Cabin crew is not paid to just smile at you and bring you meals. Apart from pouring your drinks, the flight attendants have a bigger role to play than you can imagine. They are literally the most important safety feature inside an aircraft. They are trained in strict protocols because when the crisis comes, they are ready to save your life from accidents, illness, or acts of terrorism.
Following are the inspirational stories of these real-life heroes:
1. The one with the baby
Aboard a Turkish Airlines plane, flight attendants promptly responded to a distress call where a 28-week pregnant woman started experiencing contractions. As soon as she went into labour, the cabin crew rushed to her aid and helped deliver her baby girl mid-flight.
The extraordinary birth took place at a height of 40,000 feet in the air and it’s remarkable how with their efforts, the cabin crew assisted a mother and her newborn child on the journey.
2. The one with the teenage girl
In 2017, heroic flight attendant, Shelia Fedrick saved a teenage girl from a human trafficker by leaving the girl a note in the plane’s bathroom.
Fedrick succeeded in saving an innocent life when the girl wrote back on the note saying she needed help. Fedrick knew something didn’t add up the moment she saw the girl with her travelling companion, a man whose defensive behaviour sent red flags flying for the stewardess.
After Fedrick’s incredible plan to leave a note in the washroom worked, the man was arrested at the airport and the girl was saved from a life of misery.
3. The one with the arsonist
Flight attendants are always quick to respond to their surroundings. The responsiveness of one such cabin crew was precisely what saved the lives of passengers aboard the Etihad flight 460 after an arsonist set off five lavatory fires.
The arsonist’s antics led to the emergency landing of the plane but not before the smoke alarms rang prompting the cabin crew to stand guard outside the washrooms and monitor passenger access.
4. The one with the heart attack patient
Aboard a plane that was flying 37,000 feet above the Atlantic Ocean, Karen Cornelius was saving a life.
In 2013, Cornelius rushed to the rescue of Stephen Clarke who was experiencing chest pains during a flight from Chicago to Manchester. She immediately contacted doctors in Arizona via MedLink (a satellite link that connects cabin crew to on-ground doctors) and followed their advice word-to-word which helped her perform an ECG on the patient. With her determination and focus, Cornelius kept the victim out of harm’s way till the plane landed, after which he was taken to a hospital.
Cornelius was later awarded for her remarkable service.
5. The one with the crash victims
When in 2013, the Asiana Airlines’ Boeing 777 flight crash-landed and caught fire on its final approach into the San Francisco International Airport, three flight attendants were thrown on the runway from the aircraft’s tail section while the rest risked their lives to rescue the passengers.
They freed the passengers by cutting off their seat belts with knives. Among them was flight attendant Lee Yoon Hye who carried out the passengers from the burning plane on her back.
6. The one with the hijackers
Cabin crew members, Santizo Arriola and Nicole Foren, became national heroes after they saved the lives of all 159 passengers aboard the CanJet Flight 918 that was hijacked in 2009.
Their presence of mind and bravery led to the release of all their passengers after Arriola convinced the hijackers to keep the crew and a security contractor as hostages. After the police arrived and marched into aircraft, Foren bravely seized the gun from the hijacker that he was holding to her head.
7. The one with the crash victims (part II)
In 2009, the US Airways flight 1549 was ditched by the pilot after both its engines lost thrust. Ditching is a term used for crash-landing of an aircraft into the water for which it is not specifically designed.
The aircraft flew down to the Hudson River at a survivable sink rate. After the crash, the flight attendants moved quickly to save the passengers.
Attendant Doreen Walsh became everyone’s saviour after she began evacuating the passengers. Walsh remained so focused at rescuing the passengers that she didn’t notice a large wound on her leg until she managed to escape herself.
So, next time, before you argue with your flight attendant over an upgrade or a cup of water, remember that they are capable of doing much more and respect them for that.