. This tests your skills in teamwork, leadership and communication, and the recruiters will be watching closely!
You will also take a reach test (to check that you can reach the overhead lockers and emergency equipment), and sometimes an English or Maths test.
If successful, you will be interviewed personally by the recruiters, usually on a 3 to 1 or 2 to 1 panel. This is your chance to impress and show them why you would make great cabin crew.
From here you need to pass the final interview stage, and will be asked to take a medical examination, have background checks, and await your date of joining.
What If I Am Unsuccessful?
If you do not pass the first stages of the application process, it could be that your CV or photos are not up to standard. It is a good idea to tailor your CV for the cabin crew role, to show that your customer service experience is relevant and will impress the recruiter.
You can also use your objective on your CV or motivation letter to show how you perceive the cabin crew role, how your experience relates to the role, and how you would be of benefit to the airline.
You will also need a head and shoulders (passport style) photograph and a full-length photograph in business wear for your application. Putting the passport one on your CV will attract the recruiter’s attention and make your CV standout.
At the assessment day, try and work out your weak points and work on those.
Were you dressed correctly in business wear and well groomed?
Were you nervous when speaking to the recruiters? If so, it is time to rehearse your motivation speech and interview question answers.
If you felt the group task was unsuccessful, remember to try and be positive. Don’t talk too much (or too little), and work as a team. Never talk over anyone or react in a negative manner.
If you felt the final interview did not go as planned, think about the questions that were asked; did you know enough about the airline? Was there any question you were not expecting?
It is a good idea to have a few scenarios ready, as they will probably ask you to give an example of your customer service experience, or when you felt under pressure.
Finally, remember to mix well with the other candidates, and smile. The recruiters are watching you!
· Thoroughly research the cabin crew role and what the job entails,
· Research your chosen airline’s history and routes,
· Do not choose just one airline. This will most likely lead to disappointment,
· Apply, apply and apply again, even after rejection,
· Never take things personally. You have to find the right airline ‘fit’ for you,
· If you really want to be cabin crew, don’t give up on your dream,
· Join some cabin crew forums and network to learn more.
Competition for the cabin crew job is huge and the application process is hard work, but with patience and determination you can achieve your goals. As an example, for one airline recruitment drive over a 2-month period, 75,000 applications were received, 800 candidates were invited to assessment days and out of these, 120 became cabin crew.
Do I Need To Do A Cabin Crew Course?
Some people decide whilst at school or college that they want to be cabin crew, and may take a course such as the City and Guilds in Air Cabin Crew or the QQI in Cabin Crew Training. These give a basic qualification and cover topics such as airline operations, the role of cabin crew, aircraft types and emergency and evacuation procedures.
Other potential crew may work at an airport or within the tourism industry, and want to change to be cabin crew. This background experience is helpful to the role but not essential.
It is not unusual for people with degrees or professional qualifications to become cabin crew; there are lawyers, doctors, teachers and many more. Some people decide to join an airline as a second career, and join later in life after family changes, so you really do get people of all ages and all walks of life. It can be a very diverse community.
If you are interested in applying, but aren't sure if it’s the right job for you, you can try a ‘taster’ course. These usually run for 1 to 2 days and tell you more about the job, allowing you to meet real crew and ask questions. They can also assist you in making your first applications, ensuring that you make the grade.
You don’t need to take an expensive cabin crew course to get a job, and avoid courses that promise you a job, as you still have to pass the airlines vigorous recruitment process.
If you are very serious about finding a cabin crew role, you can take an attestation course, which will provide you with a licence to work in Europe. This lasts around 7-10 days and must be run by an approved training organisation. It covers the generics of any airline cabin crew course, with modules covering things like first aid, security and dangerous goods, fire training and safety and emergency procedures.
Most airlines run their own extensive cabin crew training courses, which are very specific to company procedures and their aircraft types. These courses are usually 6 weeks long and no attestation is required. This would require you to pass the cabin crew application process and start on your date of joining the airline.
The Role And Reality Of Being Cabin Crew
The cabin crew are responsible for the safety and welfare of the passengers and crew on the aircraft. In a typical day, you will start by attending a crew briefing, perform security and safety checks on the aircraft and set up for the flight. You'll be serving meals and drinks, reading announcements and selling various goods whilst also dealing with passenger requests. Depending on the airline, you may have to clean the aircraft and upload stock.
Cabin crew are aware of safety at all times and must be prepared for any potential problem. For example, a disruptive passenger, a bomb threat or severe turbulence.
Many people believe that cabin crew are only there for food and meal service, but they are in fact highly trained safety professionals. They're trained to deal with emergency situations such as emergency landings and evacuations on land or water, putting out a fire on-board, and dealing with a medical emergency.
Of course, most passengers probably will never have to experience an emergency on an aircraft, but the crew are trained to deal with the most difficult situations, and have the best outcome possible.
Understanding the true nature of the job is essential in finding your cabin crew job, and making it a long-term career.
The downsides to being cabin crew are:
· Long hours,
· Time away from home,
· Missing family events due to your roster,
· Jet lag is very difficult to deal with for long haul cabin crew,
· The salary is also considerably low. It is not a career you choose for the money, but more for the lifestyle.
The upsides are:
· Having great colleagues,
· Every day is different,
· You may get to travel to some wonderful places,
· Discounted air tickets,
· Special offers for crew members.
Airlines in the Middle East often offer free accommodation and transport, tickets on joining and for annual leave, as well things like healthcare insurance and free gym facilities.
It can be a very exciting and addictive career choice!
In reality, a small number of crew members will not pass the training course as it very hard work, entails a lot of study and has a very high pass rate.
After 6 months, quite a high percentage of cabin crew leave as they realise the job was not what they thought, or it doesn’t suit their lifestyle. Culture shock can be a big issue for cabin crew in the Middle East.
Once you have flown for 2 or 3 years, it becomes much more of a routine. Some crew leave to do something else or start a family, having achieved their aims. But, once you get bitten by the cabin crew bug, it can be hard to do anything else!
You may find it suits you and your lifestyle, and may continue working in aviation for many years.
Career Paths For Cabin Crew
If you decide on cabin crew as a long-term career, there are many options open to you. Should your airline offer business and first-class cabins, you can move up the ladder using your skills and experience to work in each class.
After a few years flying, you may move on to be an instructor and teach crew first aid or safety and emergency procedures, with which you can also continue to fly as cabin crew.
You may also consider becoming a senior cabin crew member, leading the cabin crew team on-board the aircraft.
There are some airlines that offer alternative cabin crew roles with a different focus, so you could become an on-board food and beverage manager, a first-class butler or a sky-nanny or sky-chef; it is quite diverse.
With a few years' experience and working in premium cabins, you could apply to work for private owners on their aircraft, or for a business jet operator, which can be a very exciting career move and very challenging.
You could also choose to work in a ground-based role at the airport or within the airline offices as a supervisor or manager.
Moving To Another Airline
Once you have a year or two of flying experience, you may choose to move airlines. Work can also be seasonal, and you might find yourself working contract to contract.
If you want to live in another country, learn a new language or experience the culture in the Middle East, these are all options. Most airlines like to have some cabin crew with experience, as they know that they know the job expectations and lifestyle and are likely to stay longer.
Within the UK and Europe, it is fairly easy to move between airlines as you will have your cabin crew attestation, which acts like a licence showing that your training was completed and which aircraft types were flown. This enables some airlines to recruit ‘current’ crew, and give them minimal training on their aircraft types and company procedures, saving time and money.
One thing to be aware of, is that some of the low-cost airlines ask for the cabin crew to pay for their training courses. This can be in advance or taken from the salary, depending on the airline. Sometimes, they may also ask the new crew member to pay for uniforms and airline pass although many airlines will only ask you to buy your own shoes and luggage, if anything.
Hard and Soft Skills of Cabin Crew
· Team players,
· Good communication skills,
· Flexibility (rotas change and flights are delayed),
· Good time management (NEVER be late. You may lose your job),
· Good problem solver,
· Secondary school education,
· Great customer service,
· High level of English,
· Basic computer skills,
· Other languages are welcomed.
What Kind Of Person Makes Great Cabin Crew?
You must adapt well to change and be flexible in your approach to dealing with things.
Resilience and being able to cope well in stressful situations is very important.
A friendly nature and a ‘smiley’ team player will not only work well with passengers, but also with their crew (who may change on a day to day basis).
A person who is passionate about their career and sees it as a lifestyle more than a job and genuinely enjoys it, will go far.
What Does It Take To Succeed?
There is no doubt that the job is a very challenging and rewarding one. If you like variety and a fast-paced job it might be suited to you; it is certainly not like the average 9-5 day job!
You may be working up to 4 flights a day but still be at home every night, or you may be away for a 10-day trip. It varies at every airline.
You do become the face of the airline and represent the company’s values on a daily basis; your job and life are very intertwined.
If you research well before applying, and learn about the many facets of becoming cabin crew, it will serve you well on the job hunt.
You will attend many assessment days and meet many potential crew on the search for their dream job. Learn from every application and every assessment day, and use the experience to find the right airline ‘fit’ for you.
It takes time, patience, a lot of commitment, and is the survival of the fittest. Many people only chose one airline and attend one assessment day, to be disappointed and give up on their dreams. It is not like applying for any other job, and you have to jump through many hoops, but it is truly worthwhile in the end.
You will learn great life skills, meet friends for life, and have fantastic memories of your career.
Whether it’s for 6 months or 6 years, you never regret being cabin crew. It is a very exciting journey, and the ultimate adventure.