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MEBAA (Middle East & North Africa Business Aviation Association)
MEBAA (Middle East & North Africa Business Aviation Association)
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PERSPECTIVES – Business aviation through the eyes of the cabin crew: Front line role makes top flight cabin crew vital
Cabin crew are at the cutting edge of customer service, and are often the people charter customers and corporate passengers speak to the most. In delivering the top quality service to which everyone aspires, they are the last vital link in the chain.

Cabin crew are at the cutting edge of customer service, and are often the people charter customers and corporate passengers speak to the most. In delivering the top quality service to which everyone aspires, they are the last vital link in the chain.

For most helicopter operators, most owner/flyers, and all those whose limited space onboard means that they simply equip the second pilot with a thermos flask of coffee, there is no need or possibility to employ cabin crew. But those with large cabin, long range fleets almost certainly have flight attendants on the full-time staff, and organisation and training at least comparable to the major commercial airlines. Likewise, most operators of jets mid-size or upwards will have some cabin crew or a roster of freelance crew to call upon.

In this feature we talked to cabin crew, and their managers, from all around Europe and the Middle East, and asked about their recruitment and training policies, the challenges they face and for their thoughts on the role of cabin crew in business aviation. As always, our readers had an interesting story to tell...

Training, both initial and recurrent, is absolutely vital for cabin crew. It is not always mandatory, however, and so there is a good deal of flexibility for operators deciding how to deliver suitable training. For Ann Chuard, group director of cabin services for Gama Aviation, outsourcing makes perfect sense: "We send our cabin crew to FlightSafety International, mainly in the USA but increasingly now in the UK, for ICAO-recognised Corporate Cabin Attendant and General Emergency Training courses. These prepare them for many demands, from proper business etiquette to onboard fire suppression. They are trained in how to recognise and handle emergency situations and operate the latest cabin systems. They undergo classroom and practical training by experienced, professional instructors. Cabin simulator technology enables the crew to practice procedures for a variety of theoretical situations.

"They learn procedures to enable them to respond effectively to an on board fire, cabin depressurisation, as well as a ground evacuation," she adds. Gama also provides medical and first aid training as standard.

Ocean Sky also uses third-party training: "Due to our new contract with MedAire we will also have cabin crew trained to use automated external defibrillators and comprehensive medical kits," says Louise Jackson, cabin crew manager. "In addition to our safety training programme, cabin crew are trained in food and galley hygiene, on all areas of beverage and culinary preparation, and on wines, champagne, caviar and cuisine terminology. They are also trained to care for the expensive linens, bedding, china and crystal, and to beautify the cabin in the most tasteful way possible."

Gainjet training also extends beyond safety and emergency necessities: "All our cabin crew  have undertaken 'savoir vivre' training in high class service and etiquette," reports Olga Beglopoulou, cabin crew manager.

Fresh faces among Titan Airways cabin crews first have initial training at the company's Stansted base, but then head for Gatwick for fire training, evacuation training and wet drills. "It's a cliché to say that the role is much more than serving tea and coffee, but it really is," says Shaun Fitzpatrick. "Cabin crew are fire fighters, first aiders, mediators and conflict managers. This is in addition to providing an exceptional cabin service to our customers."

All cabin crew members at OMNI Aviation must have EU-OPS cabin crew training, of both initial and updated recurrent varieties, but are then in for a treat. "We give them passenger management training, intercultural management, and so on," says Marco Gordo, "during a two-week training session in an upscale hotel."

Those training at ABS Jets have their curriculum topped up with gastronomic and sommelier lessons. World cuisine is on the agenda for new recruits at Challenge Aero, while Tyrolean Jet Services includes training on special wines and cocktails as well as different cultures.

Initial training can be lengthy, such as the full five-week course favoured by Privatair and approved by both FOCA and the LBA. Recurrent training is most likely to be annual (unless transferring to a different aircraft type), such as the yearly ESET (emergency) and CRM (cabin resource) training provided by ExecuJet, although "all staff can undertake additional training whenever they or we feel it is necessary," the company says.

After passing all the theory tests it is time for cabin crew to step aboard the company aircraft. "The first couple of flights are under supervision of a 'check cabin hostess' who provides practical training on board," says Zarela Diaz Torres of VistaJet, "and as soon as the supervisor sees we are doing well, usually after four or five flights, we are ready to work alone."

How long this mentoring lasts depends on the crew member's previous experience. Aylin Sunacoglu, vip cabin service design manager for NEXUS Flight Operations Services, is a typically tough taskmaster: "I favour recruiting cabin crew with a minimum of three years of previous first class experience in a commercial airline and/or one year of previous vip background. If the crew has one of these then it is easier to make her adapt to our vip service standards, and in these cases I would fly only a few sectors with them to make sure they get our standards right. But due to operational reasons sometimes we end up with crew who are not well experienced, in which case I fly lots of sectors with them and they learn it from me or another experienced flight senior that we trust."

Training, knowledge and aptitudes important for every cabin crew member

Passenger safety:

  • Emergency and safety equipment training
  • Aircraft-specific emergency procedures
  • First aid training
  • Defibrillator training (if fitted)
  • Crew resource management training
  • Food hygiene
  • Dangerous goods

Passenger service:

  • 'Savoir vivre' etiquette and service training
  • Sommelier and food preparation
  • Communications/languages
  • Cleaning and organisation

Personal:

  • Medical fitness
  • Necessary vaccinations
  • Positive personality
  • 'Can do' attitude

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