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How IndiGo trains its crew to keep flying high

By Arindam Majumder
December 03, 2017 08:30 IST
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According to DGCA data, Indigo carries the highest number of passengers but has the least number of complaints.

Image : Prospective flight attendants walk on a ramp during their training at the Indigo Airlines' Ifly training centre in Gurugram. Photograph: Adnan Abidi/Reuters

On the fourth floor of IFly -- IndiGo’s crew training academy  in Gurugram, near Delhi -- 30 girls are learning how to serve a meal inside an aircraft.

“The meal has to be served within 55 seconds of the passenger’s request.


"If it is not available you should listen to the complaint, empathise with the customers, apologise and suggest an alternate item,” the instructor, another woman, is saying.

She is responsible for turning the college graduates into efficient cabin crew members.

IndiGo, according to data from Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), carries the highest number of passengers in Indian skies but has the least number of complaints.

In the first week of November, the airline was stunned by visuals of its staff allegedly assaulting a passenger, prompting it to issue a clarification.

A brand built over 11 years promising reliability was facing its toughest test.

Its shares fell and it had to work extra to protect its credit on social media platforms. Experts even debated if success had made the company complacent.

What is the company doing to ensure such incidents don’t happen in the future?

The question was directed at Summi Sharma, vice-president, corporate learning at IndiGo. Sharma heads IFly and is the one responsible for training of crews.

“The activities we do here, repeat day after day, the quality of the trainers, all ensures that mistakes at IndiGo are minimum,” says Sharma.

The seven-floor building at IFly has been designed to replicate every single aspect of an IndiGo aircraft.

The classrooms are shaped like a cabin of A320 -- IndiGo’s work horse.

The corridors are designed to resemble a runway and the second floor looks like an aeroplane ramp. It can even be reached directly through a rear entrance, which is a replica of the gangway, similar to the ones used while boarding their planes.

“We have tried to create an atmosphere that closely resembles the working condition of the crews, so that by the time they go out into the real world, the training here gets imbibed in them.”

Pointing towards the white desks in the classroom, she says, “There is a reason why they are white. If the crew, during his training, can learn to keep it clean, our aircraft will also remain so.”

Crews have to compulsorily train at IFly and also have to pass through repeat courses.

“IFly is to make it certain that the crew -- pilot, cabin crew, ground staff -- reacts to situations in the same IndiGo way.

"Whether it is Agartala or Jammu, the aircraft has a fast turnaround, it is clean and the check-in experience is hassle-free,” says president Aditya Ghosh.

Even before the recent crisis blew up, IndiGo was facing the challenge of growth.

Domestic air passenger traffic growth over the past few years, which stayed around 20 per cent, has to a large extent been driven by IndiGo.

Over the past four years, the airline's market share in terms of number of passenger carried has swollen to 39.6 per cent in 2017 from 31.8 per cent in 2014 -- mainly due to passengers who moved from the railways.

IndiGo then ramped up the course at IFly to include responses to queries from first-time flyers.

“Once a lady wanted to go the lavatory while takeoff, it was difficult to say no, finally she understood but the trick is to listen, empathise, apologise and explain why it is not possible,” said Bristy Kausik, who has been working as cabin attendant for six years now.

Ghosh accepts that there is a challenge and says, “The complexity of the structure has become manifold, infrastructure has not kept up pace.

"Airports, which seemed to be easy airports even two years back, are now congested.

"There is a complete new sect of flyers to cater to, but what we can’t sacrifice is the reliability, so that’s where the system has to change, training has to keep up, that’s what we do at IFly.”

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Arindam Majumder in New Delhi
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