So how much have flight attendants changed from the 1930s to today? Well as air transportation has evolved with major concerns on safety, service, comfort, and other factors, so have the roles of the flight attendants. Even their titles have changed. From the "flying nurses" to "air hostess" to "stewardess" and then to today's "flight attendant" and "cabin crew", the evolution of the titles were brought about their changing roles in the air, wearing more hats than before. It's time to look at the history of the cabin crew!
The idea of a flight attendant's job being all glamorous came about because of how they evolved. Well just a brief rundown, here's a short history of the cabin crew.
The very first cabin crew was actually a flight steward named Heinrich Kubis in 1912, a German who served passengers aboard the Zeppelin. He was also the lone steward aboard the Hindenburg when it burst into flames. He survived by jumping off when it was near the ground.
It was in the 1930s when a registered nurse named Ellen Church wanted to be a commercial airline pilot. Unfortunately, the Boeing Transport Co. only accepted males as it was perceived that flying was only for men. This did not stop Ellen Church from fulfilling her dream and she suggested to Boeing Transport that flying nurses would be able to make passengers more comfortable since during that time, flying was fairly new and uncomfortable. The company liked the idea and Ellen Church recruited 8 other nurses. They took to the skies and the era of the flight attendant was born.
It was in the 1950s where the "ladies of the skies" no longer needed to be nurses as their role changed from being a flying nurse to a flying hostess. More and more airlines opening, competition was getting tough and air hostesses or stewardesses were the amunition. They were wearing the most glamorous uniforms, flying with celebrities and the rich. They had to remain trim and fit. If not, they were not allowed to fly. To attract more flyers particularly men, it was the air hostess who did the work. More than anything, the air hostess were not even allowed to get married! This was the golden age of air travel and it was dominated by the elite.
This was when the flight attendant job was equated as "glamorous". Travelling the world, flying with the elite, and being around celebrities.
The 1960s brought about the jet age.
Airlines had to make their stewardess to even look more glamorous and beautiful as they know that men who have money would like to see pretty ladies. Having beautiful stewardesses on board was a unique selling proposition for the airlines. The stewardesses were even trained to walk like models while serving passengers!
As time went by, the role of stewardess have changed, especially in the wake of air disasters. They were trained to operate safety features of the aircraft. They were trained to evacuate passengers as quick as they can. Safety was placed above comfort and glamour. As this role has evolved also, males were hired as stewards, and the job of the cabin crew was not only for females.
This role also lead to the change of terms from air hostess to flight attendant, from stewardess to cabin crew. More than that, the female movement pushed to end the use of stewardess as a sex symbol to attract passengers. This was where flight attendants were given the primary role of ensuring safety, especially after some hijack incidents. From then on, flight attendants had to be perceived as very professional, as this concerns safety.
Yes from a nurse to a hostess to becoming an airline marketing tool to safety professionals, the flight attendant's roles have greatly increased. More than just also providing safety and comfort, they are also the first line of defense when anyone tries to take over the cockpit.
Below is a video of the history of the flight attendants. Enjoy this documentary! Truly educational!