Every time you board an airline you are greeted (at least should be) by a friendly flight attendant. You will also see them serving you drinks, snacks and, if you are lucky, a meal. However, their job is so much more important than the things you see on an average flight. I think each of us frequent fliers feels as though we have a good idea of what a flight attendant’s job duties are. However, I wanted to see what they are taught first hand.
Recently, given the opportunity to see AirTran flight attendants train, I flew down to their flight attendant training program in Atlanta, GA in order to hang out for two days and get to see some of the training each of their flight attendants receive. I was surprised how much I learned in the two days I was down there.
During my visit I was able to see and experience the two main aspects of a flight attendant’s job: taking care of the customers and safety. Luckily airline accidents are rare and most people don’t have to see a flight attendant’s safety training in action, but that training is extremely important.
There were two classes that I kept bouncing back and forth between. One was a group of new hires (I shall call them “the newbies“) who were about two weeks into their four week training and the other group was current flight attendants (I shall call them “the pros“) who were training just for one day.
The newbies were mostly going through customer service and in-flight service training whereas the pros were practicing different safety procedures. Seeing both sides really let me know how important both aspects are to being a great flight attendant.
Hopefully most people will never have to witness a flight attendant’s safety training kick in, but it could help to save your life someday. During the time I was following the pros around I witnessed them practice putting out fires and providing first aid. They have to know which type of extinguisher to use on specific types of fires, how to make the extinguisher work, when to put on the full head gear and how to properly put out a fire. This stuff is much more complex than just pouring a cup of coffee.
While hanging out with the newbies, watching them learn where safety items are located on an aircraft, I asked on Twitter, “Anyone guess the 5 things checked by #AirTranFA [flight attendants] in the [lavatory] during preflight?”
Most people responded with things like, “check the soap level,” or “make sure it is clean.” Although, yes that might be part of their job, no one really answered any safety related questions. Here are the five things they have to check:
1) Make sure the smoke detector is operating.
2) Check the trash lid to make sure it automatically closes. This is because passengers will try to smoke in the lavatories (big no-no) and put their cigarettes out in the trash, which can catch fire.
3) Make sure the fire suppressant system for the trash is full (a bit off topic: I heard a story that some passengers will hover over the toilet and blow smoke down the drain to avoid being detected).
4) Look to see that the “No Smoking” place cards are still there.
5) Make sure the ashtray is functioning. This might seem silly for why there is an ashtray, but in reality passengers will try to smoke on flights and if they do and the alarm goes off, they want them to properly dispose of the cigarette instead of putting it in the trash and possibly starting a fire.
The five items to check in the lavatory are just one example of the many things that flight attendants do, that passengers have no idea about.
Yes, they are going to make sure the bathroom is ready for you to use, but they also make sure it will be a safe flight.
Back in the day, flight attendants had to be nurses. In case something happened mid-flight, they could then assist the passengers. Even though being a nurse is no longer a requirement, they must still be trained in proper CPR procedures. In most cases there will be a trained nurse or doctor on a flight that will be able to assist a passenger in trouble, but if not, flight attendants are trained to keep a sick passenger alive until the flight can land.
Another part of training that the pros went through, was practicing how to handle a plane ditching into the water. Tomorrow I will post about this experience. I don’t want to ruin it, but it involves darkness, smoke, and screaming.