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Schools for airline crew flying high

By PR Sanjai & Sreejiraj Eluvangal in Mumbai
October 29, 2005 13:08 IST
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The new fleet of dozens of aircraft ordered by the domestic airline companies may not hit the tarmac just yet but there is one sector, which has definitely taken off- cabin crew training centres.

Barely in existence before the boom that the entry of private carriers has caused in the domestic market, the promoters of the high-flying finishing schools are seeing huge expansion in their business.

"We got 30,000 applicants for our one and two-year courses, but could admit only 2,500 students this year," says Sapna Gupta, home maker-turned-entrepreneur and the owner of the Delhi-based Air Hostess Academy.

The Academy, which has set up 15 branches after starting off on a small scale in Delhi in 1997, is all set to nearly double its operations next year. "There is a lot of interest from the youngsters," says Gupta, who has launched most of her branches in the metros.

She is looking to open 10 more centres before the next academic year starts. Gupta claims that her organisation had a turnover of Rs 25 crore (Rs 250 million) last year, which she expects to take to Rs 90 crore (Rs 900 million) by next year.

Indeed, with a slew of new airlines slated to hit the Indian skies before the year is over, including Go Air, Paramount and Indigo Airlines besides the ones already on the runway, the market is exploding.

The biggest player in the business, Frankfinn, has already opened 15 new centres during the first six months of this year and expects the number of centres to double to 60 by the end of this fiscal.

Says Pammi Talwar, director of the Delhi-based Air Hostess Training Institute, "Our estimate is that over 1,000 air hostess are recruited every year and likely to go up two to three fold in next three years."

According to the AHA's calculations, the country is going to need around 21,000 cabin crew members to man the new Boeings and Airbuses scheduled for delivery over the next five years.

"Air-India has ordered 18 Boeing 737s, Kingfisher, 28 Airbuses and Spice has ordered another 20... this is besides the orders for leasing nearly 200 aircrafts which the industry has placed for delivery over the coming years," says Gupta of the AHA.

While Delhi-based Frankfinn and AHA are the biggest players with a pan-Indian presence, a large number of smaller and regional players also getting into the act.

"The term 'airhostess' has undergone a paradigm shift from glorified waitress in the air. Now, the role is determined on the basis of the service provided by an airline," points out Talwar.

Their remuneration in domestic carries have risen by about 50 per cent to above Rs 20,000 per month. If it is a foreign airline, then the pay packet is over Rs 1 lakh a month.

The increase in the pay of airline staff, both ground-based and cabin-crew, in the past few months, have also seen the course fees rising. "We charge Rs 84,500 for the one-year, part-time course and around Rs 1.5 lakh for the two-year course," says Gupta.

Those opting for the plunge may do well to listen to G R Gopinath's (managing director of Air Deccan) advice, "India is a land of beautiful girls. Most of the time, we pick raw girls and train them for three months at the in-house facility."

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PR Sanjai & Sreejiraj Eluvangal in Mumbai
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