Cabin Attendant

Cabin attendants’ (male or female) first responsibility is the safety of airline passengers from the time they board the aircraft until they disembark at their destination. Male cabin attendants used to be called airline stewards and female cabin attendants used to be called airhostesses.

Cabin attendants usually report for duty an hour and a quarter before each flight. They are required to attend the captain’s pre-flight briefing and are advised about expected weather conditions, special passenger problems and other matters.

They see to it that the passenger cabin is in order, that supplies of food, beverages, blankets and reading material are adequate and that first aid kits and other emergency equipment are aboard and in working order.

Cabin attendants act as the airline’s hosts to the passengers and ensure their comfort and enjoyment of the journey. They welcome passengers, check their tickets and assist them in finding their seats and storing their coats and carry-on luggage. They assist passengers with special needs, answer questions and reassure nervous passengers.

Usually senior cabin attendants demonstrate the use of safety equipment and make announcements in regard to in-flight instructions and give general information over the loudspeaker system to passengers. Assisting passengers in the rare event of an emergency is one of the most important functions of cabin attendants.

During the flight they provide passengers with meals, cocktails and refreshments, hand out reading material, pillows and blankets and administer first aid to passengers when necessary. In the air, they answer questions about the flight and help care for small children and elderly persons or persons with disabilities. After landing they assist passengers to leave the airplane and thank them for making use of the services of the airline.

The working hours of cabin attendants are very irregular and the work can be strenuous and tiring. They work an average of 110 hours per month on domestic flights and 90 hours on international flights. Annual free passes by air or rail as well as reduced tariffs on overseas flights are part of the fringe benefits.

Competition for the position of cabin attendant is expected to remain very keen since the number of applicants greatly exceeds the number of vacancies. A cabin attendant can progress to cabin controller and thereafter to senior cabin controller, coordinator and training coordinator.

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate.

What to Study

South African Airways (SAA) at Johannesburg International Airport and the SA Airways Reservation section in Johannesburg offers practical and theoretical training. The 6-month course covers: passenger handling, reservations, emergency procedures, first aid, and catering.

In addition, candidates must:

  • have South African citizenship
  • be 18 years or older
  • be at least 1,58 meters tall and have reasonable proportion between height and mass
  • pass a selection test set by a selection committee

A cabin attendant starts on domestic flights and is selected on merit for advanced training for overseas flights. They must also pass conversion / refresher courses to keep an up-to-date certificate of Competency in Emergency Procedures and undergo periodic medical examinations.


  • South African Airways
  • South African Air Force
  • other domestic and international airlines
  • private aviation companies
  • safari and tour operators
  • self-employment – there is a small demand for free-lance cabin attendants from charter and corporate aviation companies

Further Information

South African Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA) Private Bag X 73
Halfway House, 1685
Tel: (011) 545-1000 Fax: (011) 545-1465

The Employment Officer
South African Airways
P O Box 7778
Johannesburg, 2000

Getting Started

  • try to get part-time or vacation work in a position that requires public contact such as a waitron
  • visit an airport and observe ground handling duties of passengers
  • make an appointment to talk to a cabin attendant to get more information about this occupation