A Behind-the-scenes Look at How Flight Attendants Are Trained for the Job
Working as a flight attendant comes with perks that include traveling to exotic locales around the world, but what does it take to land the role?
While part of what flight attendants do is serve passengers on board, safety is a crucial aspect of the position, with the earliest "skygirls" of the 1930s, as they were called, even required to be registered nurses.
While the position has seen its changes since the start of aviation, cabin crew are still brought on to ensure the safety of passengers, and because of this, undergo a hefty training regimen to ensure flights run smoothly.
At Emirates’ training facility for cabin crew members in Dubai, new hires learn everything from how to combat in-flight fires and maintain body heat in freezing temperatures, to skincare and fitness routines to assist with a life of travel.
Travel + Leisure visited the facility in Dubai to get the scoop on what it takes to become a flight attendant and what training for cabin crew members is like.
Here's what it takes to become a flight attendant with one of the world's best airlines.
Working as a cabin crew member for Emirates means moving to the airline's home base in Dubai, which the airline helps to facilitate by assisting with paperwork processes like visas, as well as providing furnished accommodation options to crew members in more than 50 buildings located throughout Dubai.
Two to three colleagues of the same gender share either two or three-bedroom apartments, each with their own bedroom and a shared kitchen and living area. Crew members are allowed to have two family members visiting at the same time with visits of up to two times a year at a maximum stay of 30 days.
Crew also get a paid ticket each year to visit their home country. This induction process takes roughly eight days, with around 70 people that join the airline's team each weekend.
Safety and Emergency Procedures Training:
The next 13 days are spent on safety and emergency procedures that include scenarios like decompression and both water and ground landings.
The airline has three life-size aircraft simulators brought in from Germany that provide three different access motions, allowing them to not only move back to front but also left and right to mimic cases like severe turbulence.
Related: History of the Stewardess
WIth an ability to nosedive 20 degrees, the simulators also allow crew to learn the various stages of a flight, from taxi and takeoff to climbing, cruising, descent, and landing.
The simulators are equipped with computers screens in place of windows that allow trainers to display water and forest images when conducting water and ground landing practices, while party smoke is used to teach crew what to do when cabins fill up with smoke.
There are even fire extinguishers with sensors crew practice putting fires out with, in addition to control settings that allow trainers to heat up doors to mimic what occurs when a bathroom fire occurs (say in an instance where a passenger throws out a cigarette).
With this training, crew learn about specific ventilation techniques and protective breathing to use during in-flight fires, as well as how to assist rescue passengers who may have fainted during a fire.
Crew also learn how to conduct water landings, diving into waters between 16 to 21 degrees Celsius, to practice techniques to maintain body heat.
The simulators include a Boeing 777, the A380, and the A330 (which is no longer in service with the airline). They are used by Emirates' trainees in addition to new crew of several other airlines who come to the facility to train.
As the world’s largest passenger plane, the A380 has an evacuation slide that spans roughly 42 feet in height and even has a special deck attached to it to allow crew members to be able to safely get onto the slide.
In the simulators, trainers will also conduct exercises like shutting doors to show crew members how much force is required to open them in cases where the automated system goes out.
Medical and Security Training:
Cabin crew also go through five days of medical training to learn how to be able to conduct on-board CPR, deal with bleeding or burns on flights, assist with emergency childbirth, and help passengers with conditions they might have on board.
There are also two days of security to review how cabin crew can assist with hijackings, sabotage, unlawful interference and disruptive behaviors from passengers.
Crew also receive combat training to learn how to use a passenger’s body weight against them should an emergency occur, Ashley Matsumura, who has been a flight attendant with the airline for seven years, told T+L.
Imaging and Uniform:
The facility is also home to an imaging uniform room, where newly joining crew members learn how to dress the part.
The airline has worked with a U.K.-based uniform supplier to provide cabin crew with wrinkle-resistance uniforms made out of poly wool and Lycra to allow for comfort and movement.
Imaging training is essential for airline employees, with individuals who work at airports in locations as far as Los Angeles coming in to get training.
The airline has certain uniform standards crew must follow, including certain approved polish colors, which are included in the room, in addition to skincare techniques they can utilize during travels.
The room is stocked with makeup products from sponsor Gosh that crew can practice with.
Crew are also taught how to prep skin for makeup and preserve it through flights using products like spritzers, with a video in the room to show makeup techniques crew can follow.
As part of this training, flight attendants also learn about healthy food choices and nutrition techniques, including easy exercises they can conduct while on the go.
The Demo Room:
In one room, crew members will see a variety of the seating options available on the airline's aircraft. While most of the seats have automated settings, crew are trained to work as "little engineers" to know how to override controls and assist passengers if the system fails.
Crew also learn these settings to be able to assist in cases like seat transfers and passengers that may require special assistance getting in and out of seats.
Full-scale Service Training:
The facility also includes aircraft replicas, complete with a replica of everything from the onboard lounge to the shower spa.
The kitchen also has the galley setup for crew to practice different services and the various setups they create for different routes, learning everything from how to prep the trays, how to serve it and the flow of service.
Emirates aims to personalize its service offerings depending on the route, offering traditional specialty plating and dining options for passengers.
To help cabin crew get to know what this plating and service should look like, the airline has full replicas of the different offerings within the training facility.
Everything from regional plating sets to the full display of plating between cabins can be found in the room.
Emirates has a robust wine and spirit selection, offering more than 30 different spirits, aperitifs, and liquors, and a range of cocktails. In addition to having the most expensive spirit served — the Hennessy Paradis Imperial— the airline also sources wine from countries around the world including Argentina, Chile, France and New Zealand.
The airline’s wine cellar in Burgundy, France, houses seven million bottles, some of which will only be ready to drink in 2035, which is why cabin crew go through training in food and wine and mixology. Starting in 2019, all cabin crew now also take part in the Wine and Spirit Education Trust training.
Emirates updates the products available on board every six months, with the duty free room serving as the space where crew members learn about the products, including many that are exclusive to the airline.
Ongoing Training and Promotion:
Training for recruits lasts for seven weeks before they’re ready to start on flights.
After 12 to 18 months, crew members can advance from economy class to business class, and then to first class after another year.
Crew members can also apply to become pursers, individuals on flights that are responsible for managing crew in all three cabins and corresponding directly with the pilot.
To become a purser, crew members who have worked in the first class cabin for two and a half to three years can apply to be promoted to cabin supervisor and then purser after another one to two years as a cabin supervisor.