Backstage Travel: No 2 - Cabin crew

The people behind passenger satisfaction... and safety

They're the smiling faces who serve our drinks and clean up after us, but there's much more to cabin crew than being the human face of the airline. First-aider, babysitter, travel adviser, and survival expert, they're the all-rounders who ensure our flight goes smoothly – turbulence aside.

"People look to you to be able to take control of situations and handle whatever happens on that day," says Jayne Deasy, 46, who has been part of British Airways' 14,000-strong cabin crew for 25 years, She is a cabin service director, responsible for leading crews on the airline's worldwide long-haul network.

Their first priority is passenger safety. BA flight attendants undergo an initial six-week training course in aviation medicine and safety, and emergency procedures – including water survival skills, managing medical emergencies and dealing with dangerous goods – and must pass refresher exams every year.

"A number of our cabin crew have come from medical backgrounds," adds Deasy, "so quite often we have a wealth of experience on top of what is a very high level of first-aid training." There's back-up on the ground, too: in the event of an emergency, crew can phone a US medical centre for guidance.

Beyond safety, the crew's role is to provide customer service, and for that, preparation is all. Prior to a flight, Deasy will spend time online reading the news and weather in her destination before meeting and briefing her crew, which changes each flight. They study any changes in procedures, go through the passenger list and identify those with special requirements.

On board, it's all about keeping the customer happy, which could mean entertaining a toddler, acknowledging a birthday or dealing with unusual requests. (Deasy recalls one passenger who washed her hair in the toilet cubicle and wanted a hairdryer.) "You don't have a boring day," she says.

Of course serving people – particularly tired, stressed, cooped-up people – isn't always straightforward, so diplomacy is a flight attendant's default setting. "We are trained in people skills and how to be as effective as possible in a difficult situation. You have to be realistic; you can't always deliver. But we can hopefully offer the best possible solution."

The perks outweigh any problem passengers. BA's "fair share" policy means Deasy isn't assigned a single route but will travel to most of the airline's 90 non-European destinations in the course of a year. "It certainly keeps the job fresh," says Deasy. "I still get a buzz from the fact I go to work here and get off in another country."

Caroline Bishop

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Product Development

    £26000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Product Development departm...

    Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

    £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

    Recruitment Genius: Developer

    £30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

    Recruitment Genius: Estates Contracts & Leases Manager

    £30000 - £34000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Estates Team of this group ...

    Day In a Page

    A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

    Britain's Atlantis

    Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

    The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

    David Starkey's assessment
    Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

    'An enormous privilege and adventure'

    Oliver Sacks writing about his life
    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

    The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
    Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

    Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

    Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935