Marking World First Aid Day this month, Emirates celebrates 3,000 new cabin crew recruits who are now equipped with aviation first aid skills after successfully graduating from the airline’s cabin crew training programme.

As part of the recruitment drive this year, Emirates has already hired 3,000 new cabin crew who will undergo eight weeks of ab-initio training, which includes a myriad of courses from security to service, safety and emergency to hospitality, and the critically important medical response training. Far from the erroneous perception of cabin crew just serving meals and looking glamourous, Emirates crew are trained to manage a range of situations on board, and this includes learning essential life-saving skills. Using a combination of practical, in-situ, classroom and online learning, new recruits are taught invaluable lessons which prepare them for life, and to save the lives of others.

Medical training is provided to new cabin crew on all aspects of first aid including dealing with a collapsed casualty who has fainted, managing choking, recognising and managing breathing difficulties like asthma and hyperventilation, sudden illnesses like chest pain, stroke, low blood sugar, allergic reactions, deep vein thrombosis, barotrauma, decompression illness, and substance misuse. Crew are also taught how to deal with injuries like fractures, burns, and amputations, as well as communicable diseases, the importance of infection control procedures, and on-board hygiene.

The new recruits are schooled in the life-saving skills of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), where they practice on patient simulation mannequins, and on how to use an Automated External Defibrillator (AED) machine properly. Using a specially designed medical mannequin, cabin crew also experience what it’s like to deliver a newborn baby on board, as well as managing death. All training is provided by certified aviation first aid instructors at the Emirates Cabin Crew Training Centre in Dubai.

In July 2022 alone, Emirates cabin crew saved two passengers from cardiac arrest on two different flights. A potentially fatal incident, cardiac arrest causes the heart to suddenly stop beating. The lack of blood flow to the brain and other organs can cause a person to lose consciousness, become disabled or die if not treated immediately. Emirates cabin crew used a combination of CPR techniques and a defibrillator to save both passengers’ lives and kept them stable until they could receive medical attention from emergency services on the ground. Both passengers are now recovering well.

When there is a medical incident on board, cabin crew are supported by the flight deck crew (Captain/Pilot and First Officer/co-pilot) and Ground Medical Support. Ground Medical Support is a team based in Emirates Headquarters, who are available 24/7 by satellite communication to support and advise crew around the world on medical incidents on board.

From a psychological perspective, cabin crew also receive training on gaining consent to assist passengers, showing empathy to the sick and their families, staying calm, keeping the casualty informed at all stages and being present with the casualty until the situation improves. They also learn how to break difficult news when required. After any incident, the cabin crew are also provided with support for their own mental health, through Emirates’ Employee Assistance Programme, the Peer Support service, and Sehaty – Emirates’ employee wellbeing programme.

Cabin crew knowledge and skills are put to the test each year at a recurrent training, and crew are required to complete a 1.5-hour online course, 2-hour practical session for CPR, AED, severe bleeding, and severe allergy management, with assessments for each. The experienced crew also participate in a flight simulation exercise annually to ensure they are fully equipped to handle any medical incidents and their knowledge is regularly refreshed.