When most thinks that the main job of the cabin crew is to serve "chicken or beef", it is absolutely not. We do understand that some people base this notion on what they see when they fly in an aircraft, especially that flight attendants do serve meals to passengers for them to enjoy a great and comfortable flying experience. They also attend to your needs right away because again, they want you to be comfortable, especially that you are actually flying at 40,000ft above the ground.
In reality, their primary job is to ensure your safety and security. It is a great responsibility they hold on and given this great responsibility comes great power. They barely use this power unless it is necessary especially when the safety of others and the whole flight is at risk.
And that power is no less than getting you arrested and slapped with criminal charges.
How did this happen? First and foremost, your cabin crew are protected by a very important Philippine law so they can carry on their duties as safety professionals, hence, to ensure your safety and security on board. This law is no other than Republic Act 9497 Chapter XI Section 81 clause 9 which states that:
"Any person who, while on board an aircraft, interferes with a crewmember's or flight attendant's performance of their duties, assaults, intimidates, or threatens any crewmember or flight attendant, shall be subjected to imprisonment from one (1) year to three (3) years or a fine of not less than Fifty thousand pesos (Php50,000.00) but not exceeding Five hundred thousand pesos (Php500,000.00), or both, as determined by the court;"
If you think this is only applied in the Philippines, every country has such a law protecting their flight crew. Most strict when it comes to that is the United States. One can even be dragged out an aircraft if the passenger can become violent. More than just being offloaded, you will be arrested and slapped with criminal charges. Their goes your clean record!
Going back to this power, the state recognizes that the flight crew particularly your cabin crew are the first line of safety, security, and defense in the cabin. They are actually the authority on board, same as that of a policeman who is a public servant that implements the necessary laws to ensure peace and order.
When can they use this power?
So yes, these people in slick and stylish uniforms are actually the authority on board.
Note that they just don't call ground police to do an arrest when needed. They first inform the purser or lead cabin crew who calls the captain. The captain that calls airport police and reports the situation, requesting for an arrest on board.
So if you think that your uniformed cabin crew are your "servants" on board, always remember that your uniformed policemen are also your public servants. They are there to ensure your safety and security based on a country's prevailing laws. We betcha you can never dare ask a uniformed policeman to wash your clothes.
Last but not least, the cabin crew is there to make your flight comfortable and one of their instructions for you is to stow your hand carry luggage unto the overhead bin. Nope, not them, but you. Your bag, your responsibility. They will only lend assistance if they see that you have a hard time lifting it or if you are a PWD, an elderly, or a pregnant woman. No they will not have you arrested if you ask them to stow your luggage, but if they decline to lift it and you become violent, they may again, exercise their power.
Simply put, they will only exercise their power if you become a safety and security hazard or issue, one that would jeopardize the security of other passengers or crewmember.