Flying High – A perspective on Flight Attendants and service in the sky
A spate of recent viral international incidents and spats between Flight Attendants and passengers, and an incident witnessed by BTM prompted a closer look at the passenger expectations versus reality when travelling by air.
Flight Attendants on commercial passenger aircraft, national carriers or airlines have two primary duties – ensuring the safety and comfort of passengers. However passengers frequently don’t see things the way they actually are, and having paid for a seat, often perceive Flight Attendants as hotel staff, waiters, cleaners, baggage handlers, babysitters and doormen - to be at the passenger’s beck and call and to meet their every whim when called.
This is a falsity, and BTM looks at what is reasonable to expect on board against what is delivered, in accordance with the airlines standard operating procedures. Travelling on a passenger aircraft with a national carrier or airline is a form of public transport and has hospitality service limitations.
The flight attendant compliment on board a commercial passenger aircraft is generally made up of : -
An Overall Cabin Manager (or Purser)
Bears overall responsibility for general aspects of passenger safety, comfort and control.
A Customer Services Manager or Senior Flight Attendant
The primary assistant and aide to the Cabin Manager/Purser and often more than one CSM or Senior Flight Attendant will be on a flight especially on larger aircraft with a high passenger count.
Flight attendants will generally be either Economy or Business Class and separated but can work aligned or even together if required.
A range of “bolt on” Flight Attendant services with their own skill sets and titles may be provided by airlines.
Flight Attendant Responsibilities
All airlines have clearly laid out standards of operation for Flight Attendants which are approved by the relevant Civil Aviation Authority.
The primary functions of Flight Attendants is to ensure the safety, comfort and management of passengers from time of boarding the aircraft until they disembark.
Most passengers have a clear understanding of what a responsible passenger should behave like, however some passengers see themselves as fully deserving and take a stance and behave in a way that quickly leads to frustration, anxiety and even aggression when their unrealistic expectations are not met.
- Be on time.
- Be patient.
- Be courteous.
- Be polite.
- Be considerate – especially when using the toilets.
- Be responsible.
- Be reasonably dressed to travel.
- Be clean – other passengers don’t want to smell your sweat, body odour or bad breath.
- Carry hand luggage with measurement and weight as specified – do not take up more hand luggage room than you are entitled to especially on full flights.
- Follow the ground staff guidance and especially the Flight Attendants instructions once onboard the aircraft.
- Stay in your allocated seat according to your boarding pass as much as possible and refrain from walking around especially during meal and drink service periods.
Both Economy and Business Class have their associated limitations and the moral is simple - you cannot expect more than you have paid for…
Flight Attendants DO NOT have a duty to:
- Fetch, carry or service the needs of passengers beyond that which the airline has contracted to provide.
- Meet reseating needs or requests unless changes can be made without disrupting other passengers.
- Distribute special meals or beverage selections if they have not been ordered beforehand.
- Shift heavy luggage or move hand luggage for passengers.
- Serve drinks or food unless appropriate to do so after the standard food and beverage services have been completed.
- Baby sit children already accompanied by their parents.
- Clean up a mess made inconsiderately or pick up meal trays off the floor.
- Clean up fouled and messed toilets.
Passenger tips for a pleasant flight:
- Flight Attendants have a range of time critical duties, checks and services to accomplish using the narrow aisles and passengers should stay out of the way and not go to the galleys to chit chat or self-service – even if they are off duty or other airline crew members flying as passengers.
- If seated in an aisle seat, keep your feet, knees, arms, bags, blankets, and luggage out of the aisles and walkways – if you don’t you may be bumped, knocked or even injured by the trolley carts, passengers or crew moving up and down between the galleys and toilets.
- Be considerate of other passengers when seated and don’t put your bags, clothing, accessories, feet, arms, hair or other body parts in their area or space.
- Don’t pull, bash, knock or bump on the seat in front and if using the In-Flight Entertainment System – tap on the screen considerately so that it does not disturb the passenger in the front.
- Be considerate at all times when reclining the seat after meals or during flight. Keep the seat upright during meals, take off, landing and when instructed to do so by the flight attendants or announcements.
- Larger than normal, obese, or unusually big passengers should request bulkhead or extra room exit row seats, even booking and paying for them in advance, and consider flying Business class to prevent being uncomfortable due to space constraints, access, and movement restrictions.
- If cultural needs are such that a passenger does not want to sit next to a man, woman or particular type of person – the passenger should make a point of stating this when booking and tell the ground staff when they check in – don’t wait until getting on board the aircraft as it may then not be possible to reseat especially on full flights.
- Use the bathroom facilities quickly and always leave the toilet area clean.
Passengers may face service or seating difficulties and when they do the Flight Attendants have remedies that are laid out by the airline. A dissatisfied passenger can always escalate a problem courteously to a higher level and the Purser and if dissatisfied always has the right to file a written complaint to the airline concerned.