See inside a flight attendant training center where aspiring crew members learn how to evacuate an airline and provide customer service

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  • The airline industry is in need of thousands of flight attendants to keep up with post-COVID demand.
  • Aspiring crew members must go through vigorous training to learn things like slide deployments and medical treatment.
  • Insider toured Air New Zealand’s training facility in Auckland to learn more about the specific courses.
The airline industry is quickly getting back to pre-pandemic levels, with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) predicting an industry-wide recovery of 103% by 2024.

Here, flight attendants will practice going down the slide, as well as do swim tests and get on a real raft in case of water landings.

Slide deployment training — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
The slide was sturdy and hard, with pads at the bottom.

Trainees will also learn how to operate the doors on widebody planes, including the Boeing 777 and Boeing 787.

Evacuation door training — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
In addition to emergency procedures, the A320 mock cabin is used for normal operations, like pre-flight briefings, including passengers with disabilities and unaccompanied minors.

Inside the A320 mock cabin — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
“Its better to be in this environment because trainees get an idea of how everything feels and moves, so it’s good situational awareness,” Gerritsen-Fridh told Insider.

Trainers demonstrating commands and hand signals — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
Trainers demonstrating commands and hand signals.

ANZ pilots will also receive emergency procedures training in Athena, but there is a separate simulator center for their flight training, O’Leary told Insider.

The Air New Zealand pilots who flew the inaugural flight from New York to Auckland in September.
The Air New Zealand pilots who flew the inaugural flight from New York to Auckland in September.

Behind Athena is a fire trainer named Prometheus.

Prometheus fire trainer — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
This is where cabin crew and pilots get practical experience putting out fires in things like ovens, overhead bins, and laptops.

Inside the fire trainer with a laptop fire — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
Gerritsen-Fridh demonstrated putting out a laptop fire, which included sounding an alarm and using a fire extinguisher.

The trainer putting out the fire — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
While ANZ will do as much in Athena as possible, customer service training has separate classrooms with different mockups.

Inside the premium cabin mockup — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
This mockup had premium economy and business class seats.

Here, new and current flight attendants will receive specific training for things like passenger interaction, serving business class, and using galley carts.

Inside the premium cabin mock up — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
Flight attendants can upgrade to business after six months of employment and must learn special procedures, like plating, O’Leary said.

Flying Air New Zealand in business class.
An Air New Zealand business class flight attendant converting the seat into a bed.

During our visit, we saw veteran flight attendants in the business class mockup learning about new wine offerings onboard so they can explain to customers.

Flight attendant training — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
Also in the room were glass dishes and amenity kits, which are used in premium cabins.

Dining dish-ware — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
O’Leary told Insider that customer service training is not required by law, but ANZ requires it annually to maintain a high standard of service.

Diagram of a seat layout — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
A diagram of a seat map on the wall of the academy.

In another room was an economy mockup, where new hires learn how to service the cabin, including the Skycouch.

Inside the economy mock cabin — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.

I flew on the world’s 4th longest flight in a ‘Skycouch’ — an economy seat that converts into a bed — and it was a lifesaver on the 16-hour journey

 

After seeing the mockups, we learned about one of the most important parts of flight attendant training — medical and first aid.

Trainees in the medical course — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
A class of trainees working on their medical course during our tour.

Walking to the classroom, I noticed people wearing flight attendant uniforms, which O’Leary told Insider is required starting week three, except during medical and security training.

A flight attendant in their uniform walking through the facility — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
To be hired as an ANZ flight attendant, applicants must already have their CPR license and must complete a two-day external course with St. John before training begins.

CPR dummy — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
“What we do here at the facility is the add-on portion of medical training that is specifically in an aviation environment,” O’Leary explained.

Desks and a small cabin mockup in the classroom — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
There were desks and a small cabin mockup in the classroom.

ANZ has three medical trainers that are EMT qualified, meaning they are the best of the best for this highly important course. O’Leary said trainees can ask in-depth questions to give the context of why they perform certain treatments.

Trainees in the medical course — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
Aircrew trainer Susan McCapra is one of the specially qualified medical professionals. She can provide detailed explanations on how diabetes, for example, works in the body, which offers more context for trainees rather than just telling them to follow generic instructions.

Medical training is two days and future flight attendants learn things like using oxygen tanks, creating an airway, and using epidural pens.

Air tubes and other equipment —  Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
Aircrew trainer Susan McCapra, who is one of the three people with special medical qualifications, explained that aviation medicine is all hands-on learning: “We take them through all the equipment we have and they go around in groups to practice.”

One of the trainees learning how to attach the oxygen tank to the seat — "It's all hands-on learning," she said. "We take them through all the equipment we have and they go around in groups to practice."
On the day we visited, we saw trainees practicing CPR in groups of three — one doing compressions, one on the resuscitator mask, and one on the defibrillator.

A CPR dummy in the medical classroom — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
Trainees already know how to conduct CPR, but this group training builds on that in an aviation setting.

Part of the equipment is a huge medical kit kept onboard, which is color coded and has items that a doctor could use to perform an operation onboard.

Medical kit onboard the aircraft — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
I noticed the kit is much more comprehensive than ones I’ve seen in the US, with O’Leary telling Insider that not all items are required, but chosen to be included by ANZ’s doctors and medical unit.

List of items in one of the packages — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
There is one kit on the narrowbody planes, and two on widebody jets like the Boeing 787.

Once they’ve gone through the course, McCapra told Insider that trainees must pass a test to officially complete the medical portion of the training.

A 787 configuration — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
“If they fail an exam, they get another chance, but if they fail another one then it’s a conversation with cabin managers, but there is a standard they have to meet,” she explained.

An economy class Air New Zealand flight attendant — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
An Air New Zealand flight attendant serving the economy cabin on a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

The exam requires a trainee to pick a random card and perform whatever it says, like when and how to use an oxygen tank, for example.

A trainee working with the oxygen tank — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
McCapra said they not only have to learn how to use the oxygen tanks but also how to properly attach the tanks to the seat to keep the aisle clear during flight.

According to McCapra, ANZ had about 150 oxygen-related events a week pre-COVID, so it is imperative flight attendants know how to properly use them.

ANZ mood lighting emitting pink and orange.
Passengers on an Air New Zealand flight.

McCapra also explained that crew members will face sometimes emotionally draining situations onboard, like the death of a passenger, but ANZ has created an employee assistance program to help flight attendants and pilots after major events.

Air New Zealand 787.
Air New Zealand 787.

One of the other important courses flight attendants must go through is security training, which includes things like self-defense, disarming, and de-escalation.

Inside the security training room — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
During our tour, we saw a class using dummies and punching bags to practice, which is led by New Zealand police.

Trainees in the security classroom — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
While it is impossible to learn every detail of a flight attendant’s four-week training in just two hours, I was thoroughly impressed by the facility.

The A320 mock cabin named Athena — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
As opposed to popular belief, flight attendants are not just glorified customer service agents, but rather they are necessary, and sometimes life-saving, safety professionals.

Boeing 787 emergency evacuation door training — Air New Zealand's Academy of Learning in Auckland.
Boeing 787 emergency evacuation door training.

If you’re an aspiring flight attendant anywhere in the world, the training will not be easy, so be prepared to commit to vigorous tests and procedures before becoming an airline crew member.

Flying Air New Zealand in business class.
The Air New Zealand flight attendants that worked the carrier’s inaugural flight from New York to Auckland.

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