A look at if cabin crew can have criminal records

I have a criminal record — Can I still be Cabin Crew?

It can be hard to find a job with a criminal record. Many people convicted of crimes are left wondering if they will ever be able to work again. This is especially true for those in the aviation industry, where background checks are often mandatory. This issue affects aspiring pilots with felonies, alongside flight attendants.

So, can you be cabin crew with a criminal record? The answer is yes…but it’s not always easy. In this blog post, we will take a look at the hiring rules for cabin crew with criminal convictions or felonies.

The Short Answer — Can you be cabin crew with a criminal record?

Yes. You can be cabin crew with a criminal record. Many countries, including the UK and the USA, have employment law preventing employers from automatically excluding applicants with criminal records. This means that airlines cannot have a blanket policy of not hiring people with criminal records.

However, due to the aviation nature of the role, cabin crew will need to undergo several background checks. These range from credit scores to criminal records, depending on the airline and country. Here, the type of criminal record may restrict employment as a flight attendant — either until the conviction is lapsed, or for certain convictions, permanently.

Cabin crew criminal record check (in the UK)

Under UK law, all cabin crew need to undergo a criminal records check before they begin employment. This is to attain an airside pass, allowing flight attendants to work airside unescorted.

  • Known as a basic disclosure check, this shows unspent convictions for the previous five years only.
  • So, any convictions that have been spent — certain convictions only stay on your record for a defined time — will not show up.
  • Cabin crew will need to undergo another criminal record check every ten years to renew this pass.

The National Aviation Security Program (NASP) requires a basic criminal record disclosure for certain roles. This shows unspent convictions only.

CAA — Airside background checks

Flight attendant criminal record check (in the USA)

Flight attendant background checks in the USA are regulated by the FAA.

  • Criminal records checks are a two stage process, initially looking at any convictions in the previous ten years.
  • Occasionally — and if certain triggers are met — a more exhaustive second set of background checks is performed.

While it is possible to become a flight attendant with a felony, it is rare. This is because virtually all felonies are disqualifying crimes that prohibit working in aviation.

Can I be a flight attendant with a felony or misdemeanor?

Yes, but only for certain types of crime. Both, the USA and UK have a published list of crimes that disqualify working in aviation. Check any felony or misdemeanor (that’s a serious or minor offence for our UK readers) don’t fall under these categories.

Holding a globe up to represent different global rules

The longer answer — four things to consider

While rules vary across the globe, these four things to consider for flight attendants with criminal records are applicable at every airline.

The company view

While some airlines have strict policies against hiring anyone with a criminal record, others are more lenient. It all depends on the airline’s policy and the nature of the offence. For example, an airline may be willing to overlook a minor drug charge, but not a violent crime.

Employers in many countries can consider an applicant’s criminal history if it is “job-related and consistent with business necessity.” In other words, an airline can decide not to hire someone because of their criminal record. But only if the airline can show that the conviction is relevant to the job, and there is a business reason for excluding people with that type of conviction.

Cabin crew job interview

Obtaining a visa

Another thing to consider if you have a criminal record is whether you will be able to obtain the necessary visas.

  • Many flight attendant roles are international.
  • Crew are required to hold overseas visas for these trips as a condition of their employment
  • Some countries have more strict felony requirements for permitting visas than others

The best way to find out if you will be able to obtain a visa to a specific country is by contacting the embassy of the country you want to work in. They will be able to tell you.

Additionally, there are plenty of flight attendant roles that do not require overseas checks. Many airlines fly shorthaul routes only within one country. Known as domestic flying, cabin crew that only fly domestically will not require visas.

The type of criminal record

As an international role, attitudes towards criminal records and types of crimes vary across the globe. One type of criminal record may be acceptable to work for some airlines and prohibitive for others, largely based on the airline’s local view.

  • As examples, flight attendants applying to airlines based in the UK with an expired drink-driving conviction are unlikely to be rejected solely for this.
  • However, in parts of the world where attitudes towards consuming alcohol are different, such as the Middle East, things can be very different.
  • Middle Eastern airlines such as Etihad, Emirates, or Oman air take a very dim view of drink-driving offences, and cabin crew with this type of criminal record will be prohibited from applying.
  • Equally, areas of the world with high rates of drug smuggling, understandably take a harsh line on drug related convictions.
  • Even an expired non-smuggling related drugs charge may prevent cabin crew from working for some airlines.

Obtaining an airside pass

The final thing to consider is whether you will be able to obtain an airside pass. As we have seen, in the UK, holders of an airside pass must pass a criminal records check that shows convictions dating back five years.

Rules on aviation related background checks vary across the world. As an example, in the USA the FAA mandates a previous employment record spanning 10 years, and a criminal records check dating back ten years. This means that if you have a criminal record, you may not be able to get the airside pass needed to work as cabin crew.

The application must also ask the individual if they were convicted in the past ten years for any of the disqualifying crimes found in the attached listing. The application must also alert the individual that he/she is subject to employment verification and, possibly, an FBI criminal history records check.

FAA — Aviation background checks

While disqualifying crimes do differ slightly around the world, the vast majority of countries have a similar list to the FAA — so this list should provide you with an idea of what types of criminal records frequently prohibit working as a flight attendant.

FAA list of disqualifying criminal records for flight attendants


So, can you be cabin crew with a criminal record? The answer is yes, but with several caveats. As we have seen, there are a few things you must consider, such as the airline’s policy, whether you can obtain a visa, and if you will be able to get an airside pass.

If you have a criminal record and want to become cabin crew, your best bet is to first research if your criminal record forms part of the mandatory aviation exclusion criteria for working in aviation for your respective country.

Secondly, look for airlines that have more relaxed policies towards hires with convictions and contact their HR department directly.

With all that said, it is possible to become cabin crew with a criminal record. So if you have your heart set on becoming a flight attendant, don’t let a criminal conviction stop you from applying. Who knows, you may just be the perfect candidate for the job!

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Flyingbynumber’s Resident Senior Flight Attendant — Alissa

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