When Is A Flight Attendant
Not A Flight Attendant?
When is a Flight Attendant not a Flight Attendant?
The answer, at least in the world of "business aviation," is: when she/he is a
Does your company have a corporate aircraft? Have you ever chartered an
executive jet? Are you one of the lucky few individuals who owns a private
jet? If so, and if it is a so-called wide-body business jet -- which in
business aviation-ese usually means a
Boeing Business Jet, a
Global Express, or one of
you have probably employed the services of a Flight Attendant for at least
some of your flights.
What you may not know is that not all of the "Flight Attendants" you may have
encountered in the biz-jet world are true Flight Attendants! And what
you may not know can cost you your life.
The title "Flight Attendant" has come to be used generically as a label for
anyone who works in the cabin of an aircraft, much to the consternation of
real Flight Attendants. Some women and men who work in the cabins of
business jets are there only to serve meals and refreshments and to ensure
that the passengers are comfortable throughout the flight. These folks may or
may not have had thorough training in safety procedures.
There is nothing inherently wrong with this, on the surface. After all, the
FAA regulations that govern the operation of such aircraft in the USA (i.e.,
FAR Part 91, and
FAR Part 135) do not
require the inclusion of a safety-trained and qualified
crewmember known as a "Flight Attendant" on aircraft with fewer than 20
seats. And, in most cases, it is less expensive to employ a cabin server who
is not a Flight Attendant.
"Flight Attendant," as I have said, has come to be used generically to refer
to a person who works in the cabin of an aircraft. Some aircraft owners and
charter operators therefore often refer to any cabin personnel as "Flight
Attendants." The trouble arises in the admittedly rare instance of an
emergency aboard the aircraft.
The passenger -- naive to the difference between a fully qualified Flight
Attendant and a cabin server -- may logically assume that the person working
in the cabin is indeed trained to take charge in an emergency. That
passenger, conditioned by the reality of airline experience, where all Flight
Attendants are in fact "real" Flight Attendants by law, will look to the cabin
server for leadership, and will have an expectation of skills and competencies
that the cabin server may not actually have.
In fact, if the cabin server is not a qualified Flight Attendant, he or she is
not even listed on the aircraft's manifest as a crewmember; rather, the server
actually is listed on the manifest as a passenger. Such a cabin
server may have impeccable manners as a host or hostess, and may have fine
culinary and serving skills, admittedly desirable qualities. Sadly, those
skills will no longer matter if that same person does not know how to
appropriately administer first aid to a passenger, how to fight a fire in the
galley, how to operate any and all doors and other emergency exits, and know
how to get you, the passenger, safely evacuated from an aircraft if and when
-- God forbid! -- the need arises.
I have personally met a handful of cabin servers who have learned, over time
-- and perhaps with a little ad hoc training here and there -- how to
perform at least some of those emergency duties. Some are former airline
Flight Attendants now working in the world of corporate aviation who have done
their best to transfer the skills they learned in their airline days to their
new situation. But, while she or he may be completely well-intentioned, if the
person serving you in the cabin of an executive jet has not been formally
trained in an FAA-approved Corporate Flight Attendant safety training program,
and on the specific type of aircraft you're sitting in, you could end up in
big trouble when you need help the most.
At present, I know of only three organizations in the USA that provide such
FAA-approved training for Corporate Flight Attendants. They are
Alteon Training (A Boeing
FACTS Training International,
International. (If there are others that
I'm not aware of, I'm sure someone will correct me!!) All offer approved
initial and recurrent training courses for Corporate Flight Attendants.
Next time you fly on a
corporate jet, you might want to ask the person serving you if he or she is a
graduate of one of those programs. And, when your business aircraft charter
includes the services of a "Flight Attendant," you should ask whether or not
that person is a real Flight Attendant, with proper FAA-approved
training. If the answer is "no," at least you'll know what to expect -- or
what not to -- should an emergency arise during your flight.
Flight Attendants have a saying: We're here to save your ass, not kiss it.
It's cheeky, but it's not really a joke!
Endnote: If you've read this far
and you are interested to know what real Corporate Flight Attendants are
saying about this topic right now, I invite you to visit the
Third Crewmember thread on a forum known as the Corporate Flight Attendant
Bobbie Sullivan, PhD, an occupational health
psychologist based in Hawaii, specializes in the health and well-being of
aircrews, and those who support them on the ground. Visit her website at
[or, Read more of her articles at