Right On Course: Airline and airport management

Fiona Ralston, 21, is studying airline and airport management. She took time out of her studies to speak to Dan Poole
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The Independent Online

I applied through UCAS to get on the course at Buckinghamshire Chilterns University College. I had to get a C and a D in my A-levels, and I got two Cs and a D. I went to a couple of open days to help me decide too. I've always wanted to work for British Airways and when I looked at the airline and airport management course it was exactly what I wanted. It also had the seasonal placement option so I felt it would be good to be doing academic work as well as having some real work experience, which I know is essential in this industry.

In the first year you do about six modules, in areas such as customer service, marketing, health and safety, and a language, which was compulsory for the first two years on my course. Technology is covered too - our first assignment was about the principles of flight, which was really interesting.

The second year was more about finance and economics management. There's also the seasonal placement, which involves six months time out in the industry that you get paid for. I was cabin crew with British Airways. Some employees do a six-month contract and some do a seasonal contract but BA don't usually do either - it just happened that they had a six-month contract at that time so I was very lucky.

I was working on Eurofleet doing European and domestic flights. You get to spend some time in the cities you fly to - a night in Amsterdam for example - though two of my friends did worldwide flights and they got to stay in Australia. I think we've all matured as a result of the placement because you have to be more responsible. They offered me the opportunity to stay on but I thought it would be too tough to do that and study!

Third year is the big dissertation project. It's interesting but thinking what to do is the hard part because there is such a wide range. It can be tough because a lot of us thought of doing security but it's hard because there's always stuff we wouldn't be able to find out about. We also did a module on environmental management which was really interesting, and that's all come to the fore with climate change so it's very relevant. Every subject that we do is relevant to the industry - examples are all about the airlines and the airports - which I think is good.

Within our course we've all got such a passion and we all enjoy it. We went to Orlando on a trip last November. That was really interesting, as we had talks from companies like Southwest Airlines. We had a planning director from BAA come to talk to us here at university too which was great, because it's good to see how people have made it in their careers.

I'd like to go back to BA because that's who I always wanted to work for. When I was there on my placement it made me realise that that was what I wanted to do - I felt proud to work for them and it was hard to leave. Hopefully I can run Heathrow Terminal 5 one day - you've got to have ambition!

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