The world’s first flight attendant did not work on an airplane; he worked on a zeppelin.
Heinrich Kubis began his career as a flight attendant before any fixed-wing airliner was large enough to carry a steward and 18 years before Ellen Church of United Airlines became the world’s first stewardess.
Kubis worked for the German airline DELAG and began caring for passengers in March, 1912 on the zeppelin Schwaben. He served as chief steward on all future German passenger zeppelins including Bodensee (which made scheduled flights within Germany in 1919), Graf Zeppelin (which offered regularly scheduled transatlantic service from 1931 to 1937), and the famous Hindenburg.
Kubis worked alone on the early zeppelins but had an assistant steward and cook aboard the 20-passenger Graf Zeppelin, and he eventually led a team of 10-15 stewards and cooks aboard the 72-passenger Hindenburg.
Kubis was in Hindenburg’s dining room when the ship burst into flame at Lakehurst, New Jersey on May 6, 1937. When the Hindenburg sank close enough to the ground, Kubis encouraged passengers and crew to jump from the windows and jumped to safety himself.
Kubis landed without injury and was not hurt in the crash. He testified at the Hindenburg disaster inquiry and then returned to Germany, where he lived until his death in the 1970s.
The World’s First Flight Attendant: