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Sep, 01 2006

Airhostess Training Industry FLYING HIGH

The increasing demand for manpower in the aviation sector has resulted in the mushrooming of a number of airhostess training institutes in India.

It was a marketing coup of sorts when Air Deccan entered the aviation scene and launched its flights offering unbelievably low-cost fares. While this left the traveller spellbound… and happier, other airlines had no choice but to follow suit, thereby setting lower tariffs as the norm.

Fares were slashed to such a large extent that they began to match with the high-class railways fare. Given such a golden opportunity, the Indian traveller began to prefer air travel to paying an almost equal amount for making a journey by rail. The reduced tariffs led to an increase in domestic as well as international traffic. The open sky policy of the government also gave a chance to domestic airlines to fly to international destinations.

Another reason for the boom in this industry, which promises a greater role and growth, were the deregulation and privatisation policies of the government. The sector has already seen major players entering and multiplying its growth and giving direct competition to the government-owned service. Due to these key growth factors, the GDP has also increased over a couple of years.

Increasing industry demand = more job opportunities

According to the estimates by the Indian Brand Equity Foundation, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, domestic passenger traffic increased by 24.2 per cent and international traffic by 18 per cent in April-December 2005, and is expected to make more strides in the coming years. Aircraft movement and passenger traffic witnessed the biggest ever growth in the last financial year when the former increased by 14.2 per cent and the latter (in domestic airports) increased by 22.3 per cent.

Jet Airways topped the list of domestic and national carrier by operating 8,168 flights till June 2005, and Indian Airlines ranked second with 7,562 flights. Sahara, Spice Jet, Air Deccan and Kingfisher have also joined the bandwagon by increasing their number of flight carriers.

According to Sapna Gupta of AHA (Airhostess Academy), "Revolutionised by liberalisation, the aviation sector in India has been marked by fast-paced change in the past few years. From providing a service that few could afford, the sector has now graduated to being a fiercely competitive industry with the presence of a number of private and public airlines with several consumer-oriented offerings."

According to Pramod Khera, MD, Aptech (which has now assumed role of manpower trainer), "Aviation is a fast growing industry with many private players stepping in. Among Kingfisher, Air Deccan, Go Air and Spice Jet, more than 490 new aircrafts have been purchased, with delivery dates before 2008. Moreover, several international airlines have started operations in the country and this too translates into more job opportunities."

As per some industry sources, the industry needs 10 lakh fresh manpower by 2011.

Commenting on the current status of this sector K S Kohli, Chairman, Frankfinn Institute of Airhostess Training says, "The current status of airhostess training in India is very bullish and this demand is not going to end at least for the next ten years because the aviation industry is growing rapidly."

The hectic activity in, and expansion of, the aviation sector led to aggressive hiring of manpower for the industry. This demand for well-qualified and quality manpower was answered, to some extent, by the airlines hiring staff directly. The rest of the cause was taken up by the aviation training institutes, which have today sprung up in great numbers.

Increasing demand for Airhostesses

An important component of the courses these aviation training institutes provide is airhostess training. The latest and increased demand by almost all the airlines is that for airhostesses. There are opportunities galore in the aviation sector. Indian Airlines, Jet Airways, Air Sahara and other private players are in an expansion mode, hiring more staff. In the coming five years in the entire Asia Pacific Region the total human resource requirement in the civil aviation industry will be to the tune of 94705. This will include 10,000 pilots, 21000 flight attedants, 15700 maintenance workers.

According to Anil Jinsi, GM (ops), AHM (Aviation, Hospitality and Management Ltd), "The airhostess job has come up to be the most lucrative option today, and a large number of Indian women are looking forward to being airhostesses. Other attractions are the exciting experience of flying, interacting with different people on board, and visiting different countries.

According to Khera, "For a young aspirant, this is a fantastic career opportunity. An airhostess gets to travel and see new places while at work. They get to meet celebrities and work only for 17 days in a month. The starting salary for a domestic airline airhostess is approximately Rs 25,000. Each airline gives fantastic career and growth options to their cabin crew."

Importance of Airhostess Training Institutes

To cater to this increasing demand, the aviation industry looks at training institutes for trained staff who are well-versed in customer relations and communication skills. Students of training institutes are preferred over novices for their specific expertise and presentable demeanour. Moreover, competition is fierce in the job market, and a course in airhostess training definitely gives an edge to the aspiring candidate. Students are convinced that the training provided by these institutes can fetch them a job in the airline industry. This fact can be further substantiated if we look at the number of students enrolled in airhostess training institutes every year. Airhostess Academy enrols 3500 plus students every year out of which 85 per cent get placement easily. Aviation, Hospitality and Management Ltd enrolled more than 150 students this year, which happens to be the first batch of the institute. The institute guarantees placement and has a campus placement cell for assistance. British Airhostess Academy enrols 100-150 students every year. The institute claims to provide 100 per cent placement to its candidates.

Aptech has become the first corporate to enter the aviation training sector. According to Pramod Khera, Managing Director, Aptech Ltd., "The aviation training sector is one of the growing fields of education and training. Aptech has always been associated with the education field and entering the aviation training sector is just an extension of our area of specialisation. Ours is a global learning centre and we are expanding our horizons beyond the IT sector." Needless to add, Aptech has an ongoing successful run in IT education franchising

Aptech has been in the business of IT since last 20 years and now this new foray in the aviation sector can just add to quality training for aspiring candidates. Aptech joined hands with Avalon Aviation Academy, which already has a set base in Chennai.

Among the other training institutes catering to the aviation sector's demand for trained manpower include Flying Cats, Institute of Tourism & Future Management Trends (ITFT), Ron's Institute of Aviation and Hospitality Pvt. Ltd. (RIAH), PRG Education, Indian Aviation Academy, Air Hostess Training Institute, and Aptima Air Hostess Academy.

What these Airhostess academies offer

In the words of Jagdeep Chaudhary, MD, British Airhostess Academy, "Out of the various career options open for girls these days, being an airhostess offers high returns, luxury and glamour."

However, with the great perks and opportunities, comes a lot of responsibility. Airhostesses need to be highly skilled in various aspects, including unique situations such as emergency, first aid and handling of the visually impaired.

Since airhostesses are the face of an airline, a lot of effort is made on development of their personality. Therefore, grooming skills form an important part of any training course. The institutes act like a finishing school for the students where they get airline orientation and further personality development.

The commercial side of aviation stresses upon providing trained staff to the industry. Before assigning an aircraft to a flight attendant it is necessary that he or she has undertaken proper training. Although there is no legal requirement of training for an airhostess, many private airlines prefer trained staff from institutes as the candidates have acquired, to a good degree, grooming and communication skills. However, the course content is not confined to just these two aspects. Practical training is provided about aircrafts as well. Thus, these courses groom the students in every way.

Most of the institutes offer diploma in aviation, hospitality, travel and tourism in a year's time. Basic cabin crew training includes practical in-flight exposure and first-aid training. Personality enhancement includes effective body language, personal grooming, fitness and hygiene, hair and skin care, public relations, effective communication skills, effective public speaking, social skills, manners and etiquette, stress and time management, and customer service-orientation.

Go Franchising

Franchising is a two-pronged strategy: it enables a business to expand further, and when the market is abuzz with demand, it seems to be a viable option to seize the opportunity.

With more girls opting for the airhostess career, and with the market also showing an increase in demand, airhostess training institutes have expanded using the franchising model. Franchisees of these institutes are spread all across the country, and moving overseas as well.

Major training institutes, like AHA and Frankfinn, are in full support of franchising. Gupta says, "As there is a big boom in the aviation industry, there are huge job opportunities and thus people are exploring their career options in this sector. New players are entering this sector and even new airports are coming up which increases the radius of the network. Thus, franchising in this sector is very rewarding, as also for the fact that the turnover is commendable."

Besides making money in this lucrative sector, a franchisee also plays a major role by offering highly trained cabin crew staff to the industry. AHA has high-end training models as per the industry requirements that serve the requirement of trained, quality manpower. After testing the ground by setting up 11 self-owned centres all across the country, taking advantage of the local expertise, the franchise model seemed the obvious next step for AHA.

In case of Frankfinn, out of a total of 65 plus centres, more than 40 are company-owned. To clarify the company's policy Kohli says, "We have given franchises on a select basis keeping in mind the value that a franchisee can add to the business."

Jinsi, opines that the franchising of airhostess institutes is witnessing excellent growth, but, he clarifies, only the fittest would survive. AHM appointed its franchisees nationwide within a few months of its start.

Essential qualifications of a potential franchisee

A prospective franchisee needs to be competent enough to take up the challenges of the growing market. Even when support is provided from the franchisor, the franchisee needs to be well-versed with the aviation industry.

Gupta, prefers future franchisees to be from the service industry as they would be able to understand the functioning of the aviation and hospitality industry.

Institutes also prefer franchisees with s strong business background. Chaudhary, believes that the franchisee must be professional enough to tackle the responsibilities of the institute.

Kohli informs, "We try to avoid people with a past history in education franchising as it creates preconceived notions in their minds. We look at people who can provide local city resourcefulness."

Khera would like his future franchisee to be an entrepreneur with a passion for education and a penchant for quality results.

Out of these, an entrepreneurship attitude seems to be the most essential requirement.

Further, says Khera, "A wrong entrant can spoil the quality of training, which we are highly concerned about. Also, the franchisee should have adequate working capital, in addition to the initial investments required, so that the institution can run comfortably till break-even is achieved."

On the other hand, what should an aspiring franchisee look for in a franchisor? First of all, the training capability of the parent company, which can be determined by confirming the authenticity of training affiliations. The franchise seeker should also research some necessary facts like what forms the backbone of the organisation, its industry contracts, placement records and availability of a good business proposal for the franchise. Khera, also cautions, "The franchisee should look at the antecedents of the franchisor so that he is sure that he is not being taken for a ride by fly-by-night operators." Cautions Kohli, "When there is a boom in any industry, a lot of players start mushrooming. The potential franchisee grabs any opportunity and ends up losing money." Further, the credibility and the placement track record of the company are the most important criteria for a potential franchisee to examine. He must see how many locations the company in question is running on its own. This is very important as it symbolises the faith of the principal company in the business. It is also important for the franchisee to get adequate training from the franchisor, which will ensure that the franchisee delivers quality service to his customers. Often, failure in an airhostess training system is because of incompetent training material and faculty, and poor experience from the franchisor's side.

Future prospects

The aviation industry is taking off as never before. With the government encouraging trade and tourism, passenger traffic will rise to a new high. Passenger traffic is predicted to grow by 20 per cent in the next five years. Further, due to reduced prices, more travellers have started travelling by air, which has caused more aircraft and newer airlines to enter Indian skies. This has increased the demand for well-trained airhostesses. The aviation training sector is, in response, expanding with the aim of grooming airhostesses to provide an enhanced flying experience to the traveller.

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