"Coffee or tea … ?" Contrary to the common misconception, flight attendants do more than just serve you beverages and food during your flight.
According to Singapore Airlines Flight Operations Division safety training assistant manager Celine Kwah, being a flight attendant is a full-fledged career that requires detailed product, service, safety, and technical knowledge and training in many areas.
Kwah was speaking to a group of media members visiting the Singapore Airlines Flight Training Centre near Changi Airport, where we were given the opportunity to see what goes on behind the scenes and how vital a flight attendant is on a flight.
The training centre had many galleries displaying models of in-flight products like tableware, wine products, and premium items for the different cabin classes on SIA: (First Class) Suites, Business, Premium Economy, and Economy Class. There were also aircraft cabin simulators fitted with specialised training equipment where flight attendants are trained for the different aircraft types.
We were first taken to a mock airplane with seating areas for the different cabin classes. Here, we saw the flight attendants preparing for "mealtime".
Plate like a sous chef
Meals in First Class Suites are served on specially-designed Wedgwood fine china and Lalique crystal glassware. Meals from Japan, Korea, India, China and Singapore are served on specially-crafted tableware that complement the dishes, while meals in Business Class are served on specially-designed Narumi bone china.
Besides serving the food, flight attendants are taught how to plate it (yes, like a sous chef). They also need to know which tableware goes with which dish or beverage, and even which wine complements which meal.
In addition to product knowledge, flight attendants are required to have service knowledge. They learn the proper way to serve a passenger, proper etiquette when dealing with royalty, and even how to calm unruly passengers who might be a threat to the safety and well-being of other passengers on board.
Perfectly dressed and styled
Besides being trained in social and business etiquette, you've probably noticed that Singapore Airlines flight attendants have an impeccable appearance. From the top of their heads to the tip of their toes, they are immaculately dressed and styled, and they also carry themselves well. There's a good reason for that - they are trained in grooming and deportment.
For the female flight attendants, this includes how to put on makeup, how to style their hair in an updo (bobs, buns, or french twists), and also how to sit, stand, walk, climb stairs and move around in their uniform, which is a kebaya.
The male flight attendants also need to know enough about makeup in order to let their female colleagues know if their eyeliner is smudged or blusher is too strong.
Technical and safety expertise
Technical knowledge is important, especially in an emergency situation. Different passenger aircrafts have different types of doors, for example. Some heavier doors require two persons to open.
The flight attendants on board your flight have all been trained to do this, as well as to deploy the inflatable slide and life raft, and get all passengers safely off the plane.
When asked how female flight attendants do all that in their uniform, Kwah smiled and replied that there are hidden pleats in their sarongs which enable them to move easily. They are also taught how to roll up their sarong properly, should the airplane plunge into water.
During the visit, two flight attendants demonstrated how to go down the inflatable slide and get into the life raft.
We also got to see the training pool where they learn to move efficiently in the water, perform rescues and CPR. To simulate open waters, waves are created by machine.
Flight attendants are trained to handle life vests, oxygen masks, fire extinguisher and other technical stuff on board the airplane.
They are trained to be team players who work together to ensure the safety and comfort of everyone.
In good hands
"When you board a Singapore Airlines flight, you can be sure that you're in good hands because your cabin crew has been trained and equipped to handle any situation that might arise during a flight. They can handle emergencies, rescue operations and perform CPR, as well as liaise with people from all walks of life," Kwah explained.
"Their job is tough and physically demanding. The hours are long and the days away from home are many. But it is well worth it," she added.