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What flight schools do that students hate?

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What flight schools do that students hate?

Old 28th Sep 2012, 21:42
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... like gold-y or bronze-y, Blackadder, only with iron ...
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Old 28th Sep 2012, 23:52
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What students do that annoy OTHER STUDENTS

I need to agree to a certain extent with Duchess Driver.

With margins so tight, it is essential for a flying school to run efficiently in order to provide good value AND stay in business.

While the points made are detrimental to the income of the school and instructors, it also affects the other students.

Taking into account the cancellations due to weather I cannot see a logical explanation how any school can effectively operate without running efficiently.

I recall a very productive discussion with a former student:-

"If the school does not need to fly as much as possible to ensure the costs are met, there are obviously savings to be made by running an efficient school and trying to fly as much as possible. Therefore, it is obviously possible to offer 'better value' to current students and members".

I think this was a good point!
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Old 29th Sep 2012, 08:34
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Just before I stopped full time instructing I managed to get a ground/air instructor working weekends and a solo hire machine.

The idea was that the solo hire plane was just sitting there and the instructor was there to sort out any issues with flight checks and also doing the job of selling and answering any questions. They could also jump in and give briefs to trial flights so that when the plane got back they could just jump into the cockpit with a brief word to the instructor that was taking it which routing they wanted. And if someone was late back off a nav ex we could just jump in with any available aircraft.

Worked pretty well to be honest, I usually tried to do that bit with a swap with one of the others when they wanted lunch. I was flying 20 hours plus a week anyway so having a day or two on the ground wasn't a hit to my pocket.

The instructor on the ground though needs to be a face of the company and good at selling for it to be productive.
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Old 29th Sep 2012, 09:00
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DD,

My point about two uni degrees: how on earth had they gone through at least five years of university education without learning to prepare properly/identify and achieve standards/deliver on time?

Agree, uni education has nothing to do with flying/driving/scuba etc. But the big thing many peeps promote about uni is that it is a life-long benefit about how to learn!

I actually promote flying as a life-long benefit about being able to prepare and then make critical judgement calls. And a PPL is cheaper than just one year at uni!
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Old 29th Sep 2012, 12:06
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What flight schools do that students hate?

Flying schools that tell students who "forget" they had a lesson that day that they really should give the instructor some cash, otherwise he/she will starve.

Flying schools that give students a row for turning up late so that, if the full lesson is to be flown, then the instructor will lose their break or other students will have to wait.

Flying schools that pull aside students who have a couple of university degrees yet turn up for a cross-country flight without any preparation and planning "because I was very busy last night", and say: that is not good enough.

Flying schools who point out that they get less money in the bank for a given 100 if paid using a credit card, so would the student like to pay a 3% excess to make up for that - since they can't pay cash, write a cheque or use internet/telephone banking.

Flying schools put up with a lot of grief from their customers - like all customer-focused businesses do.

Fortunately, we try not to show it!
Yes, quite. But that was not what this thread was about. You're working for a flight school yourself and you're just trying to hijack a - thus far - interesting discussion. Poor DD then gets carried away in the discussion, but lets focus on those things that flight schools do wrong and their students hate.

As for a thread on what flight schools hate about students, well, that should just be a matter of clear understandings and credit/cash management, not much different from how you deal with customers in the (equipment) rental business or the leasure business. If you're incapable of loving your customers and enjoying their business, you should probably go work for the civil service - maybe give EASA a try !

I think CFI hit the nail on the head saying that at quite a few RFs and ATOs the basic customer service idea is either lacking or just given lip service.

I think flight schools should have a darn hard look at themselves and ask them if they really provide better value to their clients than a dedicated instructor and his own plane - otherwise referred to on this forum as "teaching from the boot of a car".

From experience, there is very little justification to all this "Approved Training Organisation" nonsense (at least when talking PPL; CPL and ATPL is another matter). Lots of regulations, admin costs and job protection (well at least until the crisis bites).
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Old 29th Sep 2012, 12:12
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The fact is PP alot of them really don't care about customer service.

And the daft thing is that the customers put up with it. So the schools don;t bother to change anything.
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Old 29th Sep 2012, 13:22
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PP,

Very often good customer service comes at a price.

To be frank, it means spending time with staff - monitoring and supervising and educating.

The UK in the past has not been good on customer service. In catering, for example, Europeans and Americans are much much better, albeit in different ways.

We are now improving significantly in many areas, particularly in speed of delivery.

But face-to-face is a problem, and as long as flying schools are in a race to the cheapest, then something has to give.

Spending money on training people how to be nice to paying customers just seems to be one of the first to go!

Yet there are positive examples out there from years back: take M&S who used to be real leaders in customer service, taking back goods without question etc. And were not the cheapest in the market.

But they too have suffered in the ever present pressures on costs.

Maybe it is not too surprising that the most poplular flying schools, restaurants etc are the family-run ones where the results of good customer service can be seen immediately on the bottom line. And can be seen to building a valuable business.

A flying school in rented premises with leased aircraft and "temporary" staff just waiting for a job on an airline is not building value. So just cut costs and take any profit while you can.

And that's the crux of the whole issue, I feel.
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Old 29th Sep 2012, 18:33
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One thing students hate is instructors who insist on eating lunch.

Everyone knows that the lunchtime gap between slots is so that you can come in at zero notice for a quick currency check ride, not so that the instructor can actually take time off to eat lunch!
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Old 29th Sep 2012, 21:01
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Pet hates as a student

1) Aeroplanes that, while they are technically serviceable, are scruffy, dirty, smelly, damp and with bits falling off and inop systems.

2) Training sorties without a clearly defined purpose. This is exacerbated by a poor preflight brief.

3) No post-flight debrief. There is always something to go away and think about. Get the brief and debrief right, and the student will get the best value for money.

4) In-flight feedback. A bit of advice / encouragement / positive comment really helps.

I guess the last three points are all about the communication, which is a two way thing. The instructor is senior so should be following a clear structure and leading by example.
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Old 29th Sep 2012, 22:30
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Aircraft are very expensive beasts - a new trainer costs 130,000 ish and will take decades to return the investment, they don't bring any additional customers and will be wrecked within 2 years of going in to service.

These old knackered machines that look rubbish withstand 500-800 hours a year of abuse by cack handed pilots and are tough enough to withstand it but the plastics and seats are disproportionately expensive and time consuming to replace. If the plastics were freely available and we didn't have to get special CAA approved carpets and upholstery that have to be installed by CAA approved people then that would definitely be something that would change.

Like it or not there is nothing that is sensibly priced that would withstand the same abuse. The new machines available on the market have too many issues and are not strong enough to do the job cost effectively, fancy rotax 17lph notwithstanding, they are simply not cost effective.

As for inop instruments, what should be working is the standard 6 instruments, Ts, Ps, RPM, Radio and Transponder. For basic PPL.

If there's anything else that says U/S so be it, removing it would require reweighing and a CAA modification which is crazy expensive.
More instruments would require people to be willing to pay a premium and they are just simply not. Either way the student doesn't really need to look at it.

Last edited by Dan the weegie; 29th Sep 2012 at 22:32.
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Old 29th Sep 2012, 22:42
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Very often good customer service comes at a price.
I disagree, most customer service is common sense and based on how you would like to be treated as a customer your self.

If you expect high standards from others then you have to deliver yourself.

Students also need to deliver too. If they have been aske to prepare for a flight they should do it.
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Old 30th Sep 2012, 10:10
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Maybe it is not too surprising that the most poplular flying schools, restaurants etc are the family-run ones where the results of good customer service can be seen immediately on the bottom line. And can be seen to building a valuable business.
That is very true. Actually it very much resembles the "teaching from the boot of a car - model", only that you have 3 or 4 "owner-storekeepers" instead of one.

A flying school in rented premises with leased aircraft and "temporary" staff just waiting for a job on an airline is not building value. So just cut costs and take any profit while you can.
Agreed on the "temporary" staff bit. I don't agree on the "renting premises and leasing aircraft" bit. That might just be the cheapest solution to offer students glass cockpits as opposed to the usual 1969 INOP Avionics system.

Very often good customer service comes at a price.
That depends on how big the organisation is. If you have father & daugther operation with about 10 members of staff I think customer service is easy to install as a company culture. A caring person at reception who enters each appointment and staff allocation in the online system goes a very long way.


And the daft thing is that the customers put up with [lack of customer care]. So the schools don't bother to change anything.
Some customers don't and go elsewhere. But I agree customer mobility would be better if the "Independent Flight Instructor" model were to be re-instated. It would force the flight schools into offering better value.

Actually I see this happening in the US. Although I'm used to the independent instructor model for FAA instructing in Europe (and it was a good experience), I now much prefer the family run business in the US. Prices are a bit higher but not a lot higher, the planes have better maintenance, appointments are kept and there is a clear agreement on what is going to happen, how the student can prepare, etc, etc...

One thing students hate is instructors who insist on eating lunch.

Everyone knows that the lunchtime gap between slots is so that you can come in at zero notice for a quick currency check ride, not so that the instructor can actually take time off to eat lunch!
No. If the flight school is worth its keep, it would politely turn the student down. Something along the lines of
"I'm sorry but we don't have an instructor available at the moment. Gerald here is eating lunch, but he needs his rest because he has three more lessons this afternoon and he wants to deliver the same good quality to the last student".
Pretty thick student/client that doesn't understand that. And:
"Why don't we schedule an appointment for tomorrow late afternoon ? I see we have availability on G-WOWI with Denise from 4-5 pm".


Students also need to deliver too. If they have been aske to prepare for a flight they should do it.
Ideally, yes. But, hey, they are the customer. I would mention in the debrief : "I'm sorry Mr. Cameron, but these cross wind landings went nowhere. I have the impression that you didn't do any of the armchair flying exercises or re-read chapter 17 of the handbook. You should realise that this is a two-way street. It's your money, of course, but I would think you get more value out of it if you'd came better prepared. I suggest we do some of these again on Wednesday, and please : come prepared".

Again, only the thickest of students would ignore such advice.

As for inop instruments, what should be working is the standard 6 instruments, Ts, Ps, RPM, Radio and Transponder. For basic PPL.
I disagree. In urban development there is something called the "broken windows syndrome". If a building has a broken window, it attracts trash, graffiti, urine, etc... like a magnet, simply because it looks as if it has "less value" and "nobody cares anyway". That is why you need to maintain the aircraft in as good a condition as possible. There is nothing against a temporary placard if an instrument goes INOP, but a the next serious maintenance exercise one should replace it, or take it out.

The CAA and EASA maintenance nightmare are obviously not helping (cfr. your upholstery example). But it is clear that a well maintained plane makes for a more respectful and more focused student.

Aircraft are very expensive beasts - a new trainer costs 130,000 ish and will take decades to return the investment, they don't bring any additional customers and will be wrecked within 2 years of going in to service.
Not at my club, they're not. They will require some overhaul when they are 5-7 years old, but until then, standard maintenance will keep them shining.
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Old 30th Sep 2012, 11:27
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Can I ask how many hours each aircraft flies at your school? At ours we had as few planes as we could and a maintenance company that loved to charge and nowhere else to go. I agree, I would love to remove useless instruments or replace them but it needs to be sensibly economical.

As for the temporary instructors thing, the problem stems from the fact that as a PPL(A) instructor unless you're flying significantly more than you're supposed to it's actually very difficult to make a living out of it because of the margins we work under. Career PPL flying instructors are rare, rarer than rocking horse dung. The only guys who are available are those with real jobs but aren't as available as you would like them to be, which brings us back to another complaint which is that people don't like it when you have lack of available instructors.
It is also exploited by flying school owners who have an abundance of willing hour builders.

Club schools are great because they are relaxed and it's for fun but people expect more for their money and want a shiny full time school which is barely economical to run without flying every second possible and paying instructors next to nothing for every hour they fly. There's a balance of course but some stuff has to give. Clubs also often suffer from inevitable "committee breakdown" hard to avoid.

The things that are free however, like treating your customers properly, calling them if you want to move their slot/ talk about cancellation giving a reasonable brief, a warm welcome and free tea and coffee are a bloody good start.

It's not that hard to do the free stuff but it's hard to hire and keep the people that understand it.

Last edited by Dan the weegie; 30th Sep 2012 at 11:45.
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Old 30th Sep 2012, 14:16
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Dan,

We fly about 500 hours per aircraft in fragile modern plastic microlights - a couple of C42s and some really "fragile" weightshifts.

Finances are interesting: a new C42 is about 60k, but there are one or maybe two a year that come on the market at 40-42k with about 300 hours on them.

C42s are scarce as hens teeth and very popular, so even a 1700 hour one can fetch 30k.

So if bought at 300hr and sold at 1800hrs then that is about 10k for 1500 hours. In my book that is pretty good depreciation!

Of course we as microlights, are exempt from all that EASA stuff, so can just pop instruments in and out and even swap out the seats (as long as bought from the aircraft manufacturer - so there are some restrictions and quality control).

We are even allowed to use unleaded mogas.

Unfortunately (!), we have to pay instructors 45-odd per hour so they can make a living.

Hence our chaps have all been here for more than five years.

Light aircraft schools have to find a way out of the red-tape strangulation.

As for customer service not costing anything: I think I am aware of what good customer service is, but perhaps some of my co-workers did not share my priorities. (my wife certainly isn't, she would just tell some people to go to hell!)

So it takes time: time to discuss what can be done/what should be done. Time to check it is being done. Time to discuss further improvements. (Oh yes, and time to improve our instruction and develop coherent methods and attitudes and standards based on the syllabus.)

And time costs money - after all, most instructors earn "by the hour".
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Old 30th Sep 2012, 15:13
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"Light aircraft schools have to find a way out of the red-tape strangulation."

Sadly I don't think this is going to be possible.
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Old 30th Sep 2012, 18:43
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Can I ask how many hours each aircraft flies at your school? At ours we had as few planes as we could and a maintenance company that loved to charge and nowhere else to go. I agree, I would love to remove useless instruments or replace them but it needs to be sensibly economical.
The club operates 4 aircraft, and we do just under 2000 hours a year. Mind you, that includes solo rentals from members, instruction is only about 1/4 of that.

The check-out is pretty thorough : there is a 40-question quiz which you don't pass unless you have read the POH and understood it and then there's an additional 30 questions on the avionics. It's not a guarantee for renter's competence and care, but it weeds out the "cack handed".

As for the temporary instructors thing, the problem stems from the fact that as a PPL(A) instructor unless you're flying significantly more than you're supposed to it's actually very difficult to make a living out of it because of the margins we work under. Career PPL flying instructors are rare, rarer than rocking horse dung.
None of the PPL instructors are full-time. All of them have real job, or are retired. But as long as you create an environment that keeps them happy and you eradicate the odd-ball that doesn't understand
(a) instructing; and
(b) customer service
I don't see anything wrong. Availability is pretty reasonable.


The things that are free however, like treating your customers properly, calling them if you want to move their slot/ talk about cancellation giving a reasonable brief, a warm welcome and free tea and coffee are a bloody good start.
Yes, yes, yes and yes.

a maintenance company that loved to charge and nowhere else to go.
is one of the cruxes that need to be addressed. If you're dependent on some larcenic EASA part M paper pusher annex parts docs falsifier, you're doomed.

We have some competition at our place, which obviously helps. The only alternative is to incorporate a maintenance facility in the flying club / school. That is the way most US FBO/flight schools operate.
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Old 30th Sep 2012, 23:03
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The club operates 4 aircraft, and we do just under 2000 hours a year. Mind you, that includes solo rentals from members, instruction is only about 1/4 of that.
Mind you, that's not bad for solo hiring. Its normally the other way round.I know of a flying club in England where the instructors also do ops. Needless to say all ''prime'' slots get filled up with instructional flight's. I'm not blaming them,I would do the same.

The thing that annoy's me the most from flying club's is the ones that charge very high day membership rate's. I mean what is that all about? Insurance is mostly included in the aircraft insurance. Some flying clubs don't even charge them.

Also flying clubs that charge fuel surcharges on top of the rental price. The price of 100LL/UL91 and Diesel(Jet A1) does not change massively between deliveries. Why not increase/decrease the aircraft rental price on a quarterly basis.

Now as for what students do that annoy's me(instructor), I have a very long list. But that's for another forum.
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Old 1st Oct 2012, 07:44
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Also flying clubs that charge fuel surcharges on top of the rental price. The price of 100LL/UL91 and Diesel(Jet A1) does not change massively between deliveries. Why not increase/decrease the aircraft rental price on a quarterly basis.
It changes sometimes daily and if your not on it and change the price that day you can end up loosing money on the day instead of making it.

Someschools have gone out of buisness due to not keeping up with price increases. Obviously if the price goes down delaying helps out but some customers are on it as soon as it happens as well moaning that the price hasn;t gone down with the fuel cost.

Personally I think a dry price with a public fuel charge is the way to go. And the daily price and fuel charge for a lesson is displayed.
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Old 1st Oct 2012, 08:30
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Fuel: gosh, why not use - for basic PPL training - an aircraft with a Rotax 912 and allowed to fly on unleaded.

Take a C42 - fuel burn about 12l an hour at 1.40 pl = 16.80.

Even if fuel goes up to 1.68 a litre that would add 3.36 an hour to the costs.

If you can't absorb that, your profit margins are too thin.

I wouldn't spend my time adjusting daily rates for such small sums: far better to spend the time campaigning for a workable system! Or the ability to use ordinary unleaded - it never seems to cause big problems in microlight land.

Jock, I can see your point for twins etc, though.
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Old 1st Oct 2012, 08:59
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"Fuel: gosh, why not use - for basic PPL training - an aircraft with a Rotax 912 and allowed to fly on unleaded"

Because we aren't allowed. Dispute nigh on every single 0-200 powered Jodel in the land running perfectly well on the stuff.
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