How Many Crew Are Required On An Aircraft?

Flight crew members play a critical role in ensuring operational and passenger safety on commercial aircraft. This is something that virtually all travelers take for granted, but the number of cabin crew required onboard aircraft is something that many of us overlook. So what are the legal requirements for the minimum number of flight crew required to be onboard commercial flights?

Lufthansa, Employees, Too Many
How many crew are required on each aircraft? Photo: Oliver Roesler via Lufthansa

Successful evacuation

One of the central reasons that a minimum number of cabin crew are required is that these individuals are essentially involved in the successful evacuation of aircraft. This means they are fundamental to the safe operation of any aircraft.

As is often the case in the airline industry, the number of cabin crew required on a particular aircraft is subject to various conditions and international legal requirements. Both of these factors can differ quite significantly, depending on the jetliner in operation, along with the region of jurisdiction.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has put together guidance related to the safe and expeditious evacuation of aircraft, which are contained in a document that the organization refers to as ICAO Standards and Recommended Practices.

Safety precautions are essential when deciding cabin crew numbers. Photo: airBaltic

However, as the organization notes, this document does not provide a strict numeric value. Rather, carriers are required to approve the amount of crew in each aircraft via the operator’s country. The ICAO notes that the ratio of cabin crew members to passengers and exits should be a central area of concern. Still, there are no specific stipulations regarding the number of cabin crew that must be in place.

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Different rules

Of course, that’s not the end of the story. Several other regulators are involved in the airline industry, each of which has different rules regarding cabin crew numbers. According to the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), the minimum number of cabin crew should be established during the certification process of every aircraft. Again, this is open to negotiation based on a number of legal considerations.

There are all manner of regulations relating to how this number should be decided, and where it should be recorded once a figure has been established. But there are no hard and fast rules regarding precisely what number of cabin crew should be onboard a particular aircraft.

Flight crews vary from one airline to another. Photo: Air Astana

However, the FAA does make specific stipulations in this area. Again, the organization is keen to emphasize that the amount of cabin crew placed on any aircraft should be dependent on the size and weight of the airplane, along with the total capacity of passengers involved.

But there are clear figures involved in the FAA guidelines, with each carrier required to provide at least a minimum number of flight attendants onboard each passenger-carrying aircraft. This number depends on the length of the flight, the number of passengers, and other key issues.

Emirates, Airbus A380, Delivery
Virtually all commercial flights legally require at least one member of cabin crew. Photo: Emirates

FAA guidelines

The FAA regulations can be listed as follows:

  • Airplanes with a maximum payload capacity of more than 7,500 pounds, and a seating capacity between nine and 51 passengers, require one flight attendant.
  • Airplanes with a maximum payload capacity of 7,500 pounds or less, and a seating capacity between 19 and 51 passengers, require one flight attendant.
  • Airplanes that have a seating capacity between 50 and 101 passengers require two flight attendants.
  • Airplanes with a seating capacity in excess of 100 passengers require two flight attendants, plus one additional flight attendant for each unit of 50 passenger seats above a seating capacity of 100 passengers; i.e., 150 passengers would require three flight attendants, 200 passengers would require four flight attendants, etc.

While these regulations do not apply across the board in all locations, they can nevertheless be taken as a rough guide to likely requirements on any commercial flight.