New Delhi: What do fashion shows and airlines have in common? If you ask Winston D’souza, the answer is obvious: the ramp, of course.
D’souza, a marketing executive of Gladrags Career Academy, said the Mumbai training centre has recently certified two batches of 20 students, training them in both modelling and how to be an air hostess.
“Frankly, when you are on the aircraft, people are looking up to the hostess on the ramp,” said D’souza. “The person is representing the brand on the ramp… They are brand ambassadors.”
It’s not just a hunch—airlines and beauty do go hand in hand, especially when it comes to recruitment. Aviation companies and training schoools are making their case to wannabe models (or fading ones) and plugging the glitz and glamour of their own catwalks (which even light up in case of an emergency); in Gladrags’ case, it runs programmes for models and air hostesses together. Frankfinn Institute of Air Hostess Training has a sister company, Frankfinn Music, that scouts musical talent and models and dancers for videos, but a spokesman says the businesses remain distinct.
A session on grooming and fitness in progress at the Frankfinn Institute of Air Hostess Training in New Delhi
Gladrags’ training—Rs25,000 for one month—focuses on both cabin crew training and ramp modelling, covering topics such as effective body language, English language, fitness, hygiene and stress management. Trainees are also given a complete makeover, headed by Maureen Wadia, a former model and Air India hostess. The trainees also receive direct placement with GoAir, the airline founded by Wadia’s younger son.
D’souza said a unique draw to Gladrags is that the course is only one-month long (most training programmes take at least six months). Most of the trainees are those who want to be in both aviation and modelling, he added.
With domestic airlines such as GoAir growing, human resources departments are getting creative in recruitment tactics. According to Kapil Kaul, chief executive of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, 150 new aircraft have entered the Indian market in the past 30 months and the number of domestic passengers has climbed 30%. While only two airlines existed in 1997, there are now 10.
“There was a time when there was only Air India,” said Amit Raina, a corporate manager of the training institute Flying Cats, headquartered in Chandigarh. The company opened up about a year ago. “With the privatization of this sector, it’s growing. There is competition in the market….”
Flying Cats’ course is one year long and includes classes on in-flight training, first aid and personality development. It frequently ropes in actors and models to reflect what is possible for students; its national launch on a chartered Kingfisher flight from Delhi to Chandigarh and back had actress Kareena Kapoor as chief guest, while model and Femina Miss Universe winner Neha Dhupia inaugurated a centre in Dehradun. Flying Cats also touts stylish uniforms created by fashion designer Ashley Rebello. During the course, students are also flown to Singapore for training and to gain greater exposure, said Raina.
In May, the Kingfisher Training Academy launched a six-month programme in Mumbai. According to Kaul, Kingfisher has emerged as the most visible airline brand in India, especially known for its cabin crew, which many say stand out in terms of beauty, youth, and professionalism.
Schreyas Nair, deputy general manager of the Kingfisher Training Academy, said that while there is no guarantee its trainees would land a job with Kingfisher Airlines, the expectation is that most will. The first batch, about 200 students—80% women—will fill in-cabin and hospitality positions in coming months. The course costs a cool Rs1 lakh. “Kingfisher airline girls bring a lot more glamour,” Nair said.
Good looks are one thing, but brains are essential, say some in the industry who advocate the introduction of standards to ensure quality.
The Air Hostess Academy says it interviewed 20,000 candidates this year and accepted only half. The company has contracts with airlines such as Oman Air, Emirates Air and Qatar Air. Sapna Gupta, director of the institute, said training should be a minimum of one year: “I think we need to draw a line to determine the criteria for the minimum amount of training. There’s a lot of hard work to it.”