I believe there are many people in our community who, like me, look to the sky whenever they hear an airplane fly overhead. These people are candidates for a gift of flight from their loved ones, who may or may not be aviation-minded themselves. Your flight school is a unique gift shop for these people—although the nonaviation people may need a little help in finding you. This is the season for holiday gift certificates and promoting the gift of flight. You should be preparing right now for the season.
You should offer several gift certificate packages to give your customers choices and an option to suit every budget. Your customer’s investment in the various flight training packages should provide a discount advantage as the value of the package increases. This provides the obvious incentive for the customer to purchase a higher-value gift package. Each gift package should have a nicely printed certificate describing what is provided as well as directions to your flight school. Make your gift products impressive and professional-looking. Some people are last-minute shoppers and will phone in a gift certificate order and want it emailed to them or the recipient.
An introductory flight lesson is the first and most basic gift certificate option. An “extended introductory flight lesson” or a full one-hour lesson is another option.
The next upgrade would be the “first five hours,” which should include five hours of airplane time and seven hours of CFI time. The top-of-the-line flight training package would be the “solo flight training package” that includes 15 hours in the airplane and 20 hours of CFI time. The solo package provides the instruction hours typically required to solo an airplane, but does not guarantee solo flight since solo flight is based strictly on pilot proficiency and not flight time. If an individual solos in fewer than 15 hours, he or she is still entitled to the full 15 hours purchased in the package.
All flight training packages should include a pilot logbook. How these packages are priced depends on the equipment you operate and your local operating cost. Other gift packages that are typically sold include textbooks and training material for the private pilot and instrument rating courses. Your own creativity can expand and modify this basic list.
The holiday season offers marketing opportunities not found at other times of the year. Print media typically have special ad campaigns that include an email blast to their subscribers. Local radio and TV stations usually have a variety of human interest programs where you can discuss the unique “gift of flight” that is available through your flight school. You can also have business cards made up specifically to promote your “gift of flight” campaign and distribute them at pre-holiday events in your community. Remember the importance of networking events in your community.
While the holiday gift certificates are sold in December, the certificates are usually exchanged for flight training when warmer spring weather arrives, unless you live in the southern United States. This means that you should manage your gift certificate money in a separate account not to be confused with your daily working funds. This is just basic money management, but I have been around long enough to know that it has created a problem with some flight school operations.
Now move forward with your passion for flying and promote the “gift of flight” with excitement and enthusiasm.
Ed Helmick has been a flight instructor since 1988. He formerly managed a flight school in Spanish Fork, Utah, as well as schools in Scottsdale, Arizona.