Inexperienced cabin crew

Taxiing out for departure, Number 1 cabin crew called the flight deck and advised a pax had been physically sick in the cabin and that they needed time to check on their wellbeing before departure. The Number 1 was attending the passenger and the three other cabin crew had limited experience (Number 4 was only recently on the line). Number 2 or 3 called the Number 4 via the interphone and asked them to turn on the cabin lights (as the cabin was in darkness prior to departure at night). Number 4 was unable to simply locate the cabin lights switch on the attendant panel. Unable to turn on the lights, the Number 1 then had to leave the ill passenger and return to the front galley to turn on the lights themselves to then go back and assist the passenger. My concern is that new cabin crew are unable to locate simple, yet critical equipment and switches used daily, and the experienced cabin crew (only the Number 1 in this case) was doing all the work themselves dealing with the passenger, communicating with the flight deck and managing the cabin environment. This was a simple medical issue; however, it could very well have had a disastrous impact given the level of experience in the cabin that day.

Operator’s Comment

All crew complete initial and conversion training and a number of familiarisation flights prior to becoming part of the operating crew. Training does include operation of the cabin lighting system contained within the flight attendant panels onboard. The flight attendant panel and lighting is mainly used by the senior crew member so it is possible the crew member had only used this on a small number of occasions prior to this flight. There are 4 crew members onboard and, as such, tasks are delegated to each crew member so as to reduce the workload during a medical event. This is all delegated under the guidance of the SCCM. However, flight crew also need to be aware of the surprise and startle effect which can effect cabin crew when they are presented with an inflight event such as a medical. This can reduce reaction times for dealing with an event or task. A debrief with all crew at the end of the day will ensure effective communication of issues during the flight and will provide an opportunity for crew to learn from mistakes made during events. Crew are encouraged to report events internally where an additional debrief can take place for the crew involved.

CHIRP Cabin Crew Advisory Board Comment

All Cabin Crew receive initial training on how to use the cabin systems such as the forward attendant and the additional attendant panels. This information is also available in the Cabin Crew manuals. When new crew go on their aircraft visit as part of their initial training they would have been shown how to operate the lights at the attendant panels. Also, when the crew operated their first familiarisation flights, they would have had a checklist that probably included cabin lighting, amongst many other things to be covered on the day. Once the crew member is then online, often the SOP is that the crew complete their checks, sit down, pass on their ‘secure’ to the senior and, once the senior has the ‘secure’ the senior will dim the cabin lights for landing and take-off. The fleet structure of some operators can vary massively, crew can operate on different types and within those types there can be subtypes; even if the aircraft are all the same type, unless they are all the same vintage then the attendant panels can still vary from aircraft to aircraft.

In addition to the Cabin Crew Advisory Board’s comments, we would add that junior cabin crew might not operate the associated panel at all in day-to-day operations and, although this may well have been a one-off event, there is a case for cabin crew to receive periodic recurrency/refamiliarisation training in all cabin equipment and its operation for the purposes of resilience should the SCCM become incapacitated or over-tasked.  Although current cabin crew annual recurrency training covers safety equipment and they are encouraged to make sure that they are familiar with all equipment in the cabin, such familiarisation should be a formal requirement, not simply encouraged and relying on individuals’ diligence. Also, procedures ought to be in place to give cabin crew regular opportunities to operate all routinely used equipment and panels; simply providing initial training by PowerPoint and reference to manuals is not sufficient – time is always pressing during flights we know, but more-experienced crew can also help here by taking inexperienced crew members ‘under their wing’ when possible and refreshing their familiarity with panels and equipment.