What cabin crew really get up to before a flight
This week, our cabin crew blogger Lisa writes in response to the questions you posed on our Facebook page. Rather than answering one, she’s done three… how kind is that!
Rachel Hunt asks: What cabin crew have to do before passengers embark a flight & after they disembark a flight?
Lisa answers: Cabin crew must report for duty 90 minutes before a departure. As punctuality is so important, as soon as we arrive in the crew room the first priority is to log in to the electronic system. This lets crew control and the operations department at Luton HQ know everyone’s arrived. If anyone’s late then crewing have plenty of time to locate the crew member or call someone out who is on standby duty to replace them. It always makes me smile when I check in at 4.30 a.m. as most people are still deep in slumber but the crew room is like ‘Piccadilly Station’, buzzing and noisy with crews coming and going and all with the same goal, either off to work or off to bed!
Once we’ve checked in a crew list of names, plus the relevant flight details and flight times is produced so the crew are aware who’s who. Sometimes you could be your flying with your friends or colleagues you’ve known for years, which is always a treat. Other times you may be flying with colleagues for the first time.
According to regulations, cabin crew must demonstrate competency in their emergency procedures before every flight. This responsibility lies with the operating senior on the day, who must ask each crew member one safety and one first aid question to test their knowledge. The brief will also include details such as how many special needs and reduced mobility passengers to expect, how many pre-ordered meals including special dietary meals to expect from the caterers, any reminders of recent company updates and generally stimulate a discussion to allow the whole team to contribute any ideas and suggestions that will benefit the service and our passengers.
Each crew member has a designated crew seat and area of responsibility which will usually include an exit door, a crew seat, local emergency equipment i.e. fire extinguishers, smoke hoods, emergency first aid boxes plus life jackets under passengers seats in that area. As priority, once onboard all crew must pre-flight check their equipment to ensure it’s serviceable and ready for immediate use and confirm to the senior this has been completed. The senior will pass all the checks onto the Captain. Next the galley crew members check all catering has been loaded, not forgetting the crew food of course! The senior is constantly keeping a very close eye on their watch as on-time departure is really important, and will instigate a cabin security check as soon as possible. This is another strict regulation and after all ground staff has vacated the aircraft the crew will complete a thorough search of their areas to ensure no suspect packages have been left onboard. Boarding will begin once the Captain is happy all this has been completed.
Huw Forsey asks: Why not talk about what they do on a turnaround?
Lisa says: Once everybody has disembarked from the plane, the crew starts the second security check of the day, again to ensure nothing has been left onboard. Plus, it’s an opportunity to hand over any lost property found to the agent who can try to find the owner in the terminal. The usual bits and bobs left onboard are reading glasses, books and jumpers, however I came across a rather expensive hand-held gaming device at one stage, worth a few hundred pounds, which must have frightened the owner when they discovered it was missing! I’ve also found a wallet rammed full of bank notes and credit cards, which was all carefully logged and reported before it was returned. Once we did find some illicit reading material tucked inside an in-flight magazine, which was a bit of a surprise!
The cleaners come on and it’s a bit of a free for all. The galley crew need to swap the catering and ensure the inbound meals are oven loaded and restock any trolleys for the next services. Others will replenish any toilet supplies. The cleaners are up and down the cabin collecting rubbish and if you’re not careful you can get entangled with a hoover! If there’s any time left before our next passengers arrive, a quick cuppa tea is a must. When all the cleaners and any other ground crew have left, the third security check must be completed before boarding commences again.
Karen Kennedy asks: What really happens when the crew finish their shift and are taken by the minibus over to the airport?
Lisa answers: On arrival back to our UK base, after disembarking is completed and before any ground staff are allowed on, the crew must complete their final security check of the day. The Captain will then give permission for the crew to disembark. Usually at this point the next crew are waiting to board to start their flight and it’s always a rush to make sure you’ve collected your personal items, double checked all the used bars have been locked and sealed for customs, the flight takings are safely secured. We then have time to say a quick ‘Hi’ and ‘Bye’ to the new crew! By the time we arrive back to the crew room usually my feet are throbbing. The only challenge left is trying to remember where I parked the car all those hours ago!
Do you have a burning question you’d like Lisa to answer in her next blog article? Tell us your ideas in the comments below!