Last Updated on April 4, 2022
Cabin crew have a duel role to provide both safety and comfort to passengers.
As a safety issue the legal minimum number of flight attendants is set by the aviation authorities in the country where your airline is based. Aircraft are not permitted to fly if they don’t have the legal minimum number of cabin crew on board.
Beyond safety, the maximum number of cabin crew an airline will use to keep passengers serviced and comfortable is determined by the airline and their profitability calculations.
Extra cabin crew will keep passengers more comfortable, but the flight will cost more money to operate.
So let’s find out how many flight attendants you an expect to see on your next flight.
Number Cabin Crew Members Required On A Commercial Flight
In the United states it’s the job of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to set the minimum number of Flight Attendants that are legally required to be on board every flight. The number of cabin crew required depends on how many passengers are on the plane and how big it is.
So first here are the legal requirements for flight attendants on commercial flights in the United States.
|Plane Maximum Payload Capacity||Passengers||Number Of Flight Attendants Required|
|Less Than 7500 lbs||Less Than 19||0|
|Less Than 7500 lbs||19 – 50||1|
|More Than 7500 lbs||Less than 9||0|
|More Than 7500 lbs||9 – 50||1|
|All Planes||50 – 100||2|
|All Planes||101 – 150||3|
|All Planes||151 – 200||4|
|All Planes||201 – 250||5|
|All Planes||251 – 300||6|
|All Planes||301 – 350||7|
|All Planes||351 – 400||8|
|All Planes||401 – 450||9|
|All Planes||451 – 500||10|
The rules are slightly different for light planes, and planes with only a few passengers might not need any flight attendants at all.
But as a rule of thumb we can say that one flight attendant is required for flights with less than 50 passengers. And one additional flight attendant is required for every 50 passengers.
So a plane with between 51 and 100 passengers like a regional Bombardier jet needs a minimum number of two flight attendants.
Planes with between 101 and 150 passengers are legally required to have at least three flight attendants on board.
And planes with between 151 and 200 passengers will have at least four cabin crew members.
The popular Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 planes usually have less than 200 seats and are legally required to have at least four flight attendants on board.
Airlines Usually Have More Cabin Crew Than The Legal Minimum Number
An airplane is a little like a flying cafe or restaurant and airlines don’t only make money by selling you the flight.
Airlines often want to sell you food and drinks, perfume or duty free cigarettes and alcohol. They want you to have a good experience so that you will choose to fly with them again.
To provide a higher level of service airlines will often have more crew members than the legal minimum.
Airlines strive to get the balance right between high service levels and profitability. More crew members means higher operating costs.
American Airlines recently announced that they would be cutting the number of flight attendants from 6 down to 5 on it’s transcontinental A321 flights.
And on their Boeing 777-300 jets which have 304 seats they are cutting the number of crew down from 13 to 11. That’s still 4 more than the legal minimum number of flight attendants required.
In addition to the legal requirements there will always be extra flight attendants on long haul flights.
This is because there needs to be enough be enough cabin crew to split shifts ensuring that no individual completes more than 14 hours in the cabin.
Passenger safety is paramount, and the flight crew need breaks and rest time to make sure they stay alert in case of an emergency evacuation.
The Bottom Line
The airline industry is regulated and one crew member is required per 50 passengers to demonstrate the emergency equipment and deal with emergency situations.
So larger aircraft have more crew members and seating capacity is the main factor in determining the minimum size of flight crews.
Profitability is the main factor in determining the maximum number of cabin crew you will see on board.
The price of your ticket will have some bearing on how many flight attendants an airline can afford to have on the flight.
Flights with a longer duration will have more crew on board so they can rotate.
Full service airlines aim to provide a luxury experience and will staff their planes with more crew than the legal minimum to provide higher levels of service.
And even low cost airlines will usually have extra staff since they make money from selling you food and drinks on the flight.