Senior managers at British Airways “recognise” that some new hire cabin crew at the airline are “feeling patronised” and there have been some “instances of intimidating behaviour while flying” according to a recently released government report. The revelation follows BA’s decision to transform its long-established cabin crew training programme into a so-called ‘apprenticeship scheme’ that benefits from government subsidies.
The apprentice cabin crew said they were “frustrated” by “disorganisation” at the airline and too many didn’t see the value of being an apprentice. The 12-month programme was introduced last March as a new way to train cabin crew who didn’t have previous flying experience. Along with the usual cabin crew training, apprentices would receive Maths and English qualifications, as well as “digital skils” at the end of the course.
When the programme was introduced, British Airways said “enhancing” its usual cabin crew training into an apprenticeship scheme reflected the UK Government’s push to “increase and enhance the number and quality of apprenticeships”. By becoming an Employer Provider of apprentices, taxpayer funding would help fund the scheme.
But an early monitoring report by Ofsted, the government’s official education watchdog, found that British Airways had made insufficient progress in one area and only reasonable progress in two others.
While apprentices were proud to work for British Airways, many had been left “frustrated by the disorganisation and inconsistent approach they experience in their apprenticeship”. Many claimed they weren’t even aware they would become apprentices when first hired by the airline.
Inspectors also criticised British Airways for not hiring enough coaches and said those they had hired had too high a caseload. As for training staff, inspectors found that they didn’t have enough time to prepare before a lesson to take into account prior knowledge, skills and behaviours that apprentices have acquired. “As a result, trainers cannot alter the delivery to meet apprentices’ individual needs sufficiently,” the reports says.
When it comes to complaints of “intimidating behaviour”, the reports says managers are trying to tackle this but the actions they’ve taken so far haven’t had a “sufficient impact”.
“We do not believe the report offers a fair assessment of our cabin crew apprenticeship scheme and it is at odds with the positive feedback we receive from the vast majority of our apprentices,” a spokesperson for British Airways told us in response to the criticism.
“We remain committed to investing in our people, providing world-class training and developing rewarding careers and we continue to work closely with Ofsted following the recent monitoring visit,” the statement continued.
According to FEweek, the report was based on conversations that inspectors had with just three per cent of apprentices hired under the scheme. British Airways has pointed out that it has run successful apprentice schemes for many years in other areas, including engineering and customer services.
On a more positive note, inspectors found that apprentices become competent and compliant crew members and that they benefit from training in high-quality facilities with very experienced and knowledgeable trainers.
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.