Traveling by air is usually an exciting experience. Passengers always want their flights to be as pleasant as possible; however, not always will the journey be that enjoyable. Sometimes flights may be marred with problems such as accidents ranging from fire outbreaks to plane crashes; there can also be airplane emergencies during flights. Similarly, one may also get sick onboard and besides. Moreover, some passengers have particular needs hence require distinctive attention. All these call for the presence of airline flight attendants, highly trained personnel on board for the safety and overall comfort of the passengers. This paper highlights the responsibilities of airline flight attendants and how their training suits them to perform these tasks.
Responsibilities of airline flight attendants and their training
The primary responsibility of airline attendants is to ensure that passengers are safe. During flights, there are some emergencies that can always hamper the safety of the passengers. In particular, minor accidents such as fire outbreaks can impede the safety of passengers on board. Flight attendants deal with two aspects of security; mechanical and medical (Gazdik, 2005). The responsibility of flight attendants is to ensure that all situations that can threaten the safety of the passengers are well taken care of. The airline attendants do help passengers in ensuring that they follow safety measures during flights. Before takeoff, they ensure that the passengers meet all the safety measures required of them (Ferguson, 2001 p.70). In particular, they help passengers in fastening their seat belts and also instruct them on the safety precautions that they should observe while on board. The attendants are usually trained on the safety procedures and measures that should be observed during flights. This ensures that they become highly proficient in addressing all the safety concerns of the passengers. Flight safety cannot be realized unless the flight attendants are properly trained on safety practices (International Labor Organization, 1991).
With terrorism on the rise and airlines being the prime target of the terrorists, attendants’ training has also been adjusted to address this. Most airlines do train their attendants on the basics of self-defense. They always undergo physical training to enable them to deal with potential terrorist attacks. Sometimes some passengers may also get unruly and disruptive on board, and physical strength may be required to contain them. These factors justify the inclusion of physical training and self-defense skills in their course. However, it is necessary to note that attendants’ tasks are more mental than physical (Gazdik, 2005).
Other than passenger safety, the attendants also engage in customer service activities during flights. Their responsibilities do aim at ensuring the comfort of the passengers (Kivisto, 2004 p. 263) which is a priority to all airlines. In regard to this, flight attendants are usually trained to deal with passengers’ concerns. Passengers especially first-time air travelers may have several questions and concerns on board which when not properly addressed may cause inconvenience to the passengers. It is the task of the flight attendants to guide such passengers to their seats and make them feel comfortable. Adept public relations skills are required to effectively address the concerns of the passengers. Their training, therefore, encompasses lessons on public relations. Besides public relations skills, they are also trained in passenger psychology. Knowledge of passenger psychology is essential as it helps the attendants in identifying the passengers that appear troubled. As public relations demand, the attendants are also taught proper grooming practices.
To address the concerns of the passengers also, require that the attendants have sound communication skills. Passengers on international flights are usually drawn from diverse backgrounds who speak different languages. To significantly address the concerns of the passengers, the attendants are usually trained in foreign languages (United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2010 p.518). Attendants working with international airlines are able to communicate in several foreign languages. This enables them to address passengers’ worries much perfectly.
Some passengers on board may also require exceptional needs. For example, there may be disabled passengers and children who travel on their own. Such passengers require specific attention. It is always the role of the flight attendants to attend to such passengers. As a result, their training also focuses on the study of people with specific needs. During training, they learn how to cater to the needs of the special groups. Besides the specific needs groups, the attendants also do serve drinks and meals to passengers. To carry out this task, the attendants are usually trained in food handling techniques.
Flight attendants also play a vital role in dealing with emergencies during flights. During emergencies, it is essential to direct the passengers on the probable safety measures to take for instance; where crashes are eminent the passengers should be provided with parachutes. They should also be directed to the exit doors. There can also be minor fire outbreaks during flights which if not handled effectively can lead to disastrous effects.
It is also possible that some passengers may suffer from conditions that require first-aid measures during flights. The most common medical conditions that attendants encounter during flights include heart attacks and premature births (Gazdik, 2005). For these purposes, flight attendants are usually trained on how to handle emergencies. Their training involves learning all the possible emergencies that can occur during flights, and how to effectively deal with those emergencies.
Handling emergencies especially mechanical problems require that the attendants have a sound knowledge of the safety equipment used in airlines. They are usually trained on how to use the equipment effectively. It is vital to mention that crafts come in different models with different specifications, features, and even safety equipment. An international airline flight attendant should have full knowledge of aircraft types. This is usually incorporated in their training.
Flight attendants also do offer guidance to the passengers. The passengers traveling for the first time may not be acquainted with airline procedures and operations and may appear nervous. Such passengers need proper direction on the basic airline procedures. The attendants do guide the passengers to their seats and ensure that they are comfortable. To ensure that the attendants are adept at carrying out this task, they are usually trained on basic airline operations and procedures (Ferguson, 2008). Lessons on passenger psychology are usually incorporated into their coursework. Knowledge of passenger psychology enables them to easily identify troubled passengers and respond to them appropriately.
Airline companies do have specific regulations that passengers may not be aware of. It is the responsibility of the flight attendants to ensure that the passengers are aware of these regulations. They do communicate these regulations to the passengers. This task requires that the attendants have a comprehensive understanding of the flight operations and procedures. During training, the airline attendants are usually drilled on the primary aviation regulations.
Every airline usually wishes to attract and retain its passengers. Depending on the actions of the attendants, the reputation of an airline can be tarnished or elevated. In regard to this, flight attendants will always strive to impress the customers as much as possible. They are always trained to be warm and hospitable. Besides, they are also trained to be presentable since appearances do make lasting impressions. Flight attendants are also trained to maintain high levels of professionalism in their duties.
Summarily, flight attendants perform a wide range of responsibilities as Foster and Douglas illustrate that their job is a combination of “a nurse, babysitter, mother, cook, waitress, diplomat, psychiatrist, confidante and companion” (2004 p.147). Air flight attendants should be well trained to perform these tasks. Airline transport will suffer without the flight attendants. Though pilots play a vital role in airline transport, their safety responsibilities are inadequate without the additional role of the flight attendants (Whitelegg, 2007 p.104). Their training centers around those disciplines related to their duties and responsibilities.
Douglas, D.G & Foster, A.E. (2004). American Women and Flight since 1940. Lexington: University Press of Kentucky.
Ferguson. (2007). Transportation. Ferguson’s Careers in Focus Series. New York: Infobase Publishing.
Gazdik, M. (2005). Vault Guide to Flight Attendant Careers. Irvine: Vault Inc.
International Labor Organization. (1991). Meeting of Experts on Civil Aviation: Geneva, 9-17 October 1990. Geneva: International Labor Organization
Kivisto, P. (2004). Illuminating Social Life: Classical and Contemporary theory. Thousand Oaks: Pine Forge Press.
United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. (2010). Occupational Outlook Handbook: Volume 2800 of Bulletin of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics. New York: Government Printing Office.
Whitelegg, D. (2007). Working the Skies: The fast paced, disorienting world of the flight attendant. New York: NYU Press.