For decades, international airlines have hired local staff and cabin crew in some of the destinations they fly to. The idea is that ‘international cabin crew’ can bridge the cultural divide that sometimes occur, hopefully providing a better service for passengers and providing a friendly ‘local’ face on an otherwise foreign airline.
Middle East airlines like Emirates and Etihad take the idea of a multicultural cabin crew team to the extreme – carefully balancing the nationalities of the cabin crew they hire based on what destinations they serve. Other’s like Saudia and Gulf Air simply hire foreign flight attendants because cultural customs make it hard to find local talent.
But outside of the Middle East, it’s increasingly difficult for international cabin crew to find foreign airlines that are hiring. Some airlines in the U.S. like American, Delta and United occasionally hire Japenese and Chinese staff. Likewise, Japan Airlines, ANA and others also employ European staff.
Yet the opportunities just don’t exist like they used to. Many airlines have significantly reduced their international bases and when recruitment does open, the competition can be incredibly tough.
Those who are lucky enough to get through the recruitment process, get to enjoy the benefits of staying in their home country and normally a more generous salary than the airline’s other cabin crew. That’s because they generally fly to far fewer destinations.
It’s probably unsurprising then that a recent European recruitment drive for new cabin crew by a little known Chinese airline drew so much interest. When Beijing Capital Airlines put out a small advert for Portuguese and Spanish flight attendants, the airline received over 1,000 applications for just 40 open positions.
The airline hasn’t been around for long but its expanding fast. It was relaunched in 2010 after spending the first 15 years of its existence as a small, regional Chinese airline. Its now owned by the larger Hainan Airlines and operates direct flights between several Chinese cities to Europe, Australia and North America.
Having launched a direct link between Beijing and Lisbon in July, a recruiter for Capital Airlines said they chose Lisbon for the first stop on their cabin crew recruitment campaign. Assessment Day’s were held in early November and more may be planned soon.
The recruiter told us: “We will be diversifying our cabin crew team through the recruitment program, in a move to better serve our passengers and create a distinctive crew service system.”
“A move to diversify the nationalities of the flight staff, and, in the case of the new service, a focus on recruitment of attendants of Portuguese nationality, will help improve the service experience of the route,” she explained.
A second recruitment drive was also held in Spain as part of an effort by the airline to “diversify” its cabin crew team and “create a distinctive crew service system.” Capital Airlines is the first Chinese airline to have ever recruited cabin crew in Portugal.
The recruiter says the airline is looking for both men and women to join its team. Those who were lucky enough to get through the recruitment process will travel to Beijing to take part in an extensive 70-day training programme – which includes learning Chinese!
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.