More than meets the eye.

British Airways Boeing 747-436 on departure.

Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

Many people wonder what cabin crew do on long-haul flights. After all, we are only really seen in the cabin when providing the meal and bar service and during boarding and disembarking. Little do they know that we are pretty much on our feet most of the flight, even though they may not see us. So, what is it like to be cabin crew on a long-haul flight? Here is a day in the life on a flight from London Heathrow to Los Angeles.

21.15 – 21.45

Arrival at base. The cabin crew collect their paperwork and duty-free monies and check for any changes to their schedule. They then check in case there are any new messages or SEP (Safety and Emergency Procedures) updates for their crew manual. They often have a coffee, if there is time and refresh their memory of the SEP manual.

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21.45 – 22.15

The pre-flight briefing with the SCCM (Senior Cabin Crew Member) starts with the rest of the team. They find out the details of the flight including if there are any PRMs (persons with reduced mobility or UNMINs unaccompanied minors. They are informed how many special meals there are on board (halal, kosher, vegetarian, diabetic, etc.) Working positions are assigned to each crew member based on their seniority. They find out which cabin class they are working and their responsibilities.

The SCCM will test the cabin crew with questions on SEP and first aid. They need to be answered correctly or crew can be taken off the flight. The flight crew will drop by and introduce themselves. They tell the crew any extra factors that need to be considered including flight time, weather and special instructions. The crew then go through security and take the crew bus to the aircraft.

Austrian Airlines flight attendants going through their pre-flight briefing.

Photo: Austrian Airlines

22.15 – 23.00

Now on the aircraft, the cabin crew perform their security checks and safety equipment checks. These are essential for every single flight. There is a checklist to work to, so nothing is forgotten. Once these have been completed, they inform the SCCM that checks are complete. The cabin is then prepared for the passengers. They make sure that there are blankets, amenity kits and headsets at every seat. In the galley, the crew check the meal count is correct and the supplies and stowages are correct.

23.00 – 23.45

Passengers start to board and the crew welcome them from their stations. They monitor the cabin for unstowed or incorrectly stowed luggage. They also monitor passengers’ for the need of infant or extension seatbelts, among other things. Announcements are made to welcome passengers and prepare them for the flight. When confirmation is received that all passengers are onboard, cabin crew start the safety demonstration.

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Aeroflot Flight attendant performing the flight safety briefing for passengers.

This can be by the inflight entertainment system or manually, where the crew demonstrate the safety features of the aircraft. This is essential so that everyone knows what to do in an emergency situation. Once this is complete the crew complete a check of the cabin to see if everything is ‘secure’ and ready for a safe take-off. They also make sure that the galley and their stations are secure and pass the secure check to the SCCM. The crew take their jump seats for take off.

23.45 – 00.05

The cabin crew take their brace position and do a silent review. This is an overview of emergency procedures, whilst taxi-ing and taking off.

00.05 – 00.30

Once seat belt signs have been switched off, the cabin crew can go to the galley and prepare the carts for meal and bar service and heat up the meals.

00.30 – 01.00

The first bar service of the night starts for each designated area.

Singapore Airlines flight attendant providing service onboard a B777

Photo: Singapore Airlines

01.00 – 02.15

The main meal service is followed by a second bar service. The tea and coffee service is next. This mostly runs the same in economy and business class on every flight. Business class has more food choices and individual courses. Trays are set with linen, chinaware, cutlery and glasses. A more specialized bar service is offered. First Class is on demand and as and when the passenger likes. Tables are laid with linen, chinaware, cutlery and glasses. The meals are from a selective menu and are cooked to order. The meals are presented to a high standard by the flight attendant, who is working as ‘galley operator’. The bar service is again on demand, whenever the passenger would like.

02.15 – 03.00

The cabin crew start clearing in the meal trays and placing them back into to the carts. The carts are then safely stowed away in the galley. Once this is completely finished, the duty-free retail service can commence.

03.00 – 08.00

The lights are dimmed and night service begins. Cabin crew complete security checks every 20 minutes. Every 30 minutes or so the cabin crew will offer a light drink service in economy. They will bring a tray of water and juice into the cabin for passengers to take. If applicable, half of the crew can take crew rest as set by the SCCM. On a 12-hour flight such as this may be around 2 to 2 and a half hours spent either in a crew bunk or a curtained-off seat area, depending on the aircraft type. After the two hours, the rested crew go back to work and the remaining crew take their rest. Crew will eat their crew meal during this time too.

Delta Air Lines flight attendant providing service to passengers.

Photo: Delta Air Lines

08.00 – 08.30

The preparation of the galley and carts for the next service takes place. Meals or snacks are heated up in the galley ovens.

08.30 – 09.30

The breakfast or snack service starts with a juice and soft drink service. This is followed by a tea and coffee service. Business class will be served the same but with breakfast or a snack or a plated tray. First class is again an on-demand service.

09.30 – 09.45

Once the first-served passengers have finished their meals, the crew will take their meal carts out and clear in the trays.

Lufthansa flight attendant speaking with a passenger.

Photo: rl_foto/Shutterstock

09.45 -10.00

The cabin crew collect the headsets, blankets and any trash in the cabin. They will start to secure any baggage. Last-minute announcements are made including supported charities and requests for any last-minute duty-free sales. The bar paperwork needs to be completed and some carts sealed as necessary.

10.00 – 10.50

The cabin crew secure the cabin and galley and prepare for a safe landing. They give the cabin secure signal to the SCCM. They return to their jump seat, take their brace position and do their silent review pre-landing.

10.50 – 11.20

The passengers disembark.

Passengers disembarking from an aircraft.

Photo: KlavdiyaV /

11.20 – 11.40

Cabin crew do their final security checks and finish any paperwork and reports.

11.40 – 01.00

The crew leave the aircraft and pass through the airport. They collect their luggage and board the crew bus. They check in to the hotel and finally, collapse into their bed for a long sleep. Hopefully!


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