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Training institutes that are flying high
Nanditta Chibber |
July 09, 2005
When low-cost airline SpiceJet advertised vacancies for 30 inflight personnel, the response was an overwhelming 2,000 applications. Parveen Sobti, base in-charge, SpiceJet, says: "For 60 inflight posts before the airline was even launched, there were 10,000 applicants."
The number of applicants queuing up to sign on as inflight crew for almost all domestic and some international airlines is growing phenomenally.
Being an air hostess or part of the cabin crew is a sought-after career for those who don't want to pursue college education seriously but want a handsome remuneration, a minimum of Rs 25,000 a month, early in their professional life.
With a 10+2 degree complemented by some personality traits, the profession still has the 'glamour' tag attached to it.
With severe competition and the entry of several private airlines in the Indian aviation sector, recent years have seen inflight crew training institutes mushroom in all parts of the country.
Take the Frankfinn Institute of Air Hostess Training, which has 43 centres across 34 cities with around 200-300 students in each centre for a part-time, one-year diploma in aviation, hospitality and travel management.
With a fee of Rs 75,000 for the course, it claims to be the country's number one institute for basic cabin crew training, and has leased an Airbus A-300 to provide 30 hours of training to each student.
Says K S Kohli, chairman, Frankfinn, "We are the only institute where campus interviews by international airlines like Yemen Airways, Jordanian Airways etc are held. Yemen Airways recently recruited 45 of our students."
Sapna Gupta, founder and chief consultant, Air Hostess Academy, with its 17 branches (and expansion plans in southern and eastern India, along with centres abroad), says, "The aviation industry has a need for trained human resources that we are fulfilling."
With an estimated demand for 4,000 inflight attendants, "If with just a phone call good candidates can be procured, then it reduces the airline's problems too," she adds.
Both Frankfinn and AHA have strategic partnerships with the International Air Transport Association for inflight services, and the Air Hostess Training Institute is in line for IATA approval for air-ticketing.
Subjects like cabin crew training, first-aid training, personality enhancement, personal grooming, a foreign language, ticketing procedures, communication and some technical knowledge comprise the curriculum for most of these institutes.
Says Pammi Talwar, director, Air Hostess Training Institute and a veteran Air India hostess: "The course gives them an edge while competing with other non-trained candidates. Also, candidates who pass out are almost 85 per cent ready for the job, except for the airline specific training, when inducted."
There is even an institute that guarantees jobs. Careers Zone's branch manager, Jagpreet affirms: "We are the only institute that refunds the tuition fee if our student is unable to secure an inflight job."
The perception created by these institutes is that a direct entry in an airline is rare, except for Indian Airlines and Air India.
A diploma communicates the impression that the candidate, among the thousands who apply, is seriously interested in the profession. Certainly, they're better able to handle the technical questions asked at the interview.
Most domestic airlines, au contraire, are less inclined to agree with this view. Indian Airlines, as a policy, does not recruit from these institutes, and its tests are open to everybody.
As are those for Air Sahara, Jet Airways, Air Deccan, SpiceJet and Kingfisher. They agree that no technical questions are asked; that only the basic aptitude, general know-ledge and personality traits of a candidate are considered.
"If a candidate justifies the six parameters and suits the brand SpiceJet, then he/she is considered," says Parvez Sobti of SpiceJet, agreeing that the airline does sometimes do campus recruitments, but remains "extremely selective". Megha, a SpiceJet inflight attendant with a diploma from Franfinn, certainly found the training useful.
There is also a difference of opinion between the airlines and the institutes about the number of trained personnel hired for the job. The institutes claim a success rate of around 75-80 per cent, but most airlines do not put it beyond 35-40 per cent.
A majority of the domestic airlines claim that their own training sessions of six weeks to three months are sufficient for inflight grooming and training. The recently launched Kingfisher Airlines that institutes had accused of stressing looks over skills, disregards all such claims.
"Though good looks are essential in this profession, a pleasant and outgoing attitude combined with hard work is important," says Ruby Arya, HR manager, Kingfisher.
She rubbishes the claim that those trained at professional institutes require less training once they join an airline. "We cannot rely on their training," she says. Air Sahara, which claims it does not do campus recruitments, says these institutes do not give their trainees any "edge".
But the institutes are not viewing their training courses as just a short-term opportunity as airlines mushroom in India, which is why AHA is considering opening centres overseas, while Frankfinn, more ambitiously, is planning its own airline five years later.As for their popularity, it must stem from the low skill requirement and the high remuneration and "permanence" of such jobs in an industry that is, at least in the West, considered an "in-between jobs/studies" vocation.