Together with the ground stewards and stewardesses who work at the airport, the “face” of KLM is determined by the pilots and the stewards and stewardesses – who are also known as cabin attendants or CAs. On board the aircraft, it’s these crew members who make sure the flight goes smoothly and safely.
The crew consists of pilots who fly the aircraft and cabin attendants who take care of the passengers. The pilots do their job in the cockpit, while the other crew members work in the cabin where the passengers are seated.
You can see exactly what everyone on board does by their uniform. The stewardesses wear bright blue uniforms and the stewards wear navy blue uniforms without a cap. The pilots – both men and women – wear navy blue uniforms with a cap.
KLM has almost 2,700 pilots. That may sound like a lot, but it’s just a fraction of all the boys and girls who dream of becoming a pilot one day. The fact that relatively few finally get the job is because of factors like the strict selection requirements and the high educational requirements. Applicants must have at least completed higher secondary education including mathematics, physics and English, and they must be in good health. Before you even start training as a pilot, you have to pass a medical examination as well as a variety of tests.
Most KLM pilots do their two years of training at the KLM Flight School at the airport in Eelde, in the Netherlands. Everyone who completes the training receives a pilot’s licence, a kind of driver’s licence for an aircraft. At KLM, you then go on to complete a follow-up training course for the aircraft type you will be flying.In most cases, you start flying smaller aircraft as a co-pilot. The cockpit crew usually consists of two pilots. On long-haul flights there are three, depending on the aircraft type. After a few years, you can advance to the larger aircraft, again as a co-pilot. Later on, you’ll move into the pilot’s seat of a smaller aircraft and, following that, you can become a pilot on a larger aircraft, like a Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Each time you move to another aircraft type, you have to undergo more training. Also, KLM tests your knowledge of the aircraft and examines your abilities as a pilot in a flight simulator. You also have to have regular medical examinations.
On board the aircraft, the cabin crew take care of two things; safety and service. Cabin attendants are well trained to respond in the event of an emergency, because safety is the most important thing on board an aircraft. But it’s also important to provide excellent service. That means that cabin attendants do everything possible to make life pleasant for the passenger. KLM believes this is vitally important. And this applies equally to a short flight to London or a 12+ hour flight to Singapore.
But, for many boys and girls, the reason for wanting to become a cabin attendant is very different: “I want to see the world!”
To become a cabin attendant, you must complete higher secondary school or lower secondary school (supplemented with secondary vocational education in a related field such as tourism or nursing). You must in any event have studied English and have a reasonable command of German, French or Spanish. You have to be at least 21 years old and you must be between 158 and 190 cm tall. If you’re too short, you won’t be able to reach anything in the pantry. If you’re too tall, you’ll run the risk of banging your head in the cabin aisles, especially in the smaller aircraft types. It’s a misconception to believe that you can only become a cabin attendant if you’re beautiful. But, you do have to take good care of yourself. It is very important that you’re friendly and helpful.
If you meet all the requirements, you will qualify for training as a cabin attendant. That is, as long as KLM needs cabin crew at that point in time. The training takes six weeks. You learn all about providing service, different cultures, first aid and flight safety. Flight safety training is extremely important. For example, you learn how to open and close aircraft doors and how to give safety demonstrations. You also learn about what to do in case of an emergency. Flight safety is a top priority at KLM.
If you want to lead the cabin attendants, you can work towards becoming a purser and then a senior purser. In order to do so, you first have to have several years of experience and have taken supplementary examinations. KLM currently employs more than 9,000 cabin attendants.