Flight Attendant Positions on-board all aircraft are allocated for safety and service operational reasons. Contrary to some misconceptions, flight attendants don’t just rock up and find a seat. Each crew member is allocated a specific working position at the start of the working day when attending crew briefing.
The Crew briefing is conducted by the Cabin Manager who by direction or consultation will allocate positions to the crew. This will dictate a standard work list, area responsibility and specific SOPs to be conducted and followed during duty in that position.
The briefing also includes operational updates that have either been distributed previously via email to all crew or via the Cabin manager directly if in relation to the direct flight about to be crewed. An emergency related scenario or question is also presented to either the crew as a group or direct to each individual crew member. This is to ensure operational currency, and to frame a period of concentration to the safety aspect of the flight attendant role and recall to emergency protocol and procedures of all flight attendant positions.
A first aid question or scenario is also given for the same reasons as the safety emergency questions.
The Captain will normally give his operational brief when the Cabin manager has finished their briefing. This generally starts with crew introductions and then gets operational in nature with things like a cabin or aircraft report on serviceability of the aircraft for service which might be notification on things such as any in-op toilets or equipment that needs replacing or servicing. Included is the refuelling airports, flight times, special passengers or cargo, forecast turbulence, time zones or changes and weather conditions to name the most common.The Cabin Manager is responsible to the Pilot In Comand (PIC) headed by the Captain for the overall management, conduct, co-ordination and performance of cabin duties, safety and emergency procedures and passenger handling. You'll learn more about The Chain of Command in flight attendant training school.
The Cabin Manager operational responsibilities in addition to delivering a crew briefing and the allocation of Flight Attendant Positions include:
• Assign, manage and supervise Cabin Crew to ensure a safe, efficient and professional work environment
• Ensure all performance issues are identified early and report to the person in charge
• Stipulate and maintain an environment free of harassment and discrimination for all employees and take appropriate corrective action if it is breached
• Ensure pre-flight cabin safety checks, aircraft cabin duties and catering food and equipment are checked, done and supplied
• Controls and manages the work place to ensure SOP’s for demonstrations of aircraft safety and emergency procedures are conducted
• Greats and directs passengers to seats and assures assistance is given if required for their hand luggage
• Personally assists any passengers with special needs
• Ensures safety belt, smoking regulations and relevant PA’s are adhered to
• Ensures that the comfort of passengers address and maintained
• Orders in-flight stores and ground services as required
• Supervises the service and services which includes galleys, preparing and heating of food for passengers
• Meets with management about relevant operational issues
• Provides leadership and ambassador duties on behalf of the company
• Liaise with the Pilot-In-Command to ensure a safe, effective cabin service is delivered
• Ensure all Operations Manual SOP’s and guidelines are maintained and referenced during all stages of flight
• Announce, manage, control passenger pa’s during normal and abnormal phases of flight
• Maintain currency with Civil Aviation Orders 20.11 or country equivalent
• Ensure compliance to Occupational Health and Safety rules and regulations
Certainly, all those crew members operating in any of the onboard Flight Attendant Positions have overlapping responsibilities of the Cabin manager no matter where they are actually operating or what door position or window exit they are responsible for onboard.
While this is a function of team work, when intermingled with a small crew it is quite easy, however the bigger the aircraft is the more isolated sections of the cabin become as not all parts or sections of the aircraft can be seen let alone visited by many crew on some flights, in fact many flights. The 747 upper-deck comes to mind personally as would upper and lower deck crew in most positions of the massive A380.
So what are Flight Attendant Positions on-board using the A320 aircraft as an example
The aircraft has four floor level door exits plus four over-wing exits (non-floor level) in mid cabin, to be used for emergency evacuation should they be required. All exits being the doors and the exit windows are known as primary exits in a land evacuation and only the doors are considered primary in a ditching.
The windows become known as secondary in a ditching (landing on water). This is because the doors are equipped with slide rafts and the windows are only equipped with slide ramps. IE: Non-floatation devices.
All the floor level exit doors are referred to by a letter and a number, are maned by a flight attendant and are thus known as flight attendant positions:
L means the door is on the left or port (red light) side and R is on the right or starboard (green light) side.
The forward doors are nominated as 1 and the aft doors are nominated as 2.
R1 therefore is on the right side at the front and R2 is on the right side at the rear. Similarly, L1 is on the left side at the front and L2 is on the left side at the rear.
The exits over the wings are called - Overwings Left or Overwings Right. Technically, they should be referred to as or Overwings FWD Left or Overwings AFT Left and Overwings FWD Right or Overwings AFT Right.
Flight attendant positions are referred to in relation to the exit identification
To further explain the A320 aircraft diagram:
Seats are designated by numbered rows from forward to aft. It depends on the airline as to the capacity of the aircraft. Obviously, airlines with a 2 or 3 class service carry less than an economy class cabin and less again than a low cost carrier. Operating capacities generally range from 144 to 180 passengers. This aircraft floor plan image above depicts a configuration for 180 passengers made up of 30 rows of 6 seats.
Starting at row 1 through row 30 and across the aircraft by a letter with A+B+C being on the left (or port side) and D+E+F being on the right. In some aircraft, they have replaced D+E+F with E+F+G. (Missing the D).
Passenger hand luggage is stored in overhead lockers in the cabin, while their luggage is carried under the floor of the passenger cabin along with the cargo. Cargo is loaded through dedicated forward, aft and bulk cargo doors on the right (starboard) side of the aircraft. Contrary to what you see in the movies, these areas for most aircraft cannot be accessed in flight.
For a bigger aircraft with more doors, the identifying numbering for Flight Attendant Positions would be expanded such as L3 or R5 or for aircraft with an upper deck such as the A380 or the B747 it would be; upper deck L or right or upper deck L2 or R2 etc.