BA cabin crew talking to passegners – Dutch? Deutsch? Or Czech?

Back to Forum

This topic contains 11 replies, has 11 voices, and was last updated by  canucklad 20 Feb 2016
at 11:03

Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)

  • Anonymous


    I flew the BA0857 PRG-LHR last Sunday 29th Nov 2015. Bad weather in London meant that we had to board and then wait an hour for ATC clearance before takeoff.

    The FA visited two middle-aged women in 7E and F – first row of economy. She explained that they would miss their Cathay connection to Hong Kong. They were Czech and couldn’t understand a word of what was being said.

    The FA tried again – just slower and louder – as we English tend to do. One of the ladies said “Deutsch?”. “Oh you are Dutch – hello does anyone speak Dutch?”

    Passengers pointed out that they were in fact Czech, but could speak some German and a Czech speaker came forward to assist.

    It made me wonder how airlines deal with non-English speakers in an emergency. I was also surprised that on a PRG-LHR flight there wasn’t a Czech-speaking FA.

    I’ve no idea how these poor women managed to visit the LHR desk, find their bags which I guess were off-loaded at LHR, overnight in a hotel and then find their way back for the next day’s Cathay flight.


    I have wondered the same thing. On a flight to Berlin earlier in the year, I noticed there wasn’t a single German speaking cabin crew member onboard. Likewise, on a flight to Zagreb, no Croatian speakers, yet interestingly on flights to Abu Dhabi and Dubai there have been two Arabic speakers on all flights.


    I am often impressed by the non-native English speakers on BA. They are usually the best, along with the Scottish.

    For some reason, on a flight from Dallas to Heathrow on AA, the CC assumed I was French and came out with ‘Bon appétit’ and ‘Voilà’ !!!!


    There is no requirement as such for airlines to have local language speakers amongst their crew although some airlines do make great efforts in that directions.
    On many routes airlines, including BA, do routinely carry local crew for language and cultural reasons but doing so on all European routes would be rather complex for an airline such as BA. Imagine a flight on a little Airbus from London to Switzerland – with German, French and Italian as official languages and each of them spoken by at least one crew member…
    That said, I’ve seen it first hand how helpful it can be when English isn’t your first language / not spoken at all and you find a crew member who speaks your language.


    Accept that there is no requirement as such for airlines to have local language speakers

    But it can go to quite an extreme – for example, on a domestic Ryanair flight (i.e. within Germany) that I took some months ago there were neither German speaking crew nor announcements. Everything was in English.

    I understand it if one end of the flight route is located in an English speaking country, but when neither are? Is that allowed?


    Agree with everyone’s sentiments with regards to no requirement for local speaking crew, and also how enjoyable it is to have a crew that can speak your language. I wish I spoke another language well enough to take advantage of this.

    NickBrooks15 – I believe this will be due to Ryanair being an airline that is from a country where English is the common tongue. It is rather surprising that the announcements weren’t in German as I would have thought this would be required for safety purposes at minimum.


    The logistics of having a cabin crew member speaking the language of the destination would be impossible. Considering a company the size of BA and its European network and the frequency of routes, it would be close on impossible to have a language speaker on every flight. They can barely get service routines standard.


    Ryanair is not a safe airline. All airlines should have multi lingual staff to make sure passengers understand safety instructions. KLM always have Dutch & English speaking cockpit and cabin crew. On Ryanair, British Airways and Jet2 only Englush speakers.


    At BA there are no designated language speakers on short haul flights. Up until about 15 years ago it was a requirement that all applicants to BA spoke a second language fluently. Although given the dynamics of the BA network (there could be more french passengers on say a LHR-PHL flight than a LHR-NCE flight) language speakers were not ‘designated’ particular routes on shorthaul although given that every crew member then spoke a second language chances were there would be a french/german/spanish speaker on each flight. There were also issues with some countries like say Belgium where you didn’t dare make an announcement in french unless one could be made in flemish also. You’d be lynched.

    In terms of long haul (legacy crew routes) BA has ‘International Cabin Crew’ (ICC’s) on certain routes. These crew are based in their home countries. The bases currently include GRU/MEX/EZE/NRT/HKG/DEL/BLR/MAA/BOM/SIN/BAH/CAI whom operate from their home cities to LHR and back. BOM based crew also operate LHR-HYD. SIN based crew also operate LHR-PEK/PVG/CTU. BAH/CAI based crew also operate DOH/DXB/KWI/AUH/MCT/RUH/JED. These ICC form anything from 1- 4 of the overall crew complement. It’s not all about the language skills either. Their knowledge of the cultural etiquette is invaluable. The arabic speakers will actually be removed from the DXB route as there are so few ‘local’ passengers on that route. The SIN base will close next month as again BA does not think there is a need for SIN based crew on LHR-SIN due to the lack of local passengers and that they China routes the SIN crew currently operate will be better served by new crew bases in PVG and PEK which have a better cultural awareness. On Mixed Fleet they have gone down the road of recruiting LHR based crew that can speak a second language and these crew operate on flights to ICN/HND etc. Unfortunately some flights go sans a ‘native’ speaker and some of the language speakers on Mixed Fleet are not as fluent as the ‘ICC’s’. For example some of the Japanese speakers on Mixed Fleet flying to HND are westerners that have studied Japanese.

    In terms of safety – it’s english. And that isn’t unique to BA. If you fly Singapore Airlines or Emirates in the event of an emergency the emergency briefing and the emergency commands will all be given in english regardless of route.


    One of the ladies said “Deutsch?”. “Oh you are Dutch – hello does anyone speak Dutch?”

    Priceless, reminds me of a partial conversation I overhead between the chairman of my employer at the time (who had a thick Midlands accent) and their Finnish sales agent.

    “I said i’m the CHAIRMAN, not a GERMAN.”


    Hi rfeguson….
    I was under the impression that if Mixed Fleet crew spoke a second language they were given a small monthly wage supplement as a reward for their extra skill level……

    FDOS…you’ve reminded me of this classic joke……

    A Scots athlete at the Olympics approaches another.athlete carrying a very long implement. The Scottish chap asks……” Are you a pole vaulter? ” ….”NO, I’m a German,but how did you know my name is Vaulter!”

Viewing 12 posts - 1 through 12 (of 12 total)
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Be up-to-date
Magazine Subscription
To see our latest subscription offers for Business Traveller editions worldwide, click on the Subscribe & Save link below