Elevating Service

posted on 12th December 2022
Elevating Service

In the first of a series examining training in business and VIP aviation, EVA looks at cabin service training, through the eyes of Debbie Elliott, Training Manager at TAG Global Training and John Detloff, COO at the DaVinci Inflight Training Institute

“Cabin service involves the delivery of food and beverages onboard, the aesthetics of the cabin and any service recovery the inflight crew needs to address,” explains Debbie Elliott, Training Manager at Farnborough, UK-based TAG Global Training. While this type of service training is the focus of this article, Elliott emphasises the importance of safety to cabin attendant training: “Safety is paramount on every course we deliver. Crew resource management was devised decades ago to heighten the awareness of the role human factors play in aviation safety and is covered extensively under our Standard Operating Procedures and Safety Emergency Procedures and Security courses. Pre-Covid, we did deliver Global Service Excellence, a course covering only service training, but the landscape of training requirements has changed and most operators now deliver this element of instruction in-house, with their own teams, to create a unique selling point for their clients.”
TAG Global Training delivers its courses under TAG Aviation’s Approved Training Organisation status. They include initial and recurrent training for TAG Aviation crew and the company’s 138 third-party operators. The choice of course depends on the student’s needs, since some crew coming to Farnborough are moving between operators and have previously completed a degree of training; others may only need to refresh their qualifications. When crew arrive at the Farnborough facility, they already have business aviation experience and commercial-to-private aviation training is therefore not high on TAG Global Training’s agenda.
Florida’s DaVinci Training Institute does, however, deliver such courses, and ab initio instruction, as Chief Operating Officer John Detloff explains: “We offer initial flight attendant training, commercial-to-corporate flight attendant training and recurrent training. Although we have to teach to FAA Part 135 and Part 91 guidelines, our instruction provides students with more hands-on training and a different approach.
“Our Initial and Commercial to Corporate classes give students that hands-on training in their job duties as well as preparing them for the higher level of service that is needed in corporate aviation, while also providing them with a real understanding of what it will be like when they begin their career.”
Like Elliott, Detloff also expresses the fundamental importance of safety: “Many commercial flights, for example, have more than one flight attendant on board and an individual may not be in charge of the catering. We strive to give them catering service knowledge and the range of skills necessary to be the only crew member in the back, able to deal with emergency situations including medical, decompressions, fire and much more.”

Farnborough facility
In March 2022, TAG Global Training moved its operation from classrooms within a hangar, to a new facility inside TAG Aviation Europe’s Farnborough Airport headquarters. Elliott masterminded the move and defined how the new facility would look, ensuring it presented a modern, comfortable learning environment while reflecting Farnborough’s historic aviation past. “It has been well received by our students,” she enthuses, “with its amazing airport views and so much natural light. TAG Aviation invested significantly in the move, not only to develop the training we offer TAG crews, but also in recognition of the continued support of our loyal third-party clients from all over the globe.”
The facility is now the central point for TAG Global Training, and includes a specialist course available to the private staff of ultra-high net worth individuals. Elliott continues: “We recognise that aircraft with 19 seats or less do not legally require cabin crew and the principal passenger will therefore often travel with the staff from their home or yacht providing onboard service, since they are well versed in the individual’s or family’s preferences. Our interactive course does not fulfil the requirements that would qualify these staff as cabin crew, but it does provide them with essential aviation skills, equipping them to better deal with an emergency, assist in an evacuation and be extra sets of eyes and ears for pilots during an onboard situation.”
Of course, the DaVinci Training Institute also offers a variety of courses intended to elevate an individual’s skills beyond what might be considered the basics required for business and VIP aviation cabin service. Its Protocols & Cultural Differences course, for example, has a specific remit of helping students “enhance their cultural awareness, understand global differences and improve their cross-cultural communications”, while several other course options are dedicated to aspects of food preparation and presentation.
They include a Butler Course and an online Private and Business Aviation Food Safety Course that takes around five hours to complete and concludes with a 50-question test in which a student must score at least 75% to pass. In addition to noting that DaVinci is working on more online classes, Detloff also explains that, surprisingly, it offers some free courses, including How to Order Catering and Knife Skills. “However, hands-on training is critical for culinary and service courses and since we want to ensure students walk away with the highest knowledge and skills, these will not go online.”

Hands-on training
Detloff says DaVinci’s culinary courses are designed to the highest industry standards and attract customers from around the world. “Food is the only thing that hits all five senses on the aircraft, and food is very personal,” he notes. “Our training teaches students how to elevate the palate and about easy items they can use on the aircraft in a pinch. We focus on plating techniques, cooking on board, tools of the trade, and more. Food safety is also very important and that’s why we developed the Private and Business Aviation Food Safety Course, which we do also deliver in person as a class.
“It amazed me when I started in the industry that there were no food safety standards in aviation, yet we serve the top 1% of the world’s population. The course focus is on how to keep food safe on the aircraft and mitigate the risk of someone getting sick from a foodborne illness or allergy. Knowing how to cook, plate and handle food properly is critical in this industry.
“Our Culinary Elite course gives the student an understanding of proper service levels in the cabin and tips on how to elevate the level of service. Our passengers now are much more informed of proper service levels as the culinary experience and service in the US has evolved to a much higher level. For example, 20 years ago, the most common restaurants were chain restaurants and now the industry is more about farm to table restaurants in which service levels are raised. We train our students in more of a European style of service, so they are able to give their passengers a better experience.”
This higher level of service is also reflected in DaVinci’s Butler Course, which Detloff says, “provides more detail for students looking to elevate their service and show skills in caviar, mixology and white glove service. It is for higher education in growing service confidence and levels.” It is also remarkable that graduates from the DaVinci Inflight Training Institute and TAG Global Training deliver these elevated service levels while retaining potentially life-saving safety skills. How that is achieved will be examined in a subsequent article.