Cabin crew members have been referred to as Flight attendants, Air Hostesses, Flight Stewards, Flight Stewardesses, Cabin Attendants and Cabin Crew Members. In South Africa the name for flight attendants was replaced with cabin crew members since the licensing of cabin crew in 1998.
This licensing process changed the “chicken or beef” glamorous image of flight attendants to one of professional, competent licensed safety officers whose primary responsibility is the safety of passengers, fellow crew members and the aircraft. Cabin crew members are often considered to be glamorous and are the envy of many when walking through the airport building in beautiful uniforms, pulling their “little blue bags” behind them. When people think of flight attendants, they see independence, glitz, glamour, fashion, shopping and fun. Once cabin crew members board the aircraft, the glamour ends and strenuous work begins. The disadvantages of a career as a flight attendant include: being away from friends and family over the festive season, not being home for special occasions, cleaning aircraft toilets at 2am, abuse by drunken passengers, cleaning up after children who have been airsick. This most certainly is not glamorous, but the lifestyle is. Watching shows on Broadway, shopping in the East of 5th Avenue in New York, meeting the “rich and famous”, staying in the best hotels while being paid to do so – the list of perks is endless. The requirements for being a flight attendant varies from airline to airline, however, in South Africa, the South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) has laid down certain requirements that must be adhered to when operating on a South African registered aircraft. The minimum legislated entry requirements for a cabin crew members licence application is:
- Proficiency in the English language
- Proficient in water
- A minimum of 18 years of age when writing the SACAA examination
- A Class 2 medical certificate
In addition to the requirements listed above, Airline Operators also have minimum requirements for flight attendants. These could include but are not limited to:
- No criminal record
- Height restrictions which are based on the fleet the operator uses as crew members are required to reach all safety equipment stowed on an aircraft
- A second or third language
- Age restrictions – this is normally a minimum age restriction and maximum age is determined by the airline operator’s retirement age
Some airlines will only employ licensed cabin crew members as this is an indication that the flight attendant should have the ability to successfully complete all their theoretical and practical assessments when attending their training and is also a sign that the individual is really eager to join the rank of a flight attendant. Employing licensed cabin crew members is also cost effective to the airline operator as the cabin crew member will have paid for their own medical assessment, all SACAA examinations as well as for the actual license. Even if an airline operator employs licensed cabin crew members, these crew members will still undergo training with the operator they are joining. The duration of the training will be specific to the operator.
It is also known that many candidates are not successful when applying for a job as a flight attendant and reasons for this can vary from not fitting the profile, nerves or to just not being able to sell yourself in an interview. Competition is strong amongst those wanting to be flight attendants and airline operators can choose “the cream of the crop”, so the interviewing process is usually gruelling and it is essential to be well-prepared and confident when applying for positions with operators. Attending an interviewing skills and grooming and deportment module with an accredited and professional Aviation Training Organisation will be beneficial and set you apart, when applying for a position with an airline.