The final blog in The Name Game 5-part series on Corporate Flight Training and Branding

(EDITOR’S NOTE: The other title for this blog is, “THE NAME GAME – The Training Investment Contention,” and it is PART 5 in Scott D Arnold’s series about business aviation, corporate flight attendants, and private jet cabin training).  

By Scott D. Arnold

As a corporate flight attendant (or someone interested in working on private jets) you ever wondered:

  • Why is cabin safety training so expensive?
  • Why do I have to pay for my own damn training?
  • Why is training so expensive?  

Why is cabin attendant training so expensive?

Cabin safety training programs average between $3,000-$5,000+ in the United States for initial, and $1,500-$2,000 for recurrent training. You also have to factor in your travel, lodging, and meal expenses, plus your time away.

It’s a simple answer as to why cabin safety training is so expensive: Because it’s expensive to run these programs. There are overhead costs; facility expenses, instructor salaries, training equipment, leadership and management, sales and marketing, and various day-to-day expenses. They are businesses after all, and of course, need to be profitable. Typically, the vendor’s cost margins are projected the same to run a class with one student versus ten. What changes is the profit margin (depending on how many students are in each class). A smart business model has this built into the equation – e.g., what’s the least number of students to make a profit per course? Therefore, they have to be budgeted to maintain a class with minimal students, which happens often to ALL training vendors. Yes, even the two “gold standards have run classes with only one or two students.”

That being said, in my opinion, some training vendor tuition rates are over-priced. It appears their business models are based on, “that’s what everyone else is charging …”  otherwise known as: pulling the rate out of thin air and not based on actual profit/loss analytics. Simply matching the two gold-standard tuition rates is a far reach for many, since both of these Goliaths have multiple locations, a dozen or so trainers, complete cabin mock-ups, fire trainers, exit trainers, and are globally recognized.  All of the others have one location and are not globally recognized (not yet at least!). I am aware of only one vendor in the US, besides the two gold standards, that have mock-ups. The rest? Nothing. Why is this? Because mock-ups and exit trainers are VERY expensive to build.

Therefore, in some cases, you are paying for the branding and recognition, quality of training (practical and theory), and sometimes the added perks. In other cases, you are paying for the marketing of the dream and destinations – and that’s about it.

In The Name Game (Part 3) blog, I discussed the CFR Part 142 facility ruse. Let me continue peeling another layer of this onion and expose yet another ruse.

The 20%-30% discount provided (off the retail tuition rate) because you are an independent contractor.

I see it all the time in group chat comments; “You should go to ______ because they offer a discount for freelance CFAs!”  So what you are telling me is because I’m employed, my company pays 30% more than you? I guarantee, my company is paying the EXACT same rate you are. The retail rate versus freelance rate is just another sales and marketing negotiating tactic. A savvy tool but a sales tactic nevertheless. You’re not saving any money, but you sure do feel better about spending your money because you just saved 30% off the non-existent retail higher rate (which is equivalent to what everyone is else charging!).

Why do I have to pay for my own damn training?

As an independent contractor, why is paying for training such a contention? Yes, it’s expensive. However, you are, in a sense – a business. This is a necessary expense to retain your business (aka career) and marketability. “Independent contractor” means you are a sole proprietor. Cabin safety currency is YOUR responsibility as an aviation professional and not your clients. Meaning, the name says it all: “independent.”  Another way to look at this is that all educational pursuits after high school are costly, but necessary, to achieving a better paying job in the future. 

The justification spin: The investment cost for recurrent training is typically covered within four to five days of flying per year (including travel expenses).  We always chalk it up to “the cost of doing business” while spending the client’s money on catering and service supplies. As an independent contractor, you fall under the same principle of business. Yes, this is a generalized statement as many independent contractors would love to be full-time and benefit from all of the employment perks. However, those who choose to be independent contractors are also choosing to self-finance their training.

Unfortunately, many neglect to conduct proper research before taking the giant leap of self-financing training.  If I was going to spend $5000 for training, I don’t think I would simply select the first company that appears in my Google search. We all hear the stories about those new-to-industry candidates investing in vendors not readily accepted or recognized. We all blame the vendor. Instead, perhaps the student ought to be held accountable for not doing thorough research? These days, the power of social media and a Google search will provide you with all the ammo necessary to make the best decision for YOU, whichever vendor you choose.  This is YOUR choice and not the mob rule. None of these vendors would be in business if they didn’t have students.

Selecting the training vendor that is not only the best fit for you but also the all-important recognition Name Game is critical to your success. You should absolutely vet your vendors before making the investment. Ask them what types of equipment they have for hands-on training (mock-ups, multiple types of overwing exits, emergency equipment), do they provide G550 Evacuation Crewmember certification, what modules are covered in the SEP/EPT program (cabin safety). By the way, only touring a business jet is NOT hands-on training. You need to be accessing, opening, and exiting through the exits (real or mock-up). Some vendors have access to real business jets and conduct hands-on training. However, you’ve learned one aircraft type – what about all the rest of them? Overwing exits are not all created equal, but some exposure is better than no hands-on training at all.

Whichever training vendor cabin crewmembers are biased towards (and espouse on social media soapboxes), they may be overlooking the fact that many flight operations have typically chosen a preferred training entity and will actually spell that out in their Ops manuals. Again, it behooves you to do your research. While there are success stories with every single training vendor, there isn’t always a direct line to being quantified as a cabin safety specialist.

Scott D. Arnold, Cabin Safety Expert

About the Author

Hello, I’m K. J. Watts, but my friends call me Kara. I fell into the sky and have worked as International cabin crew, on private jets as a corporate flight attendant, and earned an FAA Private Pilot Certificate. Over a decade ago, I started this blog, which developed into a love for writing and a debut memoir based on Flight Attendant Life. A California native, I now live in Sydney, Australia, where I enjoy spending time with my husband, writing, and surfing.

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