Understanding the medical barriers to your cabin crew career

cabin crew medical test

Committing to your dream career and becoming a cabin attendant is an exciting journey, but it also comes with a set of challenges: particularly when it comes to meeting the medical requirements. As well as a range of aptitude and situational judgement tests, flight attendants must also pass a cabin crew medical test and meet strict health standards to ensure the safety of everyone on board, so let’s explore the medical barriers to be aware of on your path to the sky 

Meeting medical standards  

As you are no doubt aware, crew members must meet the required medical standards to handle any emergencies, ensure passenger safety and comfort, and manage the physical demands of working onboard a plane. These standards are based on the criteria set by aviation authorities to uphold the high safety requirements of the industry and include a comprehensive health assessment aimed at identifying any conditions that might affect a crew member’s ability to respond to emergencies. 

Crew must undergo periodic medical examinations, such as CAA, EASA and CASA medicals depending upon their jurisdiction, to either receive or maintain their medical certification and continue to work in aviation. These exams test for a wide range of medical conditions, and the core goal is to make sure that each crew member is fit to perform their duties under the stress and physical demands unique to the aviation environment.  

Whilst this typically includes assessments to verify your good overall health and normal vision and hearing, the tests also verify the absence of conditions that could impair performance or lead to sudden incapacitation. From chronic illnesses and mobility issues, read on as we shed light on the specific health conditions that could impede your aspirations, and don’t worry: we’ll also explore how to request help and which health issues can be managed to improve your certification chances.  

Aeromedical assessment requirements 

A cabin crew medical test must be completed before you start your role, and you must be recertified every five years thereafter to maintain your compliance.  

These assessments include a range of medical examinations that check for a variety of health issues, but as an industry standard, you must be free from any:  

  • Congenital or acquired abnormalities, including conditions that were identified before or at birth, or later in life.  
  • Diseases (active, latent, acute, or chronic), or disability 
  • Wounds, injuries, or any lasting physical reactions from surgery 
  • Effects of medication that might cause functional incapacity or an inability to perform your duties. 

The assessment also involves a clinical examination covering the cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal systems, and otorhinolaryngology (ear, nose, throat), so if you have any concerns regarding your ability to meet these requirements, let’s explore the common medical barriers to certification and how they can be managed or overcome.  

Medical Barriers 

There are a range of frequent health issues that hinder cabin attendant careers, but accommodations or recertification efforts can be made available for the vast majority of them, so check our list below for any conditions that relate to your career journey:  

Heart conditions 

Crew with any heart conditions who have not yet undergone surgery, including functional abnormalities, coronary artery disease, rhythm or conduction disturbances, or who are in need of a lung or heart transplant, are considered unfit due to the serious medical implications of these conditions: however, after successful treatment and recovery, a reassessment can be considered, potentially allowing for career continuation. 

Blood pressure should also be within normal limits and any medication to control blood pressure must be verified as not causing any significant side effects. 

Vision impairments 

The visual acuity of both eyes, with or without correction, must be 6/9 or better, and all applicants must have normal fields of vision and no colour blindness. If corrective lenses are required, they must be worn or readily available when on duty, and those who have undergone refractive surgery may be reassessed. 

Hearing impairments 

Functional hearing abilities must be satisfactorily demonstrated and those with an active pathological process in the ear, any unhealed perforation or dysfunction, or any issues in the nasal passages or sinuses should undergo further medical examination – similarly, any oral infections, whether acute or chronic, or speech disorders will require additional assessments.  

Respiratory issues 

Any significant impairment of pulmonary function will result in the applicant being assessed as unfit, including asthma, active inflammatory diseases, or major thoracic issues, and will require further respiratory evaluation. 

Musculoskeletal disorders 

Chronic back pain, arthritis, or previous fractures with limitations can be managed through surgery or physical therapy, but some cases might limit the ability to perform safety-critical tasks, requiring a role reassessment. 

Digestive system 

Those who have long-term problems from a disease or surgery in their digestive system, especially if it causes blockages, should be considered unfit. Members must also be free from herniae, and any disorders of the gastro-intestinal system that might give rise to incapacitating symptoms. 

The urine must also not contain any abnormal elements, and there should be no diseases or blockages in the urinary system – similarly, those who have had urinary system surgery will be assessed as unfit until after full recovery has been made. 

Metabolic systems and haematology 

Airline crew members should not have any health problems related to metabolism, nutrition, or hormones that could affect their professional abilities. However, those with such health issues can still be considered fit to work if they can show that their condition is stable: for example, crew members with diabetes must prove that they have good blood sugar control, either through the use of insulin or other methods.  

Those with haematological conditions like anaemia, abnormal clotting and swollen lymph nodes, can still be assessed as fit if they meet the relevant criteria to manage their condition.  

Infectious disease  

When it comes to assessing and managing infectious diseases, the focus is on the individual’s health status and functional capacity rather than the disease itself. Those with conditions such as HIV can meet medical standards provided that their condition is well-managed and that they meet the medical standards required for stewards and crew.  

Each case is assessed individually, considering the stability of the disease, the effectiveness of the treatment, and the absence of symptoms that could lead to incapacitation or impair safety-related tasks. 


Those with any serious brain, spinal, or nerve conditions, a single unexplained blackout, loss of consciousness from a head injury, or a severe brain or spinal injury need additional medical evaluation to verify that they meet the medical requirements. Similarly, crew with a clinical diagnosis of epilepsy or a history of frequent unexplained blackouts should be considered not fit for work, but those with certain abnormal brain wave patterns may be assessed as fit depending upon further review.  

Psychiatry and psychology 

With appropriate psychological support and medication, many mental health disorders can be managed, allowing individuals to continue their roles, depending on the severity and impact on their duties. 

Crew members who have problematic alcohol or substance use disorders cannot work until they have recovered from these issues, and those with a clinical diagnosis of serious conditions such as schizophrenia, schizotypal or delusional disorder must be deemed unfit. However, those with neurotic, mood, or personality disorders are not immediately unfit for duty, but those who have harmed themselves on purpose are not allowed to pass the medicals unless the AME has verified their suitability with reports from their treating clinician.  

Managing requirements 

Each condition’s impact on your career varies based on severity, treatability, and the specific demands of your role. Whilst there are numerous medical conditions that restrict your role or prevent you from continuing to fly, it is important to be aware that this does not immediately end your career: rather it postpones it whilst you receive the appropriate medical care and attention.  

Whilst some of the more manageable conditions can be treated without surgery and require lifestyle modifications or additional support, there are several that will jeopardise your abilities to safely carry out your role and will result in you failing your medicals unless they are addressed – and unfortunately there are certain conditions that will permanently prohibit you from working in aviation.  

So, if you have been made aware of any of the listed medical conditions, or you are concerned that you are exhibiting symptoms, then it is important that you make the relevant healthcare professionals aware in order for you to be properly diagnosed and treated before you are assessed. If any doubts or causes for concern are identified during the medical, then additional tests will be conducted by the AME to ensure your fitness for duty or to identify the need for treatment before you can be certified. 

Cabin crew medical test with Heathrow Medical 

The path to becoming a flight attendant involves stringent medical assessments and requirements – but the rewards of a life-long career and the safety of the passengers and crew make it all worthwhile.  

If it is time to renew or apply for your medical certification, book your cabin crew medical test with us today and verify your continued abilities to meet the requirements of your employer and continue doing the job you love.  

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