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Are airhostess training institutes worth the money?

Jayshree Mulherkar | March 07, 2006

So you always wanted to be a flight attendant, see the world, get a hefty pay packet and a chance to mingle with the high-flying set? Your chances of landing that coveted job are indeed bright, with air travel reaching new peaks and both domestic and international operators on take-off mode.

imageBut while airlines are hiring flight attendants by the planeload, the competition for the jobs too is fierce.

Says Nitin Barekare, national recruitment manager at Air Deccan, "On an average, we get 500 applications a month for about 50 to 60 openings that we have."

Though it's a fairly demanding job requiring stamina, skills, patience and an ability to smile through trying times, the payoffs are considerable. Air hostesses in a domestic airline get starting salaries that range from Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 gross per month, going up to Rs 4 lakh for senior staff. Foreign airlines offer Rs 15,000-40,000 for newcomers, and upto Rs 8 lakh for senior staff.

To cater to this growing demand, a number of institutes have sprung up to help aspirants build a career in the airline industry.

Are these courses really useful?

What do they teach you that airlines don't?

Is it worth paying the high fees for a course in these institutes?

It's difficult to get a clear answer. While the institutes offering such courses insist they're very useful, airline sources aren't all that sure.

What the airlines say

Says Barekare, "When we are hard-pressed for time and need a sizable number of candidates, we tend to look at these institutes and have recruited from many of them." According to him, graduates from institutes are better prepared for the job interview and are more confident. He feels it is the communication skills they pick up, rather than the cabin training they receive, that tips the scales in their favour.

Most of the courses are a mix of airline orientation and personality development. For example, the curriculum of the Air Hostess Academy (AHA) includes cabin crew training, ground service training, practical orientation in the aircraft, training on the computer reservation system, business English, foreign languages, swimming, personality development and first-aid.

What institutes offer

image The Delhi-based Frankfinn Institute of Air Hostess Training, which has centres across India, offers a combined year-long diploma course in aviation, hospitality and travel and tourism.

Says Frankfinn MD Rakesh Agarwal: "Our course is a preparatory one. Apart from personality development, grooming and communication skills, we also train candidates in the Galileo reservation system used for cruises and the Fidelio system for hotel reservations. We provide 30 hours' training on a real Airbus A300."
The Mumbai-based Savio D'Silva Classes also offers a combined certificate course in airlines, cruises & travel service. Says D'Silva: "Our course is like a finishing school with 18 subjects being taught. We also provide first-aid training, and have a strict fitness programme designed to help candidates strengthen their physique."

Most of these institutes claim they help students find a job after they complete the course.

AHA claims a placement record of 85-90 per cent and that many airline companies visit them for campus recruitments. Barekare says Air Deccan does campus recruitments from institutes like AHA, Frankfinn, Trade Wings and others. "About 17-18 per cent of our cabin crew recruits are from these institutes," he adds.

Frankfinn's Agarwal claims 92 per cent of those who've passed out of the institute have found jobs in airline, hotel and travel companies such as Royal Jordanian, Etihad, Air Deccan, Go Air, Delta, Paramount Air, Kingfisher and Gulf Air.

Are you eligible?

But you can't just walk into an institute and ask to take a course. Institutes are picky about who they take as students to ensure high placement rates.

For instance, the minimum qualification for admission to an AHA course is 10+2. All applicants have to take a written test -- which includes sections on verbal ability, analytical reasoning, English, general knowledge and basic mathematics -- and a round of personal interviews.

"Only those with a positive attitude and perseverance are enrolled. Once selected, candidates are driven hard because the institute demands the best of each," says AHA chief consultant Sapna Gupta.

Says Frankfinn's Agarwal, "We interview all applicants and enroll them for the course after an assessment." However, Frankfinn allows candidates who don't meet cabin crew criteria to enrol for the course since it prepares students for non-cabin crew jobs as well.

Savio D'Silva Classes accepts only female applicants and limits class size to eight or 10 students. Says D'Silva: "An applicant has to go through an interview where we try to gauge her suitability for the course with respect to age, the physical standards set by the airlines, prior customer support experience and, most important, her dedication and seriousness for a career in this industry."

The damages

The courses don't come cheap. AHA charges Rs 84,500 for a one-year diploma programme in Aviation & Hospitality Management. It also offers a two-year diploma course in Global Aviation & Hospitality Management for Rs 1,49,500. The Frankfinn course costs Rs 86,000. 

Savio D'Silva Classes' certificate course in airlines, cruises and travel service is cheaper, at Rs 39,000 and involves six months of classroom training and three months of field training in five-star hotels.

What cabin crew say

Not everyone is convinced of the utility of these courses. Some air hostesses from a domestic airline who we spoke to feel that, except for providing basic tips like personal grooming, communication and language skills, these courses don't really help much. They feel that since airlines train you to handle every situation, including crises, spending huge amounts of money on these courses to learn just the basics is simply unnecessary. According to them, getting a job as an airhostess depends on how you present yourself at the interview.

Besides, they add, airlines often don't give much weightage to such courses while selecting candidates. A Jet Airways spokesperson agrees: "The minimal qualification required (for an air hostess) is 10+2 and there is no weightage given to applicants graduating from training institutes." The air hostesses we spoke to say it's better to do a graduation course, since most international airlines demand a graduate degree instead of such diploma or certificate courses.

However, airhostesses Roma Modi and Nidhi Moona, former Frankfinn students, swear by the course. Says Modi, "When I enrolled for the course, I didn't know anything about the aviation industry, but the institute prepared me for everything. I feel a course is essential if you are planning to make a career as an airhostess."

Moona agrees that doing the course gave her an edge because she already had some knowledge about the aviation industry before taking up the job, which helped during the training period. "Since the institutes educate students on the basics of an aircraft along with the soft skills, the airlines tend to give preference candidates who have done such courses," she says.

Going through a placement agency?

Ankit Ravani, manager, HR, at Emmay Consultants, a placement firm that recruits for airlines, also feels the courses aren't a waste of time. According to him, these training courses definitely give candidates a head start as they are trained in many aspects of the industry and are also provided basic technical knowledge. But then, he adds, each airline has different criteria and, ultimately, it depends on the merits of the candidate.

Selection also depends on the requirements of each airline, adds Ravani. "Airlines advertise when they need freshers, and recruit from the institutes when they need groomed staff. But the institutes can't guarantee a job in a particular airline, since recruitments depend on an airline's requirements."

When an airline needs experienced personnel, says Ravani, it usually hires from its own ground staff. "Generally, all airlines have a quota system where, if there is a 20 per cent vacancy, 10 per cent will be filled internally," he adds.

Ravani feels you have a better chance of getting that coveted cabin crew job by joining an airline as ground staff after getting a travel and tourism qualification and doing an IATA course. This way, in a couple of years and depending on your performance, you could end up flying.

However, there are other ways of getting on that plane. For instance, airlines need flight interpreters, so if you have learnt a foreign language, you might be able to land a job, even if you don't meet the physical criteria for an air hostess' job. 

Ultimately, while a flight attendant's course may not guarantee you a job, it could help you get an head start over other candidates. 

Have you been passed out through a cabin crew training academy? Share your experience with our readers. 

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