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The Optimum Cabin Crew Team Sizes For Narrowbody & Widebody Aircraft

The number of cabin crew on an aircraft depends on a number of things. There are lots of rules and regulations but these can be determined by the aircraft manufacturer, an aviation authority or in-cooperation with the airline itself. Let’s take a look at what makes the ideal number of crew onboard.


Regulations

The International Civil Aviation Organization or ICAO does not specify the number of cabin crew on an aircraft. They only refer to the number of passengers onboard and the number of exits. The European Aviation Safety Agency or EASA states that the number of cabin crew should be established during the certification process of the aircraft. The Federal Aviation Administration bases the crew number of crew on the size and weight of the aircraft and passenger capacity.

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Numbers

In most airlines across the world it is based on the ratio of one crew member per 50 passengers. The Civil Aviation Safety Authority or CASA in Australia previously had a lower number of one per 36 passengers. However, in New Zealand for example, the number of crew carried is dependent on the number of airline seats fitted and in Canada it is based on the amount of passengers carried rather than seats, but has a ratio of one to 40. Many small commercial aircraft such as the Dash 8 or ATR42 only operate with one crew member. On aircraft with under 20 seats no cabin crew member is required.

Examples

A narrowbodied aircraft such as the A320 with 180 seats would need a minimun of 4 cabin crew if fully occupied. If there are under 149 passengers traveling that can be reduced to 3 crew, according to which rules apply (the passenger number can be capped). If the Airbus A320 has 140 seats, only 3 crew are needed. On a Boeing 737 with business class configuration of 55 seats, only 2 cabin crew are required, one per set of doors. A normal B737 would need a minimum of 3 or 4 crew members depending on type. On a widebodied B767 (3 class) with 245 seats, should have a minimum of 6 crew. A B747 would have a minimum of 10 crew. An A380 should have a minimum crew of 16. The actual number needed also depends on the aircraft type, configuration, the number and type of exit doors and company/authority policies.

Safety vs service

Of course, safety is the most important concern, so the major factor here is that the aircraft needs to be evacuated by the cabin crew in 90 seconds. From accident reports we can see that the 1: 50 rule does work, for example in the case of ‘The miracle on the Hudson’. There were 3 cabin crew on the Airbus A320. Unfortunately over the years, many airlines have reduced crew to the bare minimum and relied on this ratio. Service has inevitably also beed reduced in costcutting practices, therefore less cabin crew are needed. So, it may have been the norm to have 5 crew on an A320, and 8 on a B767, that would rarely happen now. The only exception to the rule are companies like Emirates who aften have 22 cabin crew onboard the A380. Singapore Airlines also tend to operate with extra cabin crew.

emirates-a380-a6-eut-20170929-xfw-4-620987

Emirates has 22 cabin crew on average per A380 flight. Photo: Emirates

Ideal

The ideal scenario is one crew member per exit door and per jump seat as per the original aircraft configuration. This allows for all exit doors to operate efficiently in case of an evacuation and with more crew avialable to deal with an emergency, which can never be a bad thing. In terms of service, the same thing applies, if you have more cabin crew onboard, the service standard will probably be higher.

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