At first they were called stewards and stewardesses, perhaps a throwback to the early days of ocean travel. Some airlines used "cabin boy" to describe male cabin crew. Later, as more women took on the job, "air hostess" became a frequently-used term to describe cabin staff.
And now we have the gender-neutral "flight attendants."
Less flattering terms are also used to describe these hard-working employees. "Trolly dollies" comes to mind, a somewhat demeaning phrase that some flight attendants have themselves used on occasion.
But I think we need a more fitting job title. After all, as we're constantly reminded, in-flight crew are primarily there for our safety. So how about something that reflects that? Flight safety crew? Flight safety staff? Cabin safety officers? Even safety attendants if we must. But "flight attendants" is just too vague and even belittling for my taste. Miriam Webster defines "attendant" as a "servant" or "assistant" and I think that demeans the most important function that cabin crew serve, and perhaps leads some passengers to indeed treat them like servants.
So while perhaps "flight safety crew" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, on a recent flight I found myself wondering if perhaps there's a more accurate way to describe the primary function that these people serve. If you have any better ideas, I'd love to hear them.