The Truth About The Tray

Have you ever sat at a sidewalk cafe in the summer and marvelled at how the waiter or waitress carried their drinks with one arm holding a tray? It’s pretty remarkable. It’s even more impressive to see them doing it at 30,000 feet on a fifty-minute flight. That’s exactly what the cabin attendants at KLM Cityhopper do every day.

Why bother with a tray?

Apart from looking stylish and maintaining a bit of glamour, the truth is, the tray is a useful tool for a cabin attendant. It lets us pour up to four or five drinks at a time, many more than can be held in one hand. Which is very useful when flying to Frankfurt with only twenty minutes available for the service. It’s also a handy extension of the arm. Serving up to 400 customers on four flights a day can mean a lot of bending to reach the passenger seated by the window. The tray lengthens our reach just that little but further, meaning less leaning and maintaining a healthier back.

Tray training

So how do you go about training a new colleague to cope with the balancing act which is the tray? Nothing beats learning on the job. So, as part of their four-week KLM Cityhopper training course, our new colleagues undergo at least ten training flights. Under the supervision of a specially trained cabin attendant, they get to experience every aspect of the job. But, before being let loose behind the trolley, we first practice in the classroom.

Glasses of water prove to be the safest drink with which to practice and each of the service trainers has their own way of doing it. Fabienne has been one of our service trainers since 2017. “I usually let the group have some time to handle the tray first,” she says.

“When everyone is feeling confident we finish with a race, eight against eight. The head of the team needs to pour three glasses of water on a tray (one bottle fills three glasses exactly). Then, with the tray in their hand, they have to turn around, bend down, stand up, and then pass the tray on to the next team member.

“The next person also has to turn around, bend down, stand up, and pass on the tray and so on. The tray goes down the line and back again to the team captain and the first team to achieve this without spilling the drinks (or dropping the tray!) wins. If you can cope with that, you can cope with anything.”

Does it ever go wrong?

Operating 110 thousand flights per year, you’d think that there would be frequent mistakes. However, our colleagues take the greatest care to make sure that your tomato juice is served on your tray table and not in your lap. It’s always safety first at KLM Cityhopper, so if we expect or experience turbulence, the tray goes back on the trolley. Equally, if the flight time is short, it may be that our colleagues choose to focus on ensuring that all of the passengers receive some refreshments rather than using the tray.

So the next time you fly with KLM Cityhopper and you see one of the cabin attendants being particularly artful with a tray, there’s a good chance that they have been trained by Fabienne or one of the other trainers on the service training team!

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