The History of Cabin Crew

Viewed 16,003 times
By on Tuesday 25th Mar, 2014 at 14:57

We know that the job of a cabin crew member, flight attendant or air steward is a much desired one and the dream of many! The actual definition of the role is that cabin crew are there for the safety and well being of the passengers – as well as each other, writes Patricia Green. Safety is the top priority with service being the second.

You can be cabin crew for an airline, a private jet or sometimes in the military. The origins of the ‘flight attendant’ or ‘air steward’ title is thought to have come from the maritime world and today is still seen in the airline career ladder in roles such as ‘purser’ or ‘chief steward’. But where did it all begin? Here we take a look…

1920s, 1930s, 1940s
The first cabin crew member was reportedly Heinrich Kubis in 1912, who worked on a German Zeppelin. In the 1920’s Imperial Airways in the UK started to recruit cabin boys who could load luggage and reassure the passengers. In 1929, Pan Am in the USA were the first to have ‘stewards’ who served food. However, in the 1930’s Boeing Air Transport and registered nurse Ellen Church devised a scheme where nurses were hired for 3 months at a time to travel onboard and look after the passengers. During World War II, many of the nurses were enlisted into the armed forces, therefore the nursing requirement for ‘flight attendants’ changed.

1950s and 1960s
Through the 50’s and 60’s, being a flight attendant was seen as a very elite profession but conditions were very strict – unmarried females only were accepted and overall appearance was very important. If you wanted to get married, you would have to give up your job. The uniforms were form fitting and often with hats, high heels and white gloves, so a certain glamorous reputation was always perceived.

1970s and beyond
Things started to change again in the 1970’s with the start of unions and equal rights between men and women. Ironically more man joined the profession during these times and it is seen less as just a female role.

Nowadays, although appearance is still an important factor as cabin crew are the face of the airline, rules are less restrictive regards age and height/ weight restrictions with weight being in proportion to height, being the general model. Tattoos that are visible are mostly unacceptable as airlines still want to keep a very prestigious image.

Grooming standards and personal presentation are still very important and expected to remain at all times. Uniforms are designed not only to be durable and stylish (often top designers are hired) but to inspire confidence for the passengers, a long way from the original nurses uniforms of the 1930s!

Post 9/11
Since 9/11 and tougher safety regulations, it is a more difficult job than it used to be and our role has become more challenging but the skills you learn you will appreciate for life… Unfortunately, the recent recession has called for many airlines to close down and contracts are often short term but the industry is struggling to find its feet again. Competition for every cabin crew job is fierce and it is still one of the most difficult jobs to get!

However, it is still an amazing job to do if you get the chance and you will never regret the experience.

About the author:

Patricia Green has been Cabin Crew for major airlines in the UK and Middle East for seven years and also an SCCM. She has also worked as a VIP Flight Attendant working for very high profile clients and world leaders on their private jets. Last year Patricia moved to flying on a freelance basis in order to concentrate on working as a freelance instructor as well as setting up as a Cabin Crew Consultant. She advises potential crew how to get their dream job and helps experienced crew move from commercial to corporate flying. In response to many requests from fellow crew and students, Patricia has written a series of E-books to help guide new crew with lots of insider advice and useful hints and tips.

For more information please visit

Browse cabin crew jobs on today.