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Flying Safe: First Aid Training in Flight Attendants

February 20, 2019

You may have heard about the recent Hawaiian Airlines flight that was heading from Honolulu to New York City and had to divert the plane to land in San Francisco. A flight attendant on board was having a medical emergency. Flight attendants and doctors on board rushed to perform CPR and provide medical attention until they could land safely and medics could board the plane. Due to the nature of the man’s situation, he could not be saved, and he died before the plane landed. You might be thinking that CPR failed, but statistics show that CPR doubles or triples the survival rate after cardiac arrest. In another, less dire situation, the man could’ve been saved. That’s why it’s crucial that flight attendants have proper first aid training.

There is much more to being a flight attendant than just handing out drinks and snacks, and guiding people to their seats. First and foremost, flight attendants are responsible for the safety and comfort of guests, which includes keeping them calm in an emergency—medical or otherwise. If there is a medical emergency due to an accident or illness, they will offer immediate assistance to prevent further injury or death, and relieve pain. Essentially, flight attendants are the first in line to help until medical personnel arrives and takes over. They are also trained to help calm people both in medical emergencies and flight emergencies, so they will ensure everyone in the cabin remains as calm as possible. A well-trained flight attendant can be the difference between life and death.

Most flight attendants follow six rules:

  • Keep everyone calm and assess injuries
  • Talk to other passengers to obtain information about the situation
  • Put on proper PPE (personal protective equipment) before providing first aid
  • Search for signs of a medical condition (like a medical ID bracelet)
  • Request assistance (if there is a doctor or other medical personnel on board)
  • Treat injuries in order of seriousness

Flight attendants are only allowed to administer medication provided in the first aid kit or flight attendant pouch (which contains items such as bandages, aspirin, antacids, and Dramamine). While treating a guest, flight attendants will first address breathing issues, followed by bleeding, broken bones, and burns. They will calmly tell the guest what they are doing and effectively communicate with another flight attendant or the captain. The captain will determine if a scheduled emergency landing is needed. The flight attendant is required to perform first aid until landing and medical personnel arrives, even if they have determined the guest is deceased. Flight attendants are required to fill out a report if they perform first aid.

During flight attendant training, all sorts of emergency situations are practiced so flight attendants are prepared for a variety of emergencies. The training is grueling and thorough, so you can rest easy on your next flight!