The first cabin crew was a reportedly a man working on a German Zeppelin in 1911.  The first airliners were actually mail planes with a few extra spaces for passengers.  On these flights, you had to take care of yourself as the plane crew only included the pilots, and they were too busy flying the plane that they didn’t have time to tend to the passengers.

Imperial Airways a UK airline started recruiting cabin boys in the 1920’s.  These crew members were usually teenagers or small men and were mainly on board to load luggage, reassure nervous passengers and help people get around the plane.

In 1930 a 25 year old registered nurse named Ellen Church along with Steve Stimpson of Boeing Air Transport, came up with a new kind of flight attendant.  Church proposed that all cabin crew should be registered nurses as they can then take care of any passengers that may fall sick.  Boeing, then an airline as well as a plane manufacturer, hired eight nurses for a 3 month trial run.  Other airlines soon followed suit, hiring only nurses to serve as cabin crew during their flights.  This in turn soon became an integral part of the airline industry.  The requirement to be a registered nurse was relaxed at the start of World War II, as so many nurses were enlisted into the armed forces.

Until fairly recently air cabin crew were under strict control.  They were not allowed to be married and there was strict restraints on their weight and features.  Their clothing was similarly restrictive, the majority of airlines required their cabin crew to wear form-fitting uniforms with white gloves and high heels throughout most of the flight.  Although it was thought of as a perfectly respectable occupation for younge women to have, early cabin crew members were generally underpaid, had minimal benefits and were in a subservient role to the pilots.  During the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s cabin crew unions, as well as representatives from the equal rights movement, brought about sweeping changes in the airline industry which addressed these problems.

Since the 1970’s the policy of major airlines has been to hire both men and women for the role of cabin crew and have no restrictions on weight as long as the person is not overly over the average weight for their height and that it does not pose any health problems.  The airlines also recognised their cabin crew as a crucial component of the air-travel industry.  After all, to most passengers, the cabin crew members are the face of the airline.

Infamous Braniff Airline Air Strip Commercial

1965 Braniff Airlines shocked the airline industry with their air strip commercial.  Fortunately the Cabin Crew role is portrayed in  far more professional manner these days.