By Beth 04 Oct 2022 4 min read

Myth busters: Can Cabin Crew donate blood?

Besides playing a critical role on board, cabin crew are responsible for the safety and comfort of the passengers. Since they work at higher altitudes, there are certain restrictions placed on them by the regulatory bodies. However, with the aviation industry, there are a lot of myths attached to the sector. There are many different rules and guidelines regarding the occupation of cabin crew not everything is of notice to everyone. 

The aviation industry works in a strictly regulated environment where the cabin crew have to cope with flexible time requirements. They have to comply with the airline's rules and guidelines about being medically fit. When they report to work, the cabin crew have to self-certify that they are medically fit to operate. This includes abstaining from drugs or alcohol and giving blood donations before a certain time period. 

In general, the cabin crew can give blood donations but they need to consider several things first. Due to their job nature, they need to think about the consequences of every act they perform. From considering the effects of reduced blood on their performance on board to what type of blood donation they give, everything is important. 


Why cabin crew should reconsider giving blood donation 


We all know that Cabin Crew play a pivotal role during the flight. In fact, they perform pre-flight duties that include ensuring the replenishment of supplies, safety equipment, etc. Typically, they carry out their work on attitude, so when a flight is operating, it increases between 33000ft to 40000ft. At such an altitude, there is less dense air, meaning that our bodies have to work harder to maintain their oxygen levels. Though this is not harmful for health, Cabin Crew have to undergo medical examinations to check whether they have sufficient haemoglobin levels for the body to function normally at a reduced altitude. 

Studies show that when you give blood donations, it takes up to 48hours for the body to replenish the natural blood amount; therefore, oxygen uptake by the body becomes less efficient. Based on your health condition, a short time after blood donation, you may feel dizzy, lethargic, or even slightly faint at reduced altitudes. 

Sometimes, when there’s a doubt about a certain crew member, the airline does a clinical examination to investigate the issue. To ensure that the physical and mental health of the crew remains in check, the airlines make sure they go through the training to acquire competence. They are also assessed to determine whether they can perform their responsibilities and duties during normal and abnormal operations. 


Rules for the cabin crew regarding blood donations


Each airline has its own specific rules regarding blood donations and flying for air cabin crew. All the rules are monitored by the regulatory authority of the country. For instance, in the UK, Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) advises pilots and flight attendants to abstain from their flying duties for at least 24 hours after any type of blood donation. There are different flying requirements based on the type of donation, including;

  • Giving blood donation of less than 1 pint or 0.5litres- Cabin Crew should refrain from flying for at least 24 hours

  • Giving blood donation of 1-2 pints-  Cabin Crew should refrain from flying for at least 72 hours

  • Giving plasma donation-  Cabin Crew should refrain from flying for at least 4 hours

Cabin crew can give blood on their off days when they are free from flying. During their duty time, they are strongly recommended it. Since everyone reacts differently, it is always better to take a cautious approach. Therefore, before every flight, each cabin crew member has to pass the aeromedical assessment. This ensures that they are safely able to perform their assigned tasks. 


Frequently asked questions 


Who is not suitable for blood donation?


In general, you cannot give blood if you’re not in good health. If you have the flu, sore throat or some infection, you cannot donate blood. Moreover, if you’ve recently had a piercing on your body or some tattoo made, you cannot donate blood until six months to that procedure. Those who are below 18 or weigh under 50 kg are also not allowed to donate blood. 


Should you donate blood before flying?


According to the policies of the FAA, those who have donated blood around 200cc or greater must not fly for 24 hours. It is also suggested that pilots should wait at least 48 hours before flying, as they’ll be at risk of getting faint. However, airlines have different policies regarding blood donation. Some airlines pose no restriction on healthy individuals for donating blood before flying as the depleted fluid can be replaced within hours.


Can you donate blood as a pilot?


Though there is a set time mentioned anywhere about donating blood and flying, it is recommended that pilots should not fly a plane within 24 hours of donating one unit of blood or 72 hours if they donate more. These facts are mentioned in the medical guide published by the FAA. However, it all depends on the individual case. 


Can you fly after a blood transfusion?


When you’re done with the blood transfusion, you need to get a regular check-up done before flying. If the blood count is back to normal, you’re good to travel. Otherwise, your doctor will recommend you against flying. You must make sure that you’re safe to travel when booking a trip.


How long does it take to recover from blood donation?


For most people, after giving blood donation, their haemoglobin will be back to normal in around 6 to 12 weeks. That’s the minimum time set required to wait between one donation and the other so that the haemoglobin levels are not continuously low. Yet, each case is assessed differently based on their health and other circumstances.