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Behind the scenes: How Etihad trains its flight attendants

Oct. 30, 2022
6 min read
Inflatable exit stairs at Etihad flight attendant training center
Behind the scenes: How Etihad trains its flight attendants
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Most jobs require some form of specialized training, and becoming a flight attendant is certainly one of them.

Principally, flight attendants must learn all about the detailed safety procedures and mechanisms on board an aircraft. From fire safety and operating an exit door to deploying a life raft and other procedures, budding flight attendants have lots to learn.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

That’s before even considering mastering the inflight service procedures, which can be quite extensive on some of the world’s top airlines.

I recently had a chance to visit Etihad’s headquarters, just a stone's throw away from the airline's mega-hub at the Abu Dhabi International Airport (AUH) in the United Arab Emirates.

The office itself is quite fascinating for any aviation enthusiast, with plenty of model planes, aircraft parts and aviation-themed memorabilia on display.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

In addition to meetings with airline management, I also toured the on-site aviation training center.

Becoming a flight attendant begins in the classroom. That’s where you learn many of the basics before getting some hands-on experience at the aviation training center.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

There are many lecture rooms throughout the campus at Etihad’s headquarters, and they look just like something you’d find at a university. Sessions here cover many of the basics of aircraft safety, first aid and service procedures, and they’re usually led by senior pursers and specially trained facilitators.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

After completing the “core curriculum,” if you will, it’s time to get hands-on experience in the various training simulators.

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Of course, an airline could theoretically conduct this type of training using real planes at the airport, but that’d be prohibitively expensive. Not only would the plane have to be on the ground (and not flying with paying passengers), but it would also require a substantial amount of money to practice with its exit slides.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

That's because once you deploy a raft on a real airplane, folding it up and putting it back on the plane isn’t as easy as packing up an inflatable sleeping bag or air mattress.

Instead, most major airlines have simulations of all these required safety and service procedures at a flight training center. Smaller airlines may not have as extensive of an aviation training center as Etihad, so the Abu Dhabi-based carrier also rents time at its facility to other carriers.

Mocking up an entire airplane at a training center would cost millions, so these training simulations are conducted on modules meant to replicate smaller subsections of an airplane.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Take exit door training for instance. Etihad has a few different types of doors at its aviation training center, each resembling an aircraft and door type that it operates in its fleet. The Airbus A320 door trainer features three rows of seats with an over-wing exit door, as well as a standard exit door at the front.

Here, instructors can simulate any type of emergency situation and teach new hires how to operate the door safely in all conditions.

Behind this training module is a fire safety demonstration. That’s where flight attendants receive hands-on experience with fire extinguishers and learn how to properly don a life vest, which is demonstrated on a mannequin.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Some emergencies require evacuating a fully loaded aircraft in as little as 90 seconds. This requires efficient use of the slides and exit doors and is simulated in what looks like a gymnastics center.

Instead of beams and vaults, there are two exit slides that land on padded mats. Here, flight attendants learn how to evacuate an aircraft efficiently.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

There’s even a special version of this trainer designed for the Airbus A380, the world’s largest passenger aircraft. Even though Etihad’s A380s are still in long-term storage (with no update yet on whether these planes might return to service), the airline still has training modules for this whale of a jet.

Some emergency evacuations occur on land while others are on the water. Flight attendants learn about water landings in the classroom, then turn their learning into practice at the swimming pool.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

To simulate a water landing, Etihad’s training facility has a massive pool with slide rafts that have already been deployed.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

While that covers much of the safety-related training, Etihad’s flight attendants also have lots to learn about service delivery. The Abu Dhabi-based carrier is regarded as one of the world’s best, partially thanks to a well-above-average onboard service delivered by flight attendants.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

To learn more about how to deliver service, flight attendants practice in cabin mockups at the aviation training center. Etihad has a few miniature versions of first-, business- and economy-class cabins for this purpose.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

While the seats themselves aren’t fully functional (as they’re not connected to power), these cabin mockups are a great way to practice how to deliver meals, ask for drink orders and operate galley carts.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

The galleys and kitchen are exact replicas of what you’d find on the plane itself. The airline has training cabins for the Airbus A320, as well as the Boeing 777 and 787 Dreamliner, which comprise much of the carrier's fleet.

ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

After learning all the safety and service delivery procedures, flight attendants then complete multiple ground-based examinations to ensure competence with each of the key responsibilities.

Assuming that they pass, they get their wings and start flying as a trainee on a few revenue flights.

Pilot training happens in these flight simulators. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

Within weeks, they officially join the ranks of Etihad flight attendants and continue to return back to the aviation training center for recurring training and to learn about updated procedures and guidelines.

Pilot training happens in these flight simulators. ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY

So, the next time you hear that “flight attendants are primarily here for your safety,” now you have an inside look at what that means — and what how they learn to ensure it.

Featured image by ZACH GRIFF/THE POINTS GUY
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
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4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
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    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

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    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

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  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees