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At a first glance, the thought of being a flight attendant may sound like a luxury job for some, since they have the ability to travel the world freely and, literally, work in the sky. But as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. There are a lot of strict rules and procedures that flight attendants must follow in order to be successful in their job. The main aspect is safety first; they must follow important rules to ensure the safety of the passengers and leave a positive impression after the flight.
Safety first
Alyson Swarbrick, a professor in Seneca College's flight services program, states that a required skill to be a superior flight attendant is having a safety-first mindset. I would start with being someone who is extremely safety conscious and someone who has the ability to follow strict regulations, she says.
As part of a routine before each flight, Swarbrick explains the flight crew meets to discuss any risks throughout the day including, what the weather will be like, if there is any anticipated turbulence, number of passengers, destination, and they'll also do what is called a crew briefing which is like a testing for the day, she says. So as a crew, they'll discuss a hazard that could happen and an emergency that could happen. It's not a full role play, but it's like a theoretical role play. So we'll talk about in the event of a bird strike, what would we do as a crew, what would be communicated from the flight deck.
Swarbrick states that flight attendants then make their way to the aircraft and conduct a pre-flight check. They check all the safety equipment on board the aircraft from the portable oxygen, to the fire extinguisher, to the smoke detectors in the lavatory. Every piece of equipment has to be checked, where it's supposed to be, and that it's operating correctly.
Compassion for passengers
Although it may not sound like a big responsibility, flight attendants then monitor the cabin while serving the passengers. Swarbrick states that this brings back the need for being able to anticipate risks. So you're walking through the cabin and just sort of observing people, making sure people are comfortable, she says. Something as simple as someone seeming really uncomfortable can lead to something as severe as shock. And people who are extremely nervous flyers can lead to that.
Being able to anticipate risk and foreseeing what could be a potential incident or hazard is an important skill for every flight attendant. Swarbrick also believes that customer service skills are a must. Secondly, I'd say someone who is very service-conscious, she says. I think a dominant quality of empathy is extremely important in this industry.
Within Canada, one must be 18 years of age or older and have a Canadian passport to become a flight attendant. They also must be physically able to handle the job tasks, Swarbrick indicates. There are some heavy lifting requirements, she says. They need to be fairly fit in order to withstand the pressure of flying and depending on the aircraft there may be a reach requirement.
Bilingualism is key
It is also a mandatory requirement to be bilingual especially since communication is one of the main roles as a flight attendant. For Canadian airlines, Swarbrick says that it is an absolute basic requirement to be both bilingual in English and French since Canada is reflective of that. For alternative routes, airlines will interchange a second language. So if we have an airline that it looking to sow flight attendants specifically to go to say Toronto to Brazil, you'd want that Portuguese language, Swarbrick says. So they may do an English-Portuguese.
A career ready for takeoff
There are plenty of opportunities in terms of growth in a flight attendant career. Swarbrick started off as a flight attendant for Porter and achieved a role in the safety management division. My history is that I worked with Porter for five years and that certainly was a very close knit family environment, she says. Personally, I was able to go from flight attendant to purser'which is the lead'to trainer and then I ended my career with them in their safety management division, which is a department that is a liaison between the airline and Transport Canada.
In aviation, Swarbrick explains that most airlines prefer promoting growth within the team. The majority of people who are in-flight service managers or directors of in-flight service are people who started as flight attendants. Within a reasonable amount of time'because we all have to sort of work our way up'we're nurtured to that position.
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