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High flyers club

As several low cost and regional carriers expand operations and add new bases, Keith Mwanalushi looks at how some airlines and training academies are working to meet the demand for new cabin crew

Over the last few years, much attention has been given to the prospect of a global pilot shortage. This is now a reality. The Inflight Institute of Alberta, Canada, has verified that a cabin crew shortage is imminent. The gravity of this issue first became apparent when Ivan Noel, President at the Inflight Institute presented a white paper entitled ‘Ghost Flights’ in 2009.


The days of commercial aircraft being forced to fly empty due to the lack of cabin crew is less of an occurrence now that airlines are addressing such concerns.


The Inflight Institute has dedicated the past 20 years to the development and delivery of pre-qualification training of cabin crew. "The cabin crew candidate must demonstrate a pre-determined level of knowledge before they can enter an airline’s initial ground school and conversion training," explains Noel. The pre-qualification certificate training covers 175 topics and eight exams, "this is even before the candidate steps foot in the airline’s training facility."


Airlines spend tremendous amounts of money recruiting, vetting, interviewing, and eventually accommodating trainees at their facilities. 


In the UK, for regional airline Flybe, the current emphasis with recruitment is to support the airline’s European growth. "This, is [particularly prevalent] for services operating through our white label projects as well as for those operating out of our new base in Dusseldorf (Germany)," explains Cindy Lewis, Flybe’s Director of Cabin Services. Apart from that, Lewis says recruitment is aligned to normal attrition and initial courses are conducted at the airline’s own training academy in Exeter, England. 


Flybe opened its first European crew base in Dusseldorf in February this year, in fact Germany is becoming an increasingly important market for the airline. Flybe currently deploys 41% of its seat capacity on UK to Europe routes with 13 routes between the UK and Germany. Seven of these are to Dusseldorf including a recently added service from London City Airport. 


In preparation for the opening of the new Dusseldorf base, the airline said it had embarked on a high-profile recruitment drive for more than 60 pilots and cabin crew, together with identifying and sourcing a complement of engineering support for the two 78-seat Bombardier Q400 turboprop aircraft. These aircraft previously served Dusseldorf with UK-based crew. 


Similarly, at bmi regional, the airline looks at crew recruitment depending on route expansion and base requirement, says Beth Liptrot, the airline’s Cabin Crew Operations Manager. "We are currently looking for cabin crew to be based in MUC [Munich] and possibly BHX [Birmingham]. We carry out all our own training in-house to EASA standards, as we are a certified training provider and can issue cabin crew attestations, which are regulated by the civil aviation authority." 


Jelena Darinceva, Cabin Crew Training and Product Development Manager at BAA Training Aviation Academy in Vilnius, Lithuania says they provide training for self-sponsored cabin crew students and, in addition, it is possible to provide training at a preferred time. "Training for corporate clients can be provided not only at the BAA Training facilities, but at the client’s facility as well," she adds. 


Interestingly, BAA Training also works closely with Wizz Air on its pilot cadet training programme, so demand for cabin crew will most likely follow. The low cost airline is expanding ambitiously across Europe, having just recently announced plans for a base in the UK: London Luton Airport will be Wizz Air’s 28th base from June 2017.


Last year, as the second largest operator at London Luton, Wizz Air carried more than 5 million passengers. In 2017, the airline anticipates it will have almost 6.3 million seats on sale on its Luton routes, representing a 13% growth year-on-year. >>

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