What is the chain of command onboard an aircraft?

Aug 2, 2020 | Cabin Crew

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(Last updated on: 13/12/2021)

You may have heard of the ‘chain of command’ onboard an aircraft. But what does this actually mean? It’s simply the hierarchy of members on board the flight. The pilot in command (Captain) will be at the top of this hierarchy, as they have ultimate responsibility during the flight. This is then usually followed by the First Officer(s) and senior Cabin Crew members. 

Some airline companies will follow this ‘chain of command’, which means as a member of Cabin Crew you will need to carry out orders based on those who have more authority than you. For example, you will need to follow the orders of a Senior Crew member, and you may also need to go to them for any help you need during the flight.

Other companies, such as easyJet, follow a ‘flat’ structure. In a company like this, your place in a hierarchy is less defined and you would be able to approach any member of staff. 

What is the chain of command onboard an aircraft?

So, why is this ‘chain of command’ important for Cabin Crew? As a member of Cabin Crew working for an airline who follows a chain of command, you would need to know who is above you so that you can go to them for help. You may also need to go them in a situation where further authority is required.

For example, when dealing with passenger conflicts it’s important that Cabin Crew follow the chain of command. First of all, you should try and deal with the issue yourself if it is possible to do so. However, if the issue continues to persist you would then need to report it to a Senior Crew Member, who would be above you in the chain of command. The Senior Crew member can then look at the situation, and if it is still unresolved it would then need to be reported to the captain, who is above them in the chain of command. 

It’s important to follow the chain of command, as Cabin Crew should firstly try and resolve the issue themselves first. If this is not possible then the Flight Manager can assert more authority and may have previous experience dealing with a similar problem. Ultimately, the Captain is in charge of the aircraft. So, if a problem is very serious with a passenger they can decide to remove them from the aircraft. 

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Dr Hayley Stainton

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I’ve been travelling, studying and teaching travel and tourism since I was 16. Through Tourism Teacher I share my knowledge on the principles and practice of travel and tourism management from both an academic and practical perspective.

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