Bangalore / New Delhi: In September, Karen Lavina Castellino, nearing the end of her air hostess training course, decided to become a receptionist at a five-star resort on Bangalore’s outskirts.
Out of work: Laid-off Jet Airways employees outside the company’s office in Mumbai on Thursday. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP
For the 22-year-old, being a flight attendant had been a dream that led her to join Frankfinn Institute of Air Hostess Training. Still, she says, she sensed all was not well with her soon-to-be profession.
“Before, it was easy to get a job in an airline. It is not so anymore,” says Castellino, a business management graduate from St. Aloysius College in Mangalore. “Good, that I moved to a hotel. It offers (job) security”
Castellino, who can still finish her training if she completes two of the 10 modules, says that she may, at some point, still get into an airlines job but not now, especially with Indian airlines cutting jobs in recent days.
Not everyone had Castellino’s foresight. Avneet Kaur Bedi, who was sacked as a cabin crew employee by Jet Airways on Wednesday less than 30 days into a flying career, is moving back from Mumbai to her hometown Delhi, and will rejoin a call centre.
“It is better to work for a call centre, I would have saved (money in) these months,” says the 20-year-old Bedi who left one to join Jet eight months ago as a trainee. While the pay — at Rs40,000 some four times her call center monthly pay — was great, she says she is now stuck with Rs5,000 worth of make-up that she won’t need to put on. “I had bought make up kits for Rs5,000 thinking I will not have time to shop,” she says. “It is going waste”.
Private aviation academies that train students for flight crew jobs claim that despite a sudden decline in opportunities in aviation, there are still jobs for their students in hospitality and tourism.
“Roughly, 15-20% of the batch gets placed in domestic aviation, 50-60% go into hospitality,” says Samir Valia, vice-president, corporate communication at Frankfinn.
Frankfinn has 80 training centres where six-seven batches of 25-30 students are trained in a one-year course, as receptionists, being restaurant hostesses and guest relations executives, in addition to flight attendants. Typical tuition fees are Rs1,25,000 per student.
“We have already hit rock-bottom and things can only get better from here,” claims Valia, even though India’s airlines have just announced their first major cuts. “We see this as a temporary setback. Industry will definitely grow. Hospitality and tourism have been growing because of Commonwealth Games” in 2010 in New Delhi.
And international airlines are still looking for cabin staff, he adds, pointing out that, for instance, Bahrain Airlines is recruiting in Cochin and Nas Air, a Saudi Arabian carrier, has advertised jobs for cabin staff. “Those who have taken admission will find jobs next year,” adds Sapna Gupta, founder and director of Air Hostess Academy Pvt Ltd.
Meanwhile, pilot training schools are also saying they will not see a significant impact from the current woes of India’s airlines, especially because there is also demand from cargo aviation.
By March, India’s aircraft regulator, the directorate general of civil aviation, had already approved training academies buying some 100 small planes to train pilots, compared with about 30 in the previous fiscal year. It is unclear how many of those planes have actually been bought.
“As aviation stands now, if you see the current flight demand — even if not a single aircraft is added, you need 500-600 new pilots a year,” says Y.N. Sharma, chief operating officer of Chimes Aviation Academy, which runs a pilot training school in Sagar, Madhya Pradesh. “Yes, earlier you had six pilots for eight jobs, now there are more pilots for (fewer) jobs. But, for trained pilots, there is opportunity,” says Sharma. His academy will add three planes in November, increasing their fleet to 10 with four more planes to be added in February.
“There is no slowdown, all airlines are adding pilots. There is a surplus of poorly trained pilots,” said T.P. Srivastava, chief executive officer, SVKM’s NMIMS University academy of aviation, who is setting up a pilot school in Shirpur, Maharashtra, some 385km from Mumbai.