The American Airlines Travel Academy: Career and Technical Preparation for the 21st Century Workforce
Donlevy, Jim, International Journal of Instructional Media
High schools and colleges are setting higher standards, increasing graduation requirements and lifting expectations for all their students. These developments have coincided with calls for change from business leaders, legislators, parents and others concerned with economic competitiveness and the role of schools in shaping a competent workforce. In such a climate, programs that offer industry certifications and real-world competencies are needed in secondary schools and colleges, as employers increasingly look for candidates possessing sophisticated knowledge and skills.
This article describes the American Airlines Travel Academy, a program of career and technical education operating in a variety of high schools and colleges throughout the United States. The program's background, basic curriculum and advantages and benefits are sketched.
THE AMERICAN AIRLINES TRAVEL ACADEMY
For many years, American Airlines has offered professional training to men and women interested in pursuing careers in travel and tourism. In Dallas, Texas and Chicago, Illinois, the American Airlines Travel Academy helped numerous adults enter exciting careers in the travel industry by providing rigorous training in SABRE, the online reservations system pioneered by American. The Travel Academy curriculum also has been used to train thousands of airline employees in a variety of positions and locations around the globe. The hallmark of programs at American has been sound technical training and quality customer service.
Prompted by concerns about a shrinking supply of qualified entry-level workers, the company began licensing the Travel Academy program to school districts and colleges in the 1990s. To date, there are more than twenty-five Travel Academy locations across the United States and in Puerto Rico serving a diverse clientele interested in professional preparation for careers in the travel industry.
TRAVEL ACADEMY CURRICULUM
At each American Airlines Travel Academy (AATA) location, the curriculum includes broad coverage of material necessary for success in travel and tourism. It stresses both theory and practice with realistic workplace applications. Basic areas of instruction include:
* An Overview of the Travel Industry
* Geography, Maps and Destinations
* Computer Orientation and Keyboarding
* Introduction to SABRE
* Airline Reservations and Ticketing
* Hotel and Rental Car Reservations
* Domestic and International Routes
* Customer Service
* Work Skills, Ethics and Expectations.
The centerpiece of the program is online training using SABRE. Working in on-site computer labs, participants make actual reservations covering a wide variety of situations. Of special significance is the fact that students are handling real inventory on the SABRE system. Technical expertise is valued in the program and linked explicitly to high-quality customer service instruction.
In public school districts, the curriculum is taught by state-certified teachers; colleges typically employ instructors with experience in the travel industry. Whether in secondary schools or colleges, however, each AATA instructor must receive intensive training from American in the use of SABRE and the complete AATA curriculum before working in a Travel Academy program.
Cooperative Relationships with Employers
Travel Academy sites typically establish cooperative relationships with local employers in the travel industry to provide job shadowing, mentoring and onsite work experiences. The American Airlines Travel Academy site at Greenburgh-North Castle School District in Dobbs Ferry, New York, for example, has cooperative relationships with Hilton and Marriott hotels, the Broadway Millennium Hotel in New York City and the Times Square Visitors Center, to mention a few sites. …