Life as a pilot: Long haul vs short haul

Life as a pilot: Long haul vs short haul

If you’re thinking of becoming a pilot, or are due to gain your ATPL soon, there are two main options that a commercial pilot can choose from – long or short haul, but what’s the difference? Here’s our simple rundown of the main differences between both.

Life as a short haul pilot

More often than not, a pilot’s first commercial job will be flying short haul to destinations within Europe. Not many British airlines do nightstops in Europe so a typical day will consist of 2 – 6 return trips, dependent on the time to reach the destination. Work patterns like this will often be in blocks between 4 and 6 days, with a few days rest between blocks. There are time limits on what is legally acceptable – and safe – for pilots to fly, so this will all be factored into the rota. Flying short haul will help a newly qualified pilot learn a lot quicker as the pilot will be performing more take offs and landings in one day than a long haul pilot would perform in a month. Pilots will also become more familiar with airports, their layout and operations by continually flying in and out of them. Working short haul does require stamina, especially in the early days when you’re trying to adapt to a new work pattern. If you’re on ‘earlies,’ you can expect to be waking up around 4am to arrive at the airport around 6am – no problem if you’re an early bird, but for some, trying to convince your body to sleep earlier than normal is challenging. A normal day would commence with a briefing, which would study the route, an alternative route, the destination’s weather and suitable bolt-holes along the way. Other factors looked at during the brief would be weights, loads, flight times, slot delays and any technical defects known to the aircraft. A decision on how much fuel is required will be made from the given information, and then the pilot (and cabin crew) will make their way to the aircraft. Once on board, the pilot will commence extensive pre-flight checks. A commercial pilot’s main job is to connect passengers safely from A to B. However, airlines are providing customers with a service, so if the aircraft is held up for any reason, it is up to the staff to collectively resolve it quickly. An airline with a bad reputation for cancelling or delaying flights will run the risk of customers opting for a more reliable airline. Turnaround times between flights are short, sometimes as little as 25 minutes, so there is scarce time for breaks. Also, if one of your earlier flights gets delayed for whatever reason, you will spend the whole day trying to catch up. Meal times will also be sporadic and unstructured to what constitutes a normal eating pattern. However, one big plus of flying short haul is that you get to sleep in your own bed every night, and your body clock shouldn’t alter too much. This works well for pilots with young families as theoretically, you should be more refreshed (i.e. no jet lag) during your days off.  Also, if you work for a leisure or holiday airline, you can expect to be busier in the summer months as people look to jet off on holiday, and less so in winter. While flying in Europe is physically demanding, it is considered to be very satisfying. While you might not get to see more than the runway or airport, usually the standards are much higher compared to other destinations in the world.  

What about long haul?

While there are some similarities between a long and short haul pilot, the pace of flying long haul is very different as everything takes a little longer. Briefings will take longer as pilots have a longer flight route to load, they have to take into account more weather scenarios and seek out more diversion routes along the way. Once airborne, pilots could still be loading ancillary data such as wind speeds, directions, distances and getting oceanic clearance (if you’re heading that way) for the first hour of the flight. Then, throughout the flight, pilots would need to make periodic checks of routes, timings, fuel quantity and temperatures.   London based captain, Nick Anderson, noted that a plane could pass through three or four weather systems, varying in type, intensity, and level of difficulty on one flight. He said, “Weather is a huge problem for us on the long flights.” He continued, “You can’t really sit back and relax. Going as fast as we are, you come upon these weather systems very, very quickly. We give thunderstorms a wide berth, and that requires traffic clearance.” Similar to short haul, long haul pilots are required to turn up for work fit and well rested. Fatigue is a big issue and many airlines will carry an additional pilot on longer international flights, so they have a fully alert operating crew at all times. Having an alert pilot is particularly crucial when landing in busy airfields such as New York or Sydney, as full concentration is required. Long haul pilots will typically be away from home for a few days at a time, but with considerable time off between flights. Under EASA regulations, some destinations that have bigger time differences will require four local nights back at home so the pilot can re-adjust to the time zone before reporting for duty again. All pilots have a maximum monthly and yearly hour limitation on how many hours they can fly; a long haul pilot will usually reach their maximum hours much quicker than a short haul pilot. Unlike short haul, long haul pilots will get to see some of the destinations they fly to, which can be a huge bonus, dependant on your home situation. However, while you’re visiting amazing places and indulging in new experiences, you’ll be doing it miles away from your family and friends, which for some pilots isn’t worth the compromise. On asked which he prefered, Pilot, Dave Inch, said, “Different flying is like different flavors of ice cream. Everybody has a favorite – and often it depends on what’s happening in your life.”

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Helicopter Engineer: Job Description

Helicopter Engineer: Job Description

A helicopter engineer is responsible for the maintenance and repair of helicopters. These roles are usually based at airports or at flight service centres. You could work on helicopters used for transport, by the emergency services, for private use, or by the military.

You need a license to work as a helicopter engineer and different licences allow you to work on different parts of the aircraft. For example, B1 licensed engineers work more on the structure and mechanics of an aircraft. B2 licensed engineers work more on communications and navigation systems.

This job is sometimes on a shift basis. You may be required to work during the evenings or even at the weekend. You are also likely to have call-out duties.

If you are practical, have a technical mind, and have an interest in the aviation industry, a career as a helicopter engineer could be for you.

What does a helicopter engineer do?

Your day-to-day responsibilities might include:

  • Routinely inspecting aircraft.
  • Diagnosing faults with aircraft and deciding how best to repair them.  
  • Carrying out any necessary repairs or replacing parts.
  • Testing repairs and measuring the general performance of the aircraft.
  • Ensuring that the aircraft meets all safety regulations.
  • Keeping records of all work carried out on specific aircraft.
  • Being available on-call for any emergency repairs.
  • Providing clients with technical advice.

 

What qualifications do you need to become a helicopter engineer?

To work as a helicopter engineer, you’ll need a Part-66 licence which is issued by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). There are different sub-categories to the licence depending on the parts of an aircraft you want to work on.

A B1 licence will allow you to carry out work that is largely mechanical. You will work on the structure of an aircraft, as well as the electrical and mechanical systems.

A B2 licence will enable you to work on avionics systems. You will work on the instruments and electrical systems that are linked to communications and navigation.

There are two routes to getting a licence. You can either study for the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) exams relevant to your licence. This is known as the self-starter route. The other option is to take an EASA Part-147 approved course.

If you follow the self-starter route, you will need a minimum of five years’ maintenance experience in addition to passing all of the examinations before you can apply for a licence. A benefit of the EASA Part-147 route is that you only need two years’ experience to qualify for a licence.

 

What skills do you need to become a helicopter engineer?

The ability to work in a team: You will need good teamwork skills to work alongside other engineers, diagnosing and fixing problems.

An eye for detail: This is important for finding faults with aircraft and for making complex repairs.

Problem solving ability: This will help when deciding how best to solve a fault.

Communication skills: These are important for giving technical advice to clients and for giving instructions to fellow engineers.

A technical mindset: You will need to be able to understand complex systems and how they work together to control the aircraft.

 

How much does a helicopter engineer earn?

Starting salary: £30,000 – £35,000

Experienced: £35,000 – £45,000

Senior: £50,000

These figures are intended as a guide and come from the National Careers Service.

 

What are your career prospects as a helicopter engineer?

As you gain experience, you could take on a senior role as an engineering manager and supervise other engineers. You could also progress to become a design engineer and work on enhancing the design of an aircraft.

You could also do further training to work on other types of aircraft, such as commercial planes.

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Passenger Check-in Officer: Job Description

Passenger Check-in Officer: Job Description

The first member of staff a passenger will come into contact with at the airport is often a check-in officer. These roles are therefore very important to airlines looking to promote a positive image of their business.

Check-in officers, or ‘airline customer service agents’, need to have excellent communication skills, patience, and most importantly, an instinctive ability to cope with difficult situations in a calm and professional manner.

The role typically deals directly with customers just as they are embarking on their journey. The main responsibilities include checking passengers in, weighing and checking in baggage, issuing boarding passes and luggage labels, allocating seat numbers, asking security questions, and answering passenger queries prior to their flight.

Further duties might involve walking passengers to and from aircraft, arranging facilities for people with disabilities and generally ensuring all passengers are boarding in time for their flights. Check-in officers may have additional duties at the boarding gate which might involve a final check of boarding passes and passports before passengers may get onto the aircraft.

Due to the long hours that airports are open, this role is often on a shift pattern. This may involve working late evening shifts or early morning shifts. You may also have to be available for work at the weekends and on bank holidays as these tend to be popular times for flights.

If you enjoy working directly with customers, have good communication skills and a professional approach, a role as a passenger check-in officer could be a good option for you.

What does a passenger check-in officer do?

The day-to-day duties of a passenger check-in officer might include:

  • Greeting passengers on arrival at the airport
  • Answering any queries passengers might have about their journey
  • Checking bookings and issuing boarding passes
  • Keeping passengers updated on any changes to flight information
  • Directing passengers to the correct gate for their flight
  • Weighing and checking in luggage
  • Responding in a calm and professional manner to customer complaints
  • General administration duties
  • Make sure that late passengers get to their flights before the departure time or are booked on an alternative flight
  • Following security procedures
  • Checking boarding passes and passports at the boarding gate

 

What qualifications do you need to become a passenger check-in officer?

You will need to have achieved some GCSEs such as English at grades A*-C (9-4) to apply. Experience of working in a customer service environment will help make your application more attractive. The ability to speak another language may also be useful as you could be dealing with customers from around the world.

If successful with your application, you will usually have to undergo a training programme that may last around four to eight weeks. This is likely to include learning how to use computerised and manual reservation systems, telephone skills, gaining proper knowledge of emergency and evacuation procedures, and extensive security training.

It is common for check-in officers to start their careers in temporary work during busy periods at an airport. If you manage to impress your superiors with an excellent level of customer service, you will have a good chance of securing a permanent role.

As well as on-the-job training, it’s also possible to qualify with National Vocational Qualifications (NVQs) or Scottish Vocational Qualifications (SVQs) in Handling Air Passengers,at levels 2 and 3, awarded by City & Guides and EMTA Awards Ltd.

 

What skills do you need to become a passenger check-in officer?

Customer service skills: As the majority of the role will be in direct contact with customers, you will need excellent customer service skills. As you will be acting as a representative of an airline and usually the first member of staff a customer will come into contact with at an airport, employers will be particularly keen for you to demonstrate these skills at interview.

Communication skills: These are essential in order to relay flight details to passengers. You will be responsible for letting them know where their flight will be departing from and if there have been any last minute changes to the flight.

The ability to stay calm under pressure: You may be faced with complaints or customers who have been delayed. As a representative of the airline, you will be expected to deal with this in a calm and professional manner.

Problem solving skills: These skills will help you deal with customer queries or complaints in a helpful and efficient way. You may need to help customers find alternative routes to their destination.

IT skills: Many of your duties will be computerised. Having good IT skills will help you with administration duties and with checking passengers in.

Organisation skills: You will need to have good organisation skills to deal with customers quickly and efficiently, especially in busy periods.

 

How much does a passenger check-in officer earn?

Salaries can vary depending on which airline employs you. Some airlines may offer a higher salary if you can speak multiple languages and may offer benefits such as subsidised travel.

Starting salary: £13,000 to £16,000

Experienced: £16,000 to £22,000

Senior salary: £40,000

These figures are intended as a guide and are from the National Careers Service.

 

What are your career prospects as a passenger check-in officer?

Most of the job opportunities for airline customer service agents are through airports, airlines and handling agents. Some jobs are seasonal initially, with the possibility of becoming permanent at the end of the season. In the UK, most jobs of this kind exist at London’s two major airports – Heathrow and Gatwick – with other vacancies in regional airports, including Stansted, Manchester, East Midlands, Birmingham and Glasgow. It is important to consider how close to an airport you live as you may have to relocate for this role. 

Airlines that are often looking for staff include easyJet, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, Ryanair, Etihad, Lufthansa, Qatar Airways and Flybe.

Naturally for those who excel in the role, there will be the chance of promotion with time, and perhaps further management training, or the option to specialise in another area of airline work such as Cabin Crew.

Search for the latest passenger check-in jobs on Aviation Job Search. Need some more inspiration? Take a look at some of the other roles in the aviation industry and find the career that’s right for you. 

 

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Air Traffic Controller: Job Description

Air Traffic Controller: Job Description

Air traffic controllers are responsible for the safe flight of aircraft and for providing pilots with details on when and where they should land at an airport. They work in control centres or in airport control towers to track flights using radar and radio equipment and communicate advice and instructions to pilots. They play a vital role in managing airspace and keeping aircraft safe.

There are different types of air traffic controller who specialise in the different stages of a flight. Area controllers work in regional control centres and guide aircraft through their own sectors. Approach controllers take over once the aircraft starts to approach the airport. They give pilots clearance to get into sequence with other aircraft in preparation for landing. The final stage in the landing process is overseen by aerodrome controllers. They work from the control towers in airports and are responsible for guiding the aircraft to a safe landing. They also ensure that the planes then reach their parking stands safely.

If you are confident with technology, have an interest in the aviation industry and have good problem-solving skills, a career as an air traffic controller could be for you.

What does an air traffic controller do?

The duties of an aircraft controller depend on what stage of the flight they are in charge of. The general duties of area, approach and aerodrome controllers include:  

  • Using sophisticated radar and radio technology to track the progress of aircraft.
  • Maintaining contact with the pilots on board each aircraft in their sector.
  • Advising pilots on weather conditions and how this might affect their flight path.
  • Instructing aircraft on the routes to be followed towards an airport.
  • Coordinating a safe distance between planes whilst in flight.
  • Instructing pilots as to the cruising height appropriate for their flight plan.
  • Adjusting flight plans in unexpected circumstances or emergencies.
  • Directing the movement of aircraft on the ground to and from runways.
  • Coordinating the sequence of aircraft coming into land in an airport.
  • Coordinating any traffic around the terminals, such as aircraft, ground crew, passenger buses etc.

 

What qualifications do you need to become an air traffic controller?

To become an air traffic controller in the UK, you’ll need to qualify for a licence from the National Air Traffic Services (NATS). To begin your training, you will need to have at least 5 GCSEs at grade A*-C (9-4), including English and Maths. Although a degree isn’t essential, further study of a mathematical or scientific subject may help with your career prospects due to the technical aspects of the role.

You will also need to prove that you have a good level of physical and mental health and meet the standards of the European Class 3 medical certificate as set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). A final requirement is that you pass a security clearance which will check for details such as a criminal record.

Once you have passed these checks you can apply for the NATS air traffic controller training course. This is a rigorous course of assessment and training that takes between three and four years to complete. NATS accept around 20 trainees per 3,300 applicants and only around 15 of these will complete the training and receive their license. See their infographic for more information on this process.

 

What skills do you need to become an air traffic controller?

  • You will need excellent communication skills in order to relay information to pilots and instruct them on any changes to flight plans.
  • You will need a great deal of motivation to succeed in a career as an air traffic controller. NATS UK only accepts a handful of applicants and even if you become a trainee, the course is demanding.
  • The ability to remain calm under pressure is essential when faced with any emergencies with aircraft in the air or on the ground.
  • You will need to be able to concentrate over an extended period of time as pilots and other controllers will be relying on the information that you provide.
  • Your role will require confidence with technology as much of it will revolve around the use of sophisticated radar.
  • You will then need to be able to interpret the data the technology is relaying and process large amounts of information in a short space of time.
  • Being decisive with this information and communicating important aspects of it to pilots is essential for the safety of the airspace.
  • You will also need to demonstrate good problem-solving skills in order to deal efficiently with unexpected circumstances and ensure the safety of passengers and crew.
  • Teamwork is also an essential skill as you will have to work with other controllers and pilots to coordinate the positions of aircraft in the airspace.

 

How much does an air traffic controller earn?*

The NATS website offers a comprehensive run through of the salaries you can expect to earn at each stage of your career. Once accepted as a trainee your basic salary will be £13,154.40 and you will be eligible for a benefits package. Once you’ve completed the first stage of your training in college, you’ll be posted to a NATS Unit where you’ll receive the next stage of your education. This comes with an increase in salary to between £17,066 and £20,479.

Once qualified your salary will be in the region of £32,522 – £36,247. As you gain experience, you will be eligible for rises in salary and experienced controllers who work in Heathrow Tower and at Swanwick Centre can earn in excess of £100,000. Below are estimates of an air traffic controller salary in the UK:

Trainee: £13,154 to £20,279

Qualified: £32,522 to £51,781

Experienced: £100,000+

 

What are your career prospects as an air traffic controller?

Air traffic controllers usually train as either area, approach or aerodrome controllers and stay in their chosen discipline throughout their careers. In each of these areas is the opportunity to become managers or supervisors and take on the responsibility of managing other controllers.

You could also work as an air traffic controller in the RAF.

Some controllers decide to take on training roles and work in colleges or assessment units for new recruits.

The international language used in air control is English which opens up the possibility for work in other countries.

Search for the latest air traffic controller jobs on Aviation Job Search. To find out more about other careers in the aviation industry, read our complete guide to aviation jobs

 

*Salaries are meant as a guide and can vary depending on a number of factors.

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Airline Pilot: Job Description

Airline Pilot: Job Description

‘Pilot’ is the term used to describe an individual with the qualifications and skills necessary to fly a plane or helicopter. More specifically, an airline pilot is responsible for flying passengers and cargo on long-haul or short-haul flights. This can be for a number of purposes, such as leisure or business trips. There will usually be two pilots on board an aircraft; a captain and a supporting first officer. They will share the responsibility of the directional controls of the aircraft but the captain is responsible for the overall safety of the passengers and crew. On longer flights there may be more pilots on board and they will work in shifts to command the aircraft.

If you are well organised, prepared to study and train hard, have quick reactions and can keep a cool head under pressure, you may have what it takes to become an airline pilot.

What does a pilot do?

The day-to-day schedule of pilots can vary greatly depending on whether they fly regular short-haul flights or travel longer distances. Examples of tasks that a pilot will encounter are:

  • Checking that logistical information has been received, such as the flight path or route information, the forecasted weather conditions, the details of the aircraft that is flying and the passengers or cargo that are on board.
  • Once these details have been acquired, the pilot must plan the journey, which not only includes the route, but takes the amount of fuel and level of altitude that is needed when taking passengers and weather into account.
  • Run routine checks of all the safety equipment on board in case of an emergency.
  • Brief the cabin crew so that they can efficiently prepare the cabin for take-off and keep in contact with them throughout the flight.
  • Make contact with air traffic control to coordinate take-off. They should maintain this contact throughout the entire flight process.
  • Use the on-board controls to analyse flight data and make any necessary changes.
  • React to changing weather conditions and adjust the flight plan accordingly.
  • Must make sure that the aircraft complies with noise regulations during both take-off and landing.
  • Write reports in the aircraft’s log book after every flight, informing the management team of the quality of the flight, picking out any issues that arose during the flight, or any difficulties with the aircraft.

 

What qualifications do you need to become an airline pilot?

In order qualify as an airline pilot, you will need to gain an Airline Transport Pilot License (ATPL). This can be achieved through any course approved by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA), but a series of steps must be followed to start a course.

To begin with, you will need four GCSEs at grade A*-C (9-4). Recommended subjects include English, Maths and Science. If you can achieve a grade in a second language, this can also boost your chances over other candidates. You will also need at least two A-levels in similar subjects.

You must then pass several checks which are carried out by the CAA, to determine your suitability for flying. These will include a background check, a security check, and an Authority Class 1 Medical. These check whether you have a criminal record and ensure that your physical fitness, vision and hearing are appropriate for controlling an aircraft.

There are also advanced courses that you can take to boost your skills before gaining an ATPL which could improve your employment chances. Some universities offer a degree in Aviation which could make you a very strong candidate, however, these can be very expensive on top of an ATPL course. Another great way to gain experience is through a Professional Aviation Pilot Practice apprenticeship. This can be of little cost if you are still in education and is a great way to familiarise yourself with key skills before seeking further training.

Above all, it is wise to know whether a career as an airline pilot is for you. The Honourable Company of Air Pilots offers tests to inexperienced people, which aim to determine whether you are a suitable figure to become a pilot. This is an important thing to discover before spending money on course fees.

Once you have the necessary background to begin an ATPL course, you need to choose what type of course you wish to do. You must be at least 21 to achieve a license. The course can be completed in an ‘Integrated’ or ‘Modular’ format. An integrated course is a sustained period of training that lasts around 18 months. This is a combination of practical elements and theory work and requires no prior flying experience as this is an inclusive scheme that aims to give participants the necessary flying time to warrant an ATPL. This is an expensive option, with most courses costing in the region of £87,000-£89,000.

Another option is the modular training scheme. This method gives you the option to take training in chunks so that you can achieve specific modules at chosen times, letting you train when you want to. This is a popular method as it allows you to earn in between modules and reduces the overall stress of the course. As this course is more intermittent, you might need to have a private pilot’s license with 100-200 hours flying experience to allow you to complete the practical modules.

Airlines will sometimes offer sponsorship to participants in order to complete their course. This is a helpful way to fund your training which can be offered if pilots are in serious demand by airlines. This is something to look into early on as the contest for sponsorship is heavy.

If you are a qualified pilot in the armed forces, you can complete a civil aviation course to become a commercial pilot.

Throughout your career as an airline pilot, you will need to undergo regular training in order to maintain your license.

 

What skills do you need to become an airline pilot?

A career as a pilot is a very technical job and there are several skills that will help you become successful:

  • You need to show competence in working with technical data and engineering. Understanding how an aircraft operates and how the changes you make will affect the flight is vital for safety and efficiency.
  • This ties in with your knowledge of maths and physics, which need to be of a level that allows you to make educated decisions on flight paths and energy outputs.
  • The ability to communicate with others is key, as each pilot needs to be sure of the tasks they have to do, the cabin crew will need to know of any changes to the flight plan, and the passengers will want to know regular updates of their journey. All of these require you to explain yourself clearly to others so that they have the best experience possible.
  • Leadership skills are important as you will be responsible for a team of cabin crew and maybe even other pilots. It is important that you can work efficiently with others in order to maintain high levels of service and safety for everyone on board.
  • Teamwork is as important as leadership as you need to respect the rest of your crew in order for them to perform. Building a good relationship with your team will make operations more efficient and higher quality.
  • Having good coordination is extremely important when flying an aircraft because you will often have to do several things at once as well as complete precise manoeuvres for take-off and landing. This also involves things like spatial awareness when understanding the size of the aircraft you are flying.
  • Quick thinking is important as there will be plenty of times when you will have to make decisions in order to protect the aircraft from risks or potential hazards. The quicker you can react in situations such as sudden weather fluctuations, the easier it will be to avoid catastrophe.
  • Should any incidents occur, it is crucial that you have the ability to remain calm under pressure. A cool head will make far more sensible decisions and could be the difference between safety and disaster.

 

How much does an airline pilot earn?*

The factors that determine your salary as an airline pilot are detailed and can make the earnings range very wide. Most sources state that the range can be anywhere from £24,000 to £150,000+. Flying time, flying experience, aircraft type and airline can all be factors that affect your salary. For example, a first officer who operates a smaller aircraft for a small airline may only earn about £24,000 in a year. However, if you are captain of a long-haul Airbus for a major airline, you could be earning in excess of £140,000.

Experience is everything as a pilot. As you gain experience year on year, you will be worth more to an airline and your salary will continue to rise. You are likely to develop sets of benefits with your airlines as you move on.

Starting salary: £20,000 to £30,000

Experienced co-pilot or captain: £38,000 to £90,000

Experienced captain: £140,000+

Figures taken from the National Careers Service.

 

What are your career prospects as an airline pilot?

When you begin work with an airline you will start as a first officer and work under the captain’s orders. There will also be restrictions for where you can fly to and what conditions you can fly in. This allows you to gain experience before you progress. First officers will work towards becoming a senior first officer before being promoted to captain.

There are additional training courses that you must take before becoming a captain. You are more likely to move up to captain faster with a smaller airline which has a higher demand for talented pilots.

There are more progression goals you can set as a pilot, such as upgrading the size of aircraft you fly and transitioning to long-haul flights. You can also start to train other pilots to get their license or take a role as an examiner. More experienced pilots may want to take on management roles but this reduces the amount of flying time you get.

Read our guide to find out more about working as an airline captain.

*Salaries are meant as a guide and may vary depending on a number of factors.

Inside the life of a female commercial Captain

We recently caught up with Aer Lingus Captain, Elaine Egan, to talk about being in an elite club of female captains, what she loves about her job, and the topic of much discussion, what she thinks about Brexit.   Firstly, you’ve been a pilot for over 30 years now (10...

Toby Richardson: What to Expect From Your First Solo Flight

Your first solo flight. It’s a hot topic among new student pilots. I found myself being quizzed by a few of the newer students when I was doing my training and thought it might be worth writing about the experience. A first solo flight can seem...

Life as a pilot: Long haul vs short haul

If you’re thinking of becoming a pilot, or are due to gain your ATPL soon, there are two main options that a commercial pilot can choose from - long or short haul, but what’s the difference? Here’s our simple rundown of the main differences between both. Life as a...

Cabin Crew: Job Description

Cabin Crew: Job Description

Cabin crew jobs involve a lot of hard work and commitment but the rewards can be excellent. The leading airlines such as British Airways, Qatar Airways, Emirates, Thomas Cook, and KLM recruit large numbers of cabin crew and are often seeking individuals with customer service experience and language skills.

Cabin Crew are a vital part of commercial aviation for a number of reasons. Their role is to provide a high standard of customer care, but equally, they are responsible for ensuring that all the passengers are safe and secure before, during and after a flight.

What do cabin crew do?

The day-to-day tasks of cabin crew can vary depending on whether you are working as part of a long-haul or short-haul team. General duties include:

  • Taking part in pre-flight briefings about the flight, the passengers and the schedule.
  • Performing pre-flight checks to ensure that security equipment is working properly and that the plane is stocked with enough food for the flight.
  • Greeting passengers as they board and directing them to their seats.
  • Making sure that passengers are aware of safety procedures and demonstrating how to use emergency equipment.
  • Ensuring that hand-luggage is securely stowed.
  • Making announcements on behalf of the captain.
  • Serving food and drink.
  • Selling duty-free items.
  • Performing first aid if necessary.
  • Ensuring that passengers follow safety procedures in an emergency.
  • Making sure that passengers leave the plane safely.
  • Completing flight reports after the journey.

 

What qualifications do you need to become a cabin crew member?

You will need a good secondary education with a minimum of GCSEs in English and maths (grades A*-C or 9-4). Further study, such as A-levels, a foundation degree or even a degree in subjects such as languages, leisure and tourism, and hospitality management may make your CV more attractive to employers.

If you want to prove your commitment to the role, it may be a good idea to take a vocational qualification such as an NVQ or a BTEC. City & Guilds offer Level 2 and 3 qualifications in Air Cabin Crew.

Being able to speak another language is a particularly attractive asset as you will be coming into contact with customers from all over the world on a daily basis. Airlines will also value customer service experience very highly.

Airlines usually have their own list of requirements for cabin crew. These are likely to include:

  • A good level of general fitness and the ability to swim at least 25 metres
  • A valid passport without restrictions
  • Clearance from the Disclosure and Barring Service.
  • A minimum height restriction as you will need to be able to reach all the safety equipment in the aircraft
  • A minimum age restriction which is usually 18  

 

What skills do you need to become a cabin crew member?

  • You will need excellent communication skills in order to understand and see to your customers’ needs, especially in the case of an emergency.
  • Cabin crew need to be dedicated to excellent customer service as their main role is to provide a comfortable and safe experience for their passengers.
  • Cabin crew members need to work together as a team to make sure that all passengers are looked after and comfortable.
  • Numeracy skills are useful for handling money.
  • In the case of an emergency, it is essential that cabin crew have the ability to remain calm.
  • The ability to deal with a range of people in a polite but firm way is important in such a confined working environment.

 

How much do cabin crew earn?*

Cabin crew tend to earn a base rate to which an hourly payment will be added for hours spent on flights. The following figures are the base rate. Some airlines will even offer additional allowances if more than one language is spoken fluently. Many airlines have additional benefits for their staff, such as discounted or free flights.

Starting salary: £12,000 to £14,000 (Take home salary will be closer to £20,000 with hourly payment)

Experienced: £15,000 to £18,000

Senior: £20,000+

Figures from Prospects.

 

What are your career prospects as a cabin crew member?

There are opportunities for cabin crew to progress into more senior roles. After you have gained some experience and demonstrated your commitment to the role, you will usually be promoted to the position of purser or chief purser. These roles come with the added management responsibilities of certain cabins, such as economy or business class.

The next step is usually to become a senior cabin crew member. The senior cabin crew manage all cabin crew on board a flight and it is their responsibility to ensure that the correct paperwork has been completed at the end of each journey.

If you have proven the ability to provide exceptional service in first class or business class cabins, there are opportunities to become VVIP cabin crew. These roles are usually on private aircraft and look after important private clients, such as government officials or members of royal families.

The skills that you learn working as cabin crew will help in training, sales, HR, and marketing roles and many cabin crew move on to such careers.

*Salaries are meant as a guide and can vary depending on a number of factors.

Inside the life of a female commercial Captain

We recently caught up with Aer Lingus Captain, Elaine Egan, to talk about being in an elite club of female captains, what she loves about her job, and the topic of much discussion, what she thinks about Brexit.   Firstly, you’ve been a pilot for over 30 years now (10...

Toby Richardson: What to Expect From Your First Solo Flight

Your first solo flight. It’s a hot topic among new student pilots. I found myself being quizzed by a few of the newer students when I was doing my training and thought it might be worth writing about the experience. A first solo flight can seem...

Life as a pilot: Long haul vs short haul

If you’re thinking of becoming a pilot, or are due to gain your ATPL soon, there are two main options that a commercial pilot can choose from - long or short haul, but what’s the difference? Here’s our simple rundown of the main differences between both. Life as a...