I think this question might be best answered by going through the job duties of a flight attendant, and then determining which might be automated.
The primary duty of all flight attendant is to operate the emergency equipment on the aircraft and manage the passengers during any emergency situation that arises. As such, there are regulations that govern the number of Flight Attendants required per seat or per passenger flying (depending on the type of flight plan filed).
While you could certainly have automated assistance (and in fact, there are some automated features in use, such as assisted lighting, pre-recorded announcements) I do not believe this duty could be fully automated.
For example, Flight Attendants are CPR and AED certified, given drills to inflate those huge life rafts in water situations and then pull themselves and others into them, as well as have the leadership training to ensure that every possible passenger makes it off a plane safely, and quickly.
Here are the regulations that govern this:
For aircraft operating under FAA regulations:
Except as specified in § 121.393 and § 121.394, each certificate holder must provide at least the following flight attendants on board each passenger-carrying airplane when passengers are on board:
- For airplanes having a maximum payload capacity of more than 7,500 pounds and having a seating capacity of more than 9 but less than 51 passengers—one flight attendant.
- For airplanes having a maximum payload capacity of 7,500 pounds or less and having a seating capacity of more than 19 but less than 51 passengers—one flight attendant.
- For airplanes having a seating capacity of more than 50 but less than 101 passengers—two flight attendants.
- For airplanes having a seating capacity of more than 100 passengers—two flight attendants plus one additional flight attendant for each unit (or part of a unit) of 50 passenger seats above a seating capacity of 100 passengers.
14 CFR Part 91.533 covers flights operated under “Part 91” regulations:
§ 91.533 Flight attendant requirements.
No person may operate an airplane unless at least the following number of flight attendants are on board the airplane:
- For airplanes having more than 19 but less than 51 passengers on board, one flight attendant.
- For airplanes having more than 50 but less than 101 passengers on board, two flight attendants.
- For airplanes having more than 100 passengers on board, two flight attendants plus one additional flight attendant for each unit (or part of a unit) of 50 passengers above 100.
- No person may serve as a flight attendant on an airplane when required by paragraph (a) of this section unless that person has demonstrated to the pilot in command familiarity with the necessary functions to be performed in an emergency or a situation requiring emergency evacuation and is capable of using the emergency equipment installed on that airplane.
2. Food Service
The secondary duty of a Flight Attendant is Food Service. This might have a chance to be entirely automated, and I have seen it done to good effect on some overnight flights.
The galley areas could be replaced with a credit-card accessible automat, and food and drinks could be distributed self serve.
3. Customer Service
Having a person greet you with a smile, or offer you a hot towel – I don’t think that can be automated.
4. Janitorial Service
One of the lesser duties is trash collection during flights as well as cleaning up any messes and/or spills that occur on the plane, including in the lavatories. Perhaps if there were some trash compactors built into the seats so that the passengers did not have the burden of going anywhere to throw their trash, and the lavatories had a self-sanitize feature, this could be automated. Unfortunately I do not see any way at this time to remove the human element from the job.
Other FA’s, am I missing anything?
Originally Posted: https://www.quora.com/Automation-How-automatable-are-flight-attendants
Originally Posted On: 2015-02-09