Some airline companies may be struggling to keep themselves afloat, but business for the aviation training industry is brisk, barring some exceptions.
An instance is Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Academy. His aviation business is hitting the headlines for all the wrong reasons, but students from the aviation academy are in demand. “Our academy is doing much better than our aviation business. World over, bulk carriers like Emirates, Qatar, Etihad are all growing and recruiting. Besides, many cabin crew members have resigned from India, as international players offer a better salary. Once we train students, it is not mandatory for them to join Kingfisher. So, there is continuous demand for air hostesses,” said a senior official from the Kingfisher Airhostess Academy.
Industry sources say the Kingfisher Academy has shut shop at various centres but the latter denied this.
For some others, things have not been that rosy. The Air Hostess Academy, for instance, shut shop in 2009-10 and has had several complaints filed against it for failing to refund student fees. Flying Cats, another institute, recently shut down; a ‘Fashionista School of Fashion Technology’ is now available on the earlier contact number of Flying Cats.
In-house Training is another flying school whose present whereabouts are not known. Though their website still exists, the contact numbers on it could not be reached. A few numbers dialled by Business Standard at some centres said the institute had shut down.
“Cabin crew academies are not regulated in India and therein lies the basic problem. Unlike Pilot Training Academies, the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) does not regulate air hostess academies, so anyone with available infrastructure can open one. Therefore there could be dozens of fly-by-night operators in large and small cities, without anyone having a finger on the actual number,” says Rajan Mehra, co-founder and executive director of Asia Pacific Academy.
The boom in the airline business in 2006-2009 led to a huge requirement of cabin crew for airlines. Sector experts say many saw this as an opportunity to make big money. “Neither were these academies equipped to handle so many students, nor were a majority of these students the cabin crew material. They were all promised lucrative jobs in airlines. But after the course, most students were without jobs,” added Mehra.
India has over half a dozen branded aviation training institutes. Most of these offer a one-year diploma after the higher secondary (+2) examination, which prepares the candidates (age between 17 and 24 years) to join cabin crew of airlines. Most academies charge Rs 1.5-1.75 lakh for a year’s course and Rs 70-75,000 for a six-month course. Fly-by-night operators sometimes charge much less to build up volumes, say experts.
Air hostess training requires specialised courses in grooming, etiquette, communication skills, aviation, safety and handling emergency situations. Hence an academy requires highly qualified instructors, with experience gained from roles in aviation and hospitality. Most academies, however, cut costs by hiring inexperienced faculty, lacking qualifications or expertise to be able to teach and guide students, according to industry players.
The anchored ones
But some like Frankfinn Institute of Air Hostess Training, Aptech Aviation and Hospitality Academy, and Universal Training Academy are going great guns.
Frankfinn has set up around 200 centres, with more in the offing. Samir Walia, its president, marketing, says the institute got jobs for at least 5,000 students in the past year.
Universal Aviation Academy, based in Chennai, has had a fairly good placement season. Sarita Singh, placement in-charge, said demand for ground staff at airlines had not diminished.The institute offers 70-75 per cent placements every year.
At Kompass Aviation, though there was a standstill in placements three months earlier, the situation is back on track, says Amrutha Lily Jathanna, senior HR professional at the institute looking after these. The institute offers 85 per cent placement and Jathanna expects the situation to bounce back after April. Cabin crew placements are doing better than others at the institute.
Industry insiders say institutes which had only concentrated on air hostess training had to face the brunt of a hiring crisis and eventually shut down.
“The big players have an array of courses that help them overcome aviation crises, as a slowdown is witnessed in cabin crew recuitment and not ground staff hiring and similar areas,” said a placement official of an aviation institute.
Head-hunters say the aviation sector may be going through a rough patch, but it’s too early to panic. “Every sector has its business cycle of ups and down. The sector is not hiring rapidly. But in the next three to four months, we expect the situation to stabilise,” said E Balaji, MD & CEO, Ma Foi Randstad.
Aptech Aviation and Hospitality Academy, earlier known as Avalon Academy, says the aviation industry’s situation has not impacted it.
“At our institute, we are also seeing smaller private airports sending their employees for skill training. Further, we are focusing on airport managment and ground handling, apart from courses for air hostess training. This makes us well diversified,” said Shrutidhar Paliwal, vice-president (corporate communications and media relations).
He said Air India Singapore Airport Terminal Services had recruited from them this year. The institute has a placement record of 85-90 per cent and has both national and international airlines coming for placements.