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Hello and welcome to Seat 1A!

When you travel, do you ever wonder how you can be that person who is always ahead of the pack, even when things go awry? Hosts Vinod Viswalingam (@VViswalingam) and Geoff Dahl (@geoffdahl) are proud to present The Seat 1A Podcast.

Seat 1A aims to provide savvy travellers with advanced industry based knowledge to enhance the air travel experience and take off from the crowd. By arming you with an understanding of the systems, processes, rules and structures that define modern air travel, Seat 1A strives to give you the upper hand by examining real experiences from abroad.

Whether traveling in ultra-economy or first-class, with or without frequent flyer status, knowing how the operation works will keep you moving in front of the masses, especially when things don’t go as planned. Seat 1A provides tips and tricks on how to make your travel experience as smooth and efficient as possible. Our goal is that you'll be in Seat 1A all the time!

We have over 5 million miles of flying and over 10 years working for numerous airlines, enjoying all classes and cabins, and exploring airports on every continent. We're enthusiastic #avgeeks, with a keen interest in modern aviation trends and aim to share our knowledge in The Seat 1A Podcast. To learn more about who we are, check out Experience 010!

The Seat 1A Podcast also relies on feedback from listeners, offering the chance to take real experiences and analyze them, breaking them down to understand what happened, where things went well or wrong and what can be learned from it. If you have a story, question or experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

In the meantime please find us wherever you download your podcasts, and tell all your friends!

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Jun 15, 2020

In this experience we continue our look at the aviation hierarchy – who's who at the zoo? Now we move onboard the plane itself. We will look at two different types of staffing – one for traditional international flag carrier flights and one for low-cost/ultra low-cost carrier flights.

Different airlines have different names for the same staff roles. And depending on where you are in the world, you could have a cabin crew or a flight attendant.

But there is always one person who is running the entire cabin experience on the flight. They go by many different names - senior purser, cabin service director, cabin manager, cabin flight director, onboard director, flight manager – but the role is generally the same. We use the term "senior purser" in this podcast experience. Once the door of the plane is closed, it's their flight.

The list of responsibilities of the senior purser is long – including crew performance, delay handling, passenger relations, onboard problems, timings, crew briefing and debriefing, crew rest periods and being the liaison to the flight deck for service and safety. They handle all of this while being an active cabin member. Your life is in their hands since they will lead plane evacuations.

For someone with all of this responsibility, how can you tell them apart? Some have a different uniform, while some have different pins or medallions.

On flights with multiple cabin classes a purser or cabin manager may be responsible for one cabin. On less complicated flights this sub-level may not exist. And then you have the cabin crew member / flight attendant.

How do you know that all the doors are accounted for in case of emergency – everyone knows where to sit during landing and takeoff.

The senior purser work doesn't end when the flight lands - layovers have to be coordinated, staff coordination has to happen if cabin crew gets sick.

On low-cost airlines often staff will rotate through who is the lead flight attendant.

When you board a flight, the flight staff are doing more than just giving you a smile and hello.

If you need to escalate – the senior purser will be the one who can get things done for you.

Vinod had an upgrade interaction with the senior purser when flying from London (LHR) to Nairobi (NBO).

We go beyond the cockpit door – to check on the Captain and First Officer. Who is the pilot in command? How many stripes do each have? On long-haul flights you will have multiple pilots – you may even see some in the cabin or sleeping.

We remember old movies and comment about the flight engineer – a role that is not very common these days.

Depending on the airline, you might see a hierarchy even when they walk through the airport. And some airlines have a very distinct uniform difference.

Vinod always made sure to pay it forward when flying staff standby. Sometimes the thank yous were almost non-stop.

Pro tip – keep an eye on who's wearing what.

News Items:

  • CNN Travel article "Taiwan airport offers 'pretend to go abroad' airport tours amid Covid-19 pandemic.".
  • article "British Airways changes food on board"

If you have a story about staff hierarchy onboard a flight, a question, or other experience that you would like to share, please email us at stories(at) or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Patreon. Show notes are available online at