While many young Indians are mad about Bollywood film stars, 20-year-old Mune Byaling has arather unusual hero: stylish liquor-to-aviation tycoonVijay Mallya.
“He’s different. He’s like a rock star—daring, fascinating, focused,” said the university student, enamoured by the attractive flight attendants that Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines is known for.
That is why Byaling is among the thousands of glamour-struck youngsters who are signing up for expensive training schools in a scramble to become flight attendants.
Growing air travel in India and the opening up of the aviation sector in the 1990s have led to a surge in demand for airline staff.
Industry estimates and experts put the number of cabin crew needed in the next three years at between 15,000 and 20,000—a tiny number in a country of 1.1 billion people.
With supply far outstripping demand for well-paid airline jobs, cabin crew training schools have sprouted across India, luring aspirants with glossy adverts with often white-skinned models, and a promise of job placements.
Many airlines dismiss them as commercial ventures out to exploit aspirants from small towns, but their growth story continues.
The largest, Frankfinn Institute, has expanded from a single branch four years ago to 79 now, along with 30 information offices in remote areas, and plans to spread in South Asia, West Asia and South Africa.
It has about 15,000 students on its rolls and charges about $2,850 (Rs1,15,140) —nearly as much as many private medical and engineering schools do—to impart non-academic and non-technical training.
“Most of these people would never make it. You can’t groom people lacking in social skills with two-hour classes,” said Vijaya Lukose, head of in-flight services at Air Deccan and author of 10 Steps to Become an AirHostess.
“They are just money-making shops.”
Lukose’s warning comes despite a deal between cash-strapped budget carrier Air Deccan and Frankfinn under which the airline will hire its annual intake of nearly 400 new employees only fromthe institute.
Staff at Frankfinn admit that many of its 15,000 students will not make it as flight attendants.
“The retail industry is booming. Our students have a lot of opportunities as store and service managers,” said personality development trainer Sangeeta Singh.
For generations, educated middle-class Indians have wanted their children to become doctors and engineers— which till now remained among the most coveted professions.
But as the country’s economy continues to expand and foreign investment pours in, jobs with airlines, hotels, in retail, entertainment and call centres have started to provide lucrative alternatives for millions of youngsters keen to make easy money. AFP