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Ensuring a smooth trip

Published on Thursday, 08 Jul 2010
Illustration: Bay Leung

There is a lot more to the job of a flight purser than serving meals and handing out blankets.

Before flying out, like any member of a passenger airliner's cabin crew, they have to attend a pre-flight briefing by the captain to learn about flight details, such as expected weather, and conduct a pre-flight cabin check to make sure all is in order for the plane to take off.

During flights, they have to ensure the safety of passengers and co-ordinate evacuations in case of emergencies. After the plane touches down, they perform post-flight duties, including writing reports on minor medications given to passengers, lost and found items, and calling attention to cabin equipment that needs to be replaced.

In addition to the duties of flight attendants, flight pursers also assume some supervisory responsibilities. "Flight pursers ensure that service provided to passengers is carried out in accordance with the service plan, and is consistent with the company's service philosophy," says Gassy Wan, performance and development executive, inflight services manager and senior purser at Cathay Pacific Airways.

At Cathay Pacific, a flight purser assigned to first class reports to a senior purser. In business class, a flight purser will still report to a senior purser, but will be in charge of supervising two flight attendants. In economy class, a flight purser will report to the inflight services manager and manage up to four flight attendants.

Dora Lai Yuk-sim, chairwoman of the Cathay Pacific Airways Flight Attendants Union, says the airline typically promotes internally. The exception is when the airline opens routes to new destinations, in which case experienced cabin crew members are recruited.

Wan says promotion depends on how fast the airline expands, but it takes about nine years for flight attendants to make flight purser. From there on, the career path is to become a senior pursuer for those with 15 years' experience, and then an inflight services manager.


 Airline offers comprehensive training courses

  • Every airline provides its own training  to cabin crew. For Cathay Pacific, this starts with successful job applicants participating in a training mock-up  where they are served an in-flight meal by trainees.
  • New hires also take part in workshops on knowledge of food and beverage, service equipment, make-up and language skills.
  • This is followed by a six-week induction training course on safety and in-flight service. Training methods such as  e-learning, role plays and simulated sessions are utilised.
  • Upon completion of their initial training, flight attendants are given the opportunity to attend refresher workshops throughout their careers, and training is provided for new positions such as working in business class.

Social skills a must

  • While the opportunity to travel may seem glamorous, a flight attendant's work can be strenuous and tiring. Cabin crew must stand during much of the flight and must remain pleasant, regardless of how tired they are, or whether passengers are overly demanding.
  • They must deal with problems associated with turbulent weather, which can make it difficult to provide service and cause anxiety among passengers.
  • Like any member of a crew, flight pursers must have good interpersonal skills.

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