Date of Award

Fall 12-2023

Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Committee Chair

Dr. H. Quincy Brown

Committee Chair School


Committee Member 2

Dr. Heather M. Annulis

Committee Member 2 School


Committee Member 3

Dr. John J. Kmiec Jr.

Committee Member 3 School


Committee Member 4

Dr. Dale L. Lunsford

Committee Member 4 School


Committee Member 5

Dr. Bradley Winton

Committee Member 5 School



In the post-pandemic travel environment, disruptive passengers fail to accept flight attendants’ leadership and cause unruly incidents that compromise flight safety, damage airlines, and present behavioral challenges that can lead to physical harm (Al-Arshani, 2021; Albert, 2016; Araiza, 2022; Albert, 2016; FAA, 2021; Inspire Academy, n.d.-a.; International Air Transport Association [IATA], n.d.-b; James, 2022; Pederson et al., 2021; Ramona & Anbro, 2017; Timmis et al., 2018; TSA, 2021; Wong & Neustaedter, 2017). Flight attendants rely on Crew Resource Management (CRM) skills to manage inflight incidents; however, CRM promotes team effectiveness and flight attendants are often dispersed throughout the cabin and attend to passengers’ needs individually (Inspire Academy, n.d.-a.; Wong & Neustaedter, 2017). Passenger interactions require skilled leadership and authority due to the situational nature of navigating high-emotion conversations (Albert, 2016). Emotional Intelligence (EI) enhances leadership skills and enables leaders to be more effective when dealing with others’ uncontrolled impulses (George, 2000; Goleman, 1995; Hersey et al., 1979; Hochschild, 1983; Uppal, 2017). This study explored flight attendants’ leadership experience in the dynamic, post-pandemic environment and the impact of EI on CRM skills and flight attendants’ perception of recognized authority.

This study incorporated a qualitative, phenomenological research design and a mixed sampling approach. The researcher conducted 12 semi-structured one-on-one interviews with participants using a guided questionnaire for the instrument. The results of this study were determined by an analysis of interview transcripts using the Modified van Kaam Method (Moustakas, 1994) and verified through a rigorous research design. The data analysis revealed six themes, including (a) Communication Skills, (b) Situational Skills, (c) Coping Skills, (d) Establishing or Asserting Authority, (e) Engaging the Passenger, and (f) Reframing the Passenger Experience. Thirty-four subthemes emerged within the themes. The researcher organized themes and subthemes into two categories that identify their function, as Essential Skills and Leadership Skills. Findings suggest flight attendants utilize a caregiving leadership approach to inspire passenger compliance; however, caregiving leadership seems to contribute to the flight attendant air hostess stereotype and does not improve flight attendants’ perception of recognized authority. Flight attendants who use an assertive leadership approach appear to successfully induce passenger compliance that contributes to their perception of recognized authority. This research may help airlines, regulatory agencies, such as the FAA, and other stakeholders improve flight attendant training curricula to include a more comprehensive approach to CRM and cabin leadership, reduce difficult passenger events, and contribute to a decrease in flight attendant attrition. Recommendations are offered for airline industry stakeholders that influence flight attendant policy and training initiatives.