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Crash course

Training plays an important part in ensuring the safety of cabin operations, as Mario Pierobon finds

When starting their career all cabin crew members need a bit of time to get familiar with aircraft, their procedures and the pace that is needed during turnarounds. Given the trend for ever shorter aircraft turnarounds, there is a specific set of skills that cabin crews are required to develop through training. According to Loreta Krupenkiniene, Head of Cabin Crew and Safety Training at BAA Training, shortly after beginning their career they must learn that teamwork, the ability to handle pressure, quick thinking and common sense are vital skills in their job. “In order to fit into the turnaround time, crew must know the theory very well, as it allows them to coordinate their actions properly, and to ensure they don’t get lost when performing a number of tasks in a short period of time. That is the reason why during cabin crew training, trainees get familiar not only with turnaround procedures, but also with how to follow safety and security procedures,” she says.

Time management has always been a required skill for cabin crew members. “This skill is even more important when the flight operation provides frequent stops during a flight day, referred to as ‘quick turns’. The cabin crew member must be prepared for the ebb and flow of passengers, while maintaining the cabin’s amenities, as well as the dietary requirements of those on board. Guidance on these necessary skills is a key element of the cabin crew training available at FlightSafety,” says Louisa Fisher, Programme Manager for FlightSafety International’s cabin safety programmes.

Soft skill training is an important part of both initial training for future flight attendants, and recurrent training sessions for cabin staff. “In general, one can say that intercultural communication skills, attentiveness – towards both flight attendants and passengers – and being a good team player are crucial in this job. Furthermore, workload and time management abilities are major things we consider when it comes to soft skills training,” says Ola Hansson, Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director of Lufthansa Aviation Training. “Within the initial course, our trainees first learn basic facts about soft skills during a one-day online based training session. In addition to theoretical training, they also have a full day of practical soft skills training, held by a social scientist. During this training, we mainly focus on self-management skills, teaching them about stress limits and the personal consequences of stress. We also familiarise them with stress coping techniques, as working as a flight attendant can be very demanding at times.”

During crew resource management (CRM) training sessions, special attention is paid to the fact that crew members’ workloads are steadily increasing. “We therefore teach stress and time management strategies. We also have a ‘mental preparation’ module within our training, where the trainees learn how to mentally prepare for the flight and any stressful situations that may occur. This includes reasonable communication under time pressure and in stressful situations, with passengers and within the team,” says Hansson.

There have been important developments in the handling of unruly passengers in recent years and it is an important part of cabin safety training. “Lately, airlines have been paying greater attention not only to teaching crew how to handle unruly passengers, including self-defence lessons within training to ensure they can defend themselves if there is a physical threat to their safety. There are also procedures included in airline manuals on how to handle these kinds of passengers,” says Krupenkiniene. “The most important thing in all situations is prevention. This is the first thing that all cabin crews learn during training. Initially, cabin crews should attempt to calm the passenger down, find a way to deal with them peacefully, and, if that does not work, then the cabin crew has the right to call the police upon arrival, to ask for help from other passengers, or, if needed, even to restrain the unruly passenger.”

Cabin crew members are trained in awareness techniques to ensure the earliest possible recognition of any situation that may become a safety concern. “In the case of an unruly passenger, the first action is to inform the cockpit the moment that the passenger begins to show any signs of behaviour that may become dangerous. If this behaviour escalates then there may be a need to involve other passengers in controlling the disruptive individual. Most flight operations have specific policies to address this type of situation,” says Fisher.

Another cabin safety issue that is increasingly in focus, is that of suspected infectious diseases on board. With so many people flying from across the globe, crew should be prepared for a variety of situations. “Cabin crew members are proficient in handling basic medical situations by utilising the equipment available on board the aircraft. This element of their training programme, which is usually covered by a health safety company such as MedAire, includes elements of travel health safety, disease prevention and blood borne pathogen training. Specific training in food handling safety is also a critical element for cabin crew members,” says Fisher.

“Cabin crews need to be vigilant and have common sense. As there are more and more people flying, there is a bigger possibility that infectious disease will reach the aircraft. There is a big possibility that new regulations will be released soon, meaning airlines will be required to include instructions in their manuals on how to handle these situations,” says Krupenkiniene. “As of today, cabin crews are being taught how to recognise passengers who may be infected before they enter the aircraft. If a passenger with an infectious disease is already on board, cabin crews will follow procedures to try to get the infected passenger isolated from everyone else, and to use protective measures – like a respirator or gloves – when in contact with such passengers, in order to avoid contamination.” >>


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