Job Description of a Steward

Updated February 21, 2017

Stewards are a valuable part of an aeroplane's crew, and help flights run smoothly from start to finish. The job involves much more than just serving meals, requiring safety training and a calm head during an emergency. Though the job can be physically challenging, the rewards of travel are great.

Before the Flight

Before a plane takes off, stewards are already hard at work. First, they prep the cabin, stocking safety cards and airsick bags, and make sure the cabin is clean and ready to be used. Then they assist passengers with boarding and storing their bags. Stewards will check to make sure everyone is buckled up and will demonstrate the use of safety equipment before letting the captain know the passengers are ready for take off.

Safety and Comfort

During the flight, stewards help maintain a safe atmosphere on board the aircraft. They are trained in CPR and first aid so they are prepared to assist with any emergencies during the flight, and make sure people remain calm--and seated--during turbulence and rough weather. Stewards also provide special assistance to kids, elderly people and any other passengers who might require special assistance during their flight. According to AV Jobs, stewards are responsible not only for passenger safety, but comfort, which requires the ability to "remain pleasant and provide quality service" even in the face of rude or difficult passengers.

Food Service

Perhaps the most well-known duty of a steward is food service. During a flight, stewards sell or give passengers pre-cooked meals, checking lists to make sure anyone with special food requirements-- such as allergies or religious obligations--is served properly. Stewards also sell alcohol, checking IDs to make sure minors don't drink, and must take inventory of alcoholic drinks upon landing. Carrying out typical duties requires stewards to "lift heavy objects from the floor to above shoulder height and push heavy objects," according to AV jobs, making even a short flight physically challenging. Airlines have fitness standards for stewards, often requiring stewards be able to lift, push and pull up to 34 Kilogram. Some, such as Air Wisconsin, have a maximum height requirement of 5 foot 10 inches.

Hours and Pay

Steward jobs can mean working long shifts and spending much time in airports, and away from home. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stewards "usually fly 65 to 90 hours a month and generally spend another 50 hours a month on the ground preparing planes for flights, writing reports following completed flights, and waiting for planes to arrive." International flights can require working up to 14 hours in one shift, though stewards are required to be given nine hours rest after flights. When flights require stewards to stay overnight, airlines will pay for their hotels and meals.

Benefits and Safety

Steward jobs can be hard work, and according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stewards "experienced a much higher than average work-related injury and illness rate...physical injuries can occur when opening overhead compartments or while pushing heavy service carts. In addition, medical problems can arise from irregular sleeping and eating patterns...working in a pressurised environment, and breathing recycled air." Stewards must remain pleasant even in the face of rude, irritated passengers, and shifts can require standing for lengthy periods. However, free flights and the opportunity to travel are a unique benefit, making the job of steward a rewarding one.

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About the Author

Hallie Engel is a food and lifestyle writer whose work has appeared in several international publications. She served as a restaurant critic for "Time Out Abu Dhabi" and "Time Out Amsterdam" and has also written about food culture in the United Arab Emirates for "M Magazine." She holds a bachelor's degree in communications and film studies from University of Amsterdam.