A few days ago, we reported on changes in how new cabin crew at British Airways would be trained – with all crew who join the airline from March 2019 onwards being trained as apprentices. And now, we’ve learned it’s not only British Airways who are launching an apprenticeship scheme, with reports that fellow Brit airline, Virgin Atlantic is also introducing the same standard for new cabin crew next year.
An apprenticeship is a British government-backed scheme in which people can combine work and study to achieve a formal qualification. In the past, apprenticeships were seen as being for young school leavers but nowadays, anyone of any age or background can become an apprentice, combining real work with formal learning and on the job training.
In an internal communication, the London Gatwick-based Virgin Atlantic said it had worked with other airlines to create a new Cabin Crew Apprenticeship Standard – a centrally administered standard which lists all the behaviours and experience someone needs to achieve the apprenticeship.
The airline says that anyone without previous flying experience will join the cabin crew apprenticeship scheme, while new joiners who have previously worked for another airline won’t be expected to become an apprentice.
We’ve reached out to a number of other UK-based airlines including easyJet, the British arm of Norwegian, and leisure operators TUI Airways and Thomas Cook Airlines to see if they will also be introducing the cabin crew apprenticeship scheme – they have all refused to disclose their training plans for the time being.
One reason why other airlines are being cagey could be the controversy over who exactly is paying for the apprenticeships. We suspected that a government funding scheme was part financing the new apprentice scheme – essentially reducing the bill for airlines to train a new member of cabin crew and passing the costs onto British taxpayers.
And it’s not just us who suspect this to be the case – Unite the Union, a major British trade union thinks that airlines like British Airways and Virgin Atlantic could stand to receive thousands of pounds in government funding for every new member of cabin crew trained to the new standard.
Virgin Atlantic says the training will be slightly different than what is currently delivered – with new joiners expected to record evidence and then take part in a final assessment. The airline also says it will help new joiners attain other classroom-based qualifications if necessary.
As for whether cabin crew apprentices will earn less, that’s not the case says Virgin Atlantic. The apprenticeship scheme is simply a new way to train cabin crew – apprentices will be paid the same amount as other new hire cabin crew.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.