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I'm watching a documentary about daily business of an airport.

There was a crew briefing for a Lufthansa flight from Germany to India, and as there was an Indian FA, the briefing was held in English (i.e. he didn't speak German).

While it is advantageous to have an Hindi speaking FA on board of a flight to India, I wonder why he doesn't speak German. To me, it seems unusual to have an employee living here, but not speaking our language. (Though this is possible.)

So, my question is: Do airlines employ people in their destination countries, for example to have FAs speaking the language of the destination country? Or is there some kind of exchange project?

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  • $\begingroup$ Thats was quite common in airline industry $\endgroup$ – Him Nov 19 '15 at 11:52
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    $\begingroup$ Just a note: "indian" is not a language (there are some dozen major languages spoken in India). $\endgroup$ – Paŭlo Ebermann Nov 19 '15 at 17:42
  • $\begingroup$ @PaŭloEbermann, and I just edited that out and replaced it with Hindi, which is spoken by the majority of, but not all, Indians. English is also an official language there. (At least according to Wiki.) $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Nov 19 '15 at 17:49
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The 747 carrier I retired out of had FAs based in New York and Tel Aviv, and were residents of their respective countries. The citizenship of the JFK FAs was not a factor insofar as I know as there were numerous green card holders.

Non-stop flights between JFK and Tel Aviv (and return, of course) were staffed by Israeli FAs. All other flights were staffed by JFK FAs. The primary reason for this arrangement was cultural. For JFK/TLV the back quarter or so of the aircraft was allocated to Hasidics to attempt to satisfy their preferences. For example, no movies were shown in the back because they were objectionable to the Hasidics.

The advantage of having Israeli FAs on the direct flights was that they knew how to handle the Hasidics. Scheduling problems would occasionally result in JFK FAs operating a JFK/TLV flight. It was not uncommon on such flights for the cabin crew to request a cockpit crew member to come back to help mediate a dispute. I never received such a request from an Israeli cabin crew.

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  • $\begingroup$ Citizenship is not usually an issue, but a foreign national's right to work for a company outside of their home country can be. Case in point, in the US, a Permanent Resident Alien (aka green card holder) has the right to work in almost any job, with the exception of some very specific cases. However, if an FA did not hold either a GC nor citizenship, they would have to apply for an employment visa, most likely an H1B. Unless an exception exists that I'm not aware of, the petition for such a visa would be denied by the DoL, due to their minimum criteria for the issuance of work permits. $\endgroup$ – habu Nov 19 '15 at 15:39
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    $\begingroup$ While valid points, @habu, it doesn't address the OPs question about a Lufthansa flight from Germany to India. I'm pretty sure they weren't worried about US green cards or H1B visas. ;) $\endgroup$ – FreeMan Nov 19 '15 at 17:53
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    $\begingroup$ @steveverrill No, I did not say that the pax demanded that a cockpit crew member leave the cockpit. What I did say was that the cabin crew asked for help from a member of the cockpit crew. Usually the flight engineer was sent back. Troublesome Hasidics would listen to a male with stripes on his shoulders, whereas they would often ignore female JFK FAs that didn't know how to handle them. The Israeli gals knew how to handle them. This was pre-9/11, by the way, and it was common practice for a cockpit crew member to leave the cockpit to stretch their legs. 3 man crew, so 2 still in the cockpit. $\endgroup$ – Terry Nov 19 '15 at 21:12
  • $\begingroup$ @FreeMan - you are correct in that Lufthansa probably doesn't care much about US immigration law and statuses when making their hiring decisions, but while the setting which led to the OP's post was fairly specific, his ultimate question seemed to be a bit more general in nature, so I wanted to highlight additional factors that can make answering such a question more complex than might initially appear. $\endgroup$ – habu Nov 20 '15 at 12:16
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Airlines do employ people in their destination countries for a variety of tasks, both customer-oriented (such as gate agents and baggage handlers), as well as administrative and/or operational (such as station managers, maintenance staff, etc.).

Now, with respect to flight and cabin crew, things can get a bit more complex. Generally speaking, crew are hired and certificated in the country where the carrier is based out of (and, incidentally, certificated to perform air transportation operations for hire), and would have to follow local employment and, potentially, immigration legislation should they wish to hire foreign nationals; certain countries may make exceptions to these rules for airlines and the transportation industry, making it easier to hire staff with the necessary language skills, but this is by no way a given.

With respect to FAs, major carriers make an effort to staff their cabins with FAs that speak the local language when travelling to international destinations. The FA might not have spoken German, but in addition to English, he might have also spoken Hindi, or any number of regional languages spoken in India, thus allowing the crew a greater probability of having someone who can can converse with any passenger on the flight.

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Yes, Swiss does it for their Tokyo destination.

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    $\begingroup$ At least can you tell which city pair or flight number? $\endgroup$ – vasin1987 Nov 19 '15 at 18:21
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Yes they do.

My earlier flight this year on Hong Kong Airline from Hong Kong to Bangkok has FA who are Chinese and Thai. Cabin announcements were made in 3 languages, Chinese, English and Thai.

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