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Making introductory flights work—for everyoneMaking introductory flights work—for everyone

“I was never given any guidance on what to do.” 

“I loved doing [introductory] flights. I get to introduce someone to my passion, how often do you get to do that?”

These statements, from flight instructors on a Reddit thread, seem to sum up the two extremes of how flight schools handle introductory flights—arguably one of the most important marketing tools a flight school has.

The first commenter said that CFIs at his flight school got “shafted” on their compensation for introductory flights, “so most of the instructors would try to pawn them off anyway.”

Even in this environment, this CFI realized that every introductory flight was a potential customer. “I really just did whatever I thought would make the experience most enjoyable for them.”

“I treat [all introductory flights] as prospective pilots even though they tell me they just want to sight-see,” one instructor commented. “I let them start the engine, taxi, take off (me on the controls obviously), et cetera. As much as they are comfortable doing. You never know when or how someone will discover a passion for flying.”

These instructors grasped the importance of the introductory flight to draw in new customers. Who connected the dots for them? Was it a chief flight instructor or the flight school owner, or did they have to come to that realization on their own?

Your flight school’s approach to introductory flights is telling. A strictly hands-off attitude could signal to your flight instructor (and probably the client) that you don’t care very much whether a flight results in a new customer.

A proactive attitude in which you set a few guidelines and remind CFIs of some basic salesmanship tactics can help instill pride in your flight school and ensure your customers have the best experience possible—and leave them wanting more. 

Jill W. Tallman

Jill W. Tallman

AOPA Technical Editor
AOPA Technical Editor Jill W. Tallman is an instrument-rated private pilot who owns a Piper Cherokee 140.

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