Service crew

Cabin security: the invisible part of the service

The Cabin Ops Safety conference, organized by TAP Portugal, will discuss the main trends in cabin safety.

Jonathan Jasper, Senior Director, Cabin Security, IATA, says three challenges stand out and are likely to generate lively sessions at the in-person event – ​​the first time this customer- and people-focused sector has been able to come together since three years.

Skills shortage

“The skills shortage is a huge problem,” he says. “The recovery in the industry has been strong and it takes time to get the crew back up and running.”

Many employees have been laid off or terminated during the pandemic. Whole swaths of experienced aircrew have left aviation, their skills highly prized by other industries. And even those who do come back have to start over.

“Airlines have to interview thousands of people, choose the successful candidates, and then complete the relevant security checks,” says Jasper. “It can take a long time. Even former crew members returning home will need to renew their security clearances. And then you have to figure out how to train so many at once. Airlines are not used to doing this and do not have the capacity. »

Some fundamental service changes, such as how food is served, sanitary requirements, etc., add to the complexity of the issue. There have even been reports that some airlines are considering blocking seats or even removing them altogether to reduce their cabin crew requirements while adhering to safety regulations.

Masks

Of the many new tasks facing cabin crew, the most challenging is getting passengers to understand mask requirements where they still exist. The passenger confusion is understandable. Jasper describes the plethora of rules that vary from country to country as “chaos”.

IATA’s position is clear. Mask requirements on planes are set to end when masks are no longer mandatory in other parts of daily life, for example in theaters and offices or on public transport. In Europe, for example, the European Aviation Safety Agency’s recommendation to relax the mask mandate has been welcomed as a step on the way back to normal. And in the United States, a federal judge ruled that the mask mandate was illegal. But such clarity is rare.

Nevertheless, airlines must comply with the regulations, and it is the job of the crew to ensure compliance. The problem has led to a huge increase in incidents of unruly passengers.

Crew welfare

Unsurprisingly, unruly passengers and an increasing workload are among the factors that have made the mental health and well-being of cabin crew an emerging challenge. But it was the pandemic that really brought the issue to the fore. Maybe a crew member has been out of work for a while and struggling financially, or maybe they’re struggling to implement the confusing array of health measures. The pressure to provide customer service under these circumstances is enormous.

This can lead to safety-critical failures. The crew member may not be as alert as usual if distracted by personal issues. Or they might forget to report something they noticed.

Fatigue is one of them, although it is already covered by existing safety regulations. Rather, it is about the non-quantifiable effects of mental health problems. “And that’s why it’s so difficult to get regulation in this area,” says Jasper. “Mental health is a vast field, and it is difficult to define and combat the variety of problems. But it goes beyond normal employee duty of care legislation. This can affect security. »

Most airlines are considering a peer support program as the best way forward. This would give cabin crew the opportunity to talk openly and honestly about any issues that affect them or their performance.

IATA also supports International Flight Attendant Day through social media. “This is our chance to demonstrate that we care about cabin crew and reinforce the positive aspects of this role,” says Jasper. “In turn, this will help sustain interest in applying for cabin crew jobs, which will help our members address their recruitment shortages and positively impact the passenger experience.”