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In commemoration of South Africa’s National Women’s Month, Lufthansa Flight Attendant Maira Madeleine Nolte helps dispel the misconceptions of the flight attendant role in today’s airline industry.

Nolte has been fulfilling this important role on Lufthansa since 2011 and in an interview she helps us understand the role flight attendants play in airlines.

Q. What training does a flight attendant go through?

We have an initial 12-week training during which we experience different aspects of the job as a flight attendant. We have emergency, first aid, intercultural competences, communication, and service training. The initial training also includes three flights as a trainee, where new colleagues are allowed to fly and work for the first time with experienced flight attendants.

Q. How often do flight attendants have to go through training?

All Lufthansa flight attendants have to re-visit training classes every year to maintain the highest standards. I attend these classes at the Lufthansa Aviation Training center several times a year and can take from half a day to two days. For the first aid and emergency training of the different aircraft types, I have to go through recurrent training every year. For example, I’m allowed to fly on the Airbus A320, A340 and A380, so I have to undergo annual half-day recurrent training for each aircraft type. In addition to this, I have to go on an emergency CRM (Crew Resource Management) Training and Security. A Lufthansa flight attendant on a fulltime contract is required to pass at least six training sessions a year.

Q. What emergency situations are flight attendants trained for?

In the case of an on-flight emergency, we are basically on our own, so we are trained to react accordingly in different states of emergency; including build-up of smoke, fire on board, the handling of dangerous goods, a bomb threat and medical incidents. Although situations like these rarely happen, we are trained in de-escalation procedures and safety is our top priority.

Q. What does your role primarily entail?

Our fundamental task is the safety on board, but we are also responsible for providing passengers with great service and ultimately ensuring our guests have a relaxing flight. We have to able to switch between these roles immediately. For example, if you are in the middle of serving passengers and a medical incident occurs, you would have to interrupt the service right away to assist the medical situation.

Q. What are the common traveller misconceptions about the role of a flight attendant?

Safety is our priority and we are happy to be thought of service staff by the passengers, as this means they haven’t experienced unpleasant situations on board. Of course we do our best to offer our guests a smooth and relaxing flight, but our priority remains the safety of everyone on board.

Q. Is it true that flight attendants get to travel for free around the world?

Every airline is different and Lufthansa staff members do receive certain employee discounts, but no, we cannot travel for free.

Q. Do flight attendants ever get jet lag?

We are human, so we also have to fight against jet lag. I think the more you travel, the better you know your body and after a while you know what to do and how you sleep to try to avoid jet lag or reduce it to a minimum. I personally have a kind of ‘12 o’clock’ rule. When I arrive in the morning, I go to bed until around noon. It’s like a midday sleep, but it’s really important to get up after a few hours to adjust to the local time. When I arrive in the afternoon, I try to keep myself awake and go to bed early in the evening.

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Jo-Ann Strauss, former Miss South Africa, businesswoman, proud mom, and the Face of Lufthansa in South Africa says, “In my travels as Miss South Africa, a mom, and a business person, I have experienced firsthand the assistance and guidance the flight attendants provide. While some may think that they are just there to cater to their whims and wishes, the flight attendants perform vital functions behind the scenes that we are often not aware even of (and thankfully so!). From ensuring our safety and security on board, to assisting passengers who are experiencing difficulties in flight and being tough on passengers whose behaviour threatens both the safety and flight experience of others, the flight attendant must always be respected. The fact that they can do this with a smile at 35 000 feet at a speed of Mach 0.8 and 0.9, in a highly pressurised cabin for often more than 10 hours at a time on little to no sleep, should be enough for travellers to realise that they are simply extraordinary!”

Source and image: Lufthansa Airlines

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