KLM could scrap “purser” lead flight attendant job

Small fire on KLM flight (Picture: Twitter/@Accone). (KLM cabin crew deal wit a small fire on a flight (Picture: Twitter/@Accone))

KLM plans to scrap the position of "purser" - top flight attendants on their flights - as part of a cutback plan announced to the cabin crew, the Volkskrant reports.

The Dutch airline currently employs some 9 thousand cabin crew members, among which about 1,500 have the title "purser". Pursers are mostly made up of cabin crew members who were promoted after many years of service. They are given a management roll and a higher salary and can be identified by four silver stripes, on the bottom of their sleeve if they are women or on the shoulder if they are men.

The cabin crew is responsible for serving meals and drinks during flights and making sure that safety instructions are understood and followed. The purser welcomes the passengers, reads the safety instructions and manages the other crew members. In principle they don't have to serve food or drinks.

KLM's plan is to reduce the number of pursers on intercontinental flights from two to one, and the remaining one will no longer carry the title purser. On the short- and medium length European flights, there will no longer be classic leadership. The managing part of the duties will be performed by one of the more experienced crew members, but not an official purser.

"So we can deploy our personnel in a smarter and more flexible manner and better serve the customer", a KLM spokesperson said to the Volkskrant. According to her, managers will work with the "ordinary" staff in future. She added that this change doesn't come with job cuts and creates more career opportunities.

VNC, the largest cabin crew trade union in the Netherlands, fears that this "title robbing" will mean poorer working conditions.