What is a Purser?

On all of my travels I find that after people ask your name and nationality, they want to know what you do for a living. When I reply “Senior Purser, I usually get a blank stare, followed by another question: “What does a Senior Purser do?” It’s time for an explanation.

Purser and Senior Purser

On every flight, KLM has one or two managers on board who make sure everything runs smoothly and who supervise the cabin crew to give our passengers a pleasant flight. On European flights, there is one manager on board, the Purser. You can identify them by the four silver stripes on their sleeves. The Purser is responsible for the product on board. On intercontinental flights, the Purser is in charge of the team in Economy Class, while the Senior Purser is responsible for the crew in World Business Cass and the overall supervision of all cabin crew. They work closely with the Purser. The Senior Purser also displays four stripes on the uniform with an additional orange stripe. There is also a team of Assistant Pursers, who only operate on intercontinental flights and display three silver stripes on their sleeves.


Before the rest of the crew arrives, the Purser and Senior Purser report to Schiphol to prepare their flight. They review all relevant flight information, check which passengers may require assistance and see if there are any other special circumstances to consider on board. They also assign the cabin crew to their duties. For intercontinental flights, the Senior Purser and Purser allocate the team and plan their operations on board.

Prior to departure

The (Senior) Purser contacts the gate agent to coordinate the boarding procedure. They also obtain important information about the flight from the captain, such as flying time, any specific flight conditions or technical specifications of the aircraft. Vice versa, the (Senior) Purser shares any important passenger information with the captain. The (Senior) Purser also ensures that there are enough meals onboard for all passengers. When all the preparations are complete, the crew is ready to welcome the passengers on board, which is an important interaction with the public.

The flight

During the flight, the (Senior) Purser is the host of our passengers. They will introduce themselves to the passengers over the PA system and will conduct all announcements throughout the flight. Both the Purser and Senior Purser will do everything they can to make the flight as pleasant as possible. Should there by any unexpected situations, they will try to resolve these immediately. Throughout the flight they keep in contact with the pilots to inform them of the situation in the cabin, and they will be notified of any turbulence or a shorter flying time that may require a change in the service schedule.

“The (Senior) Purser is also called on to mediate in various situations. Some examples include: A medical incident that requires their leadership;

a. A passenger with aggressive behaviour or who doesn’t follow the rules;

b. The (Senior) Purser ensures the pilots are always informed;

c. There may be a technical problem or a catering error;

d. There could be a passenger who is afraid of flying and requires some extra assistance;

e. A passenger may have a complaint about the flight, the process at the airport or something else. The (Senior) Purser will do their best to assist the passenger and resolve the problem;

f. After almost every flight, the (Senior) Purser will write an evaluation about the flight attendants not only to provide feedback to the crew member, but also to keep KLM abreast of staff operations;

g. Towards the end of the flight, the (Senior) Purser is responsible for distributing landing forms and preparing the cabin for landing. Every airport has its own regulations for incoming aircraft, and the (Senior) Purser is responsible for complying with these; On some destinations all alcoholic beverages must be counted and recorded on a form

h. The (Senior) Purser is also responsible for the administrative duties of the flight, for example recording all duty-free products, reporting any variations to KLM or sharing information with the (Senior) Purser of the crew that is flying back to Amsterdam or continuing the flight to the next destination.”

As you can see, this is a job with a wide range of tasks and responsibilities. What makes this job unique is that every flight consists of a new team and no two flights are the same. For every flight, the (Senior) Purser forms a team with their flight attendants to provide our passengers with the best possible service.