Cabin safety contributes to the prevention of accidents and incidents, through proactive safety management.
An aircraft cabin is the section of an aircraft in which passengers travel. Most modern commercial aircraft are pressurized, as cruising altitudes are high enough such that the surrounding atmosphere is too thin for passengers and crew to breathe.
In commercial air travel, particularly in airliners, cabins may be divided into several parts. These can include travel class sections in medium and large aircraft, areas for flight attendants, the galley, and storage for in-flight service.
Seats are mostly arranged in rows and aisles. The higher the travel class, the more space is provided. Cabins of the different travel classes are often divided by curtains, sometimes called class dividers. Passengers are not usually allowed to visit higher travel class cabins in commercial flights.
Some aircraft cabins contain passenger entertainment systems. Short and medium haul cabins tend to have no or shared screens, whereas long and ultra-long haul flights often contain personal screens.
ICAO CABIN SAFETY PROGRAMME
The Flight Operations Section is responsible for the development and maintenance of standards and recommended practices, as well as guidance material related to cabin safety.
ICAO’s CABIN SAFETY PROGRAMME FOCUSES ON:
- Regulations relating to cabin operations.
- Operator’s procedures and documentation.
- Cabin crew training and qualifications (including facilities and devices).
- Human performance.
- Design and manufacturing.
- Equipment and furnishings on board aircraft.
- The operational environment.
Cabin safety contributes to the prevention of accidents and incidents, the protection of the aircraft’s occupants, through proactive safety management, including hazard identification and safety risk management, and the increase of survivability in the event of an emergency situation.
THE SAFETY ROLE OF CABIN CREW
Traditionally, the role of cabin crew members focused on the evacuation of an aircraft in the event of an accident. However, cabin crew members also play an important proactive role in managing safety, which can contribute to the prevention of accidents. This role includes, but is not limited to:
- Preventing incidents from escalating in the cabin, such as smoke or fire.
- Informing the flight crew of abnormal situations observed in the cabin or relating to the aircraft, such as pressurization problems, engine anomalies, and contamination of critical surfaces.
- Preventing unlawful interference and managing passenger events that can compromise safety and security of the flight, such as hijackings.
Cabin Safety Description
Augmenting rule making and advisory material by ICAO and national aviation authorities is the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which regularly updates the IATA Cabin Operations Safety Best Practices Guide.
This “central reference source for industry-agreed best practices” has been designed to provide airlines with facts, data analysis, issues, trends and expert opinions during creation and updating of their safety procedures and policies.
IATA’s Cabin Operations Safety Guide provides a central reference source for industry best practices, sample policies and procedures as well as recommended practices and regulations such as ICAO’s Annex 6 relating to the delivery of safe and efficient cabin operations, according to IATA.
The latest version of the guide, edition 7 published in 2022, provides updates to existing procedures, and new guidance for root cause analysis for cabin safety-related incidents and reports; accessibility and passengers with disabilities, to align with other IATA activities; and accountability and authority definitions to align with the IATA Operational Safety Audit (IOSA), which is required of all member carriers.
One useful meaning of cabin safety can be implied from ICAO’s emphasis on cabin crews — i.e., flight attendants — and their central role.
“This role includes, but is not limited to, preventing incidents from escalating in the cabin, such as smoke or fire; informing the flight crew of abnormal situations observed in the cabin or relating to the aircraft, such as pressurization problems, engine anomalies, and contamination of critical surfaces; and, preventing unlawful interference and managing passenger events that can compromise safety and security of the flight, such as hijackings.”
The following definitions applied in the latest IATA Cabin Operations Safety Best Practices Guide also tie into the centrality of cabin crews:
1- Cabin crew
“Crew members designated to perform safety duties in the passenger cabin in accordance with the requirements of the operator and the Authority; qualified to perform cabin functions in emergency situations and enact procedures to ensure a safe and orderly evacuation of passengers when necessary.
Other personnel who are designated to perform non-safety related duties on board are not considered cabin crew members. (Equivalent terms: flight attendant, cabin attendant)”
“The state in which risks associated with aviation activities, related to, or in direct support of the operation of aircraft, are reduced and controlled to an acceptable level. (New definition from ICAO’s Doc 9859, Safety Management Manual, Fourth Edition, 2018)
“The pilot designated by the operator as being in command of the aircraft and charged with responsibility for the operational control and safe conduct of a flight.”
4- Senior cabin crew member
“Cabin crew member appointed by the operator to act as chief/lead of the cabin crew. The senior cabin crew member takes orders directly from the pilot-in-command.”