At its peak, the Emirates Aviation College saw over 4,000 new Cabin Crew graduate in a single year. That was back in 2014 when the training school had to operate 17 hours a day, with 478 trainers to keep up with demand. In that year, a whopping 33,000 students were processed through the college.
Things are a little different now. Emirates is shrinking its workforce in reaction to a slowdown in demand and the last ‘ab initio’ course for new Cabin Crew finished in February. No new course dates have yet been announced. Existing crew continue to attend the college for their annual refresher training but the numbers are nothing like they were just a few years ago.
The school, or Emirates Aviation College (EAC) as its officially known, is located in the Al Garhoud district of Dubai, just a short distance from Dubai International Airport. The custom-built facility was completed in 2007, replacing an older and rather bizarre aeroplane shaped building next door.
A State of the Art Facility
It’s a state of the facility that comes equipped with advanced full motion simulators for Boeing 777 and Airbus A380 aircraft – including a large pool for ditching exercises, emergency slides and real firefighting simulators. Mock cabin interiors, specialised training rooms and virtual, game-based training scenarios complete the immersive and realistic training environment.
In fact, the college is so good that rival airlines in the region frequently send their own students to train at the facility.
All of this doesn’t come cheap. The initial Cabin Crew training course (ab initio) costs Emirates $6,800 USD per student. It will take the airline 14 months of full-time service from a new Cabin Crew member before it gets any value back.
Catherine Baird, Senior Vice President Cabin Crew Training, explains: “The depth and diversity of our training operations is fundamental to the great service that we offer on Emirates, and it is something that we will always invest in.”
Speaking of the popularity of Emirates for aspiring Cabin Crew, Baird said: “Emirates has become the airline of choice for those who dream of pursuing a career as cabin crew and other exciting roles in aviation.”
30% of New Recruits will Fail
Not everyone will make it through the comprehensive (and exhausting) 41-day ab initio course. The sad reality is that up to 30% of all new joiners will fail the course and be sent back to their home country.
But it has to be this way to equip the multi-national students, representing over 150 nationalities, with the “knowledge, skills and qualifications to fly.” Despite being based in Dubai, the official language of Emirates is English – so new joiners need to have a good grasp of the language no matter where they’re from in the world.
To get them up to speed, a whole host of e-learning packages have to be completed before they even arrive in Dubai. Then the intensive seven-week course starts. It can be a rollercoaster ride with students facing frequent written and practical exams to test their knowledge.
Emirates prides itself on the quality of its Safety and Emergency Procedures (SEP) and First Aid training (GMT). A failure at any point during these crucial elements will see the student sent home.
There’s more – Aviation Security covers everything from bombs and hijacking incidents to disruptive and violent passengers.
In-flight service training is also a big deal. Getting the distinctive Emirates service right takes time, a lot of practice and plenty of tuition. It’s a lot more involved than at many other full-service airlines that Emirates competes with.
But longs days spent in classes at training school doesn’t mean the learning stops as soon students leave for the day. More workbooks, e-learning courses and revision sees the studying continue way into the night.
The Famous Image & Uniform Training
Then it’s time for the famous Image and Uniform (I&U) training. It might only last one day but it’s a critical element in the process – And not just for female crew. There’s a very specific look that Emirates wants it Cabin Crew to achieve and it can take some practice to get right.
Hair has to be tied back in a tight bun – secured with the Emirates red scrunchie. Makeup is to be applied in a seven-step process, finishing with the famous red lipstick (Clarins, by the way). Finally, a lesson in how to wear the iconic Emirates hat – an art in itself.
Men don’t escape scrutiny. They’re taught how to exfoliate and moisturise, to shape their eyebrows and even give themselves a manly manicure. Measurements will be taken and weight recorded. Diet and fitness plans will be developed for students who are judged as needing to lose a few pounds.
It’s Not Over Yet
Getting through the initial training doesn’t maketh an Emirates Cabin Crew. Students then embark on four months of ‘on the job’ training and assessment – all done on real flights with real passengers. It’s an opportunity for students to consolidate their learning and to see how it’s really done by more experienced crew members.
If everything goes well, the students will get to graduate – but only after a three-day refresher course (and another image and uniform assessment to make sure no bad habits have crept in). And finally, they’ll be given the keys to the Duty-Free cart.
For those lucky enough to have made it through the process, the graduation ceremony is the culmination of 6 months hard work – Not to mention the perseverance, determination and time it took to be accepted by Emirates in the first place.
The ceremony takes place back at the Emirates Aviation College in Al Garhoud. Finally, each student receives their ‘Nujoum’ star that symbolises the values of Emirates: Cosmopolitan, Considerate, Personal, Pioneering and Thorough.