The iFLY Team Is Passionate About Flight and Customer Care

Anyone looking for an extraordinary encounter should check out iFLY. “Come with your eyes wide open, ready for an incredible experience. We take care of the rest,” promises CEO Matt Ryan. The family-friendly space offers the dream of flight in a secure, controlled environment. “The instructors supervise the experience, and you truly get to fly,” says Ryan.

The iFLY instructors are passionate about their part in helping visitors ages 3 to 103 experience the thrill of flying. Ryan says the business “looks at instructors as athletes. And the supporting team around them, whether it’s their managers, general manager, assistant manager, or our customer service people, need to have a passion for this experience.”

Do You Have What It Takes To Be an Instructor?

The company is committed to hiring passionate people who deliver an excellent guest experience. So what type of person is it looking for when hiring? Ryan says the business invests in “individuals who are somewhat athletic, although they don’t have to be skydivers. A great thing about iFLY is it transcends culture, class, and ethnicity.”

Every iFLY instructor has to go through a rigorous training program run independently by the International Bodyflight Association (IBA). “They have to go through this course and qualify to engage with customers,” explains Ryan. “And then there is a leveling up over time as they improve their skills with the wind and with customers.”

Chris Barrett, iFLY retail division president, adds, “Our instructor organization, as Matt said, is led by the IBA, and there are ranks, files, and levels. So when it hires an instructor off the street, besides the requisite background and safety checks for them to even start employment, they go through four weeks of training. And that is four weeks of 40 hours of very intense training.”

Barrett continues, “It takes about six months for a person to become a fully certified instructor. So that is a big investment just to get them to what we call a Level One or Level One-plus certified instructor.”

However, it takes instructors three to four years to become full, top-level trainers at iFLY. “That is a very dedicated choice for instructors since there is a very massive amount of time and effort that goes into it. I would say it takes roughly hundreds of hours per year per instructor after their initial training,” adds Barrett.

While beginner fliers can only experience the dream of flight while flying on their bellies inside the vertical wind tunnel, you can see the highly trained instructors in action on YouTube. “You’ll see instructors act like Spider-Man on the walls of the wells. They come down on their heads and flip and go back out the door after spending significant time inside these vertical wind tunnels,” Ryan shares.

Many iFLY employees were attracted to the job for the thrilling benefits. “That’s one reason they come here,” says Ryan. “They get paid a base salary and commissions, but they also get free flight time, which is a huge, huge draw when they’re passionate about flying.”

What Is the Retention Rate Like at iFLY?

Instructors tend to stick around. The company’s employees tend to remain there for four years on average. However, according to Barrett, “But with respect to the training program up front, it’s rigorous where we try to force people out. We go out of our way not to pass people because we only want people that are actually qualified and capable of doing it. So our retention and the pass rate is in the 70s, but that’s the company exiting the individuals, not vice versa.”

The average turnover rate across all industries in 2022 was 9.31%. “Four years doesn’t seem like a long time, but in the retail business, it is,” explains Ryan. “These are young men and women. Some of them have engineering degrees but just love working with customers inside the vertical wind tunnel so much.”

One such employee in the Austin, Texas, location made a lot of money as an early employee at Tesla. “He’s been here for five years and has no intention of going anywhere. He says, ‘This is just what I want to do,” says Ryan. “Eventually most have to give up because it is very physical and it is demanding.”

The company compensates instructors accordingly. “Pre-2019 to now, instructors are making 30% more on average than they used to be making,” says Barrett. “The instructor’s tenure is much better, the safety elements are much better. But the fact of the matter is that we put so much time and effort into the investment because, in a way, those instructors are the product. They’re the ones teaching you how to fly.”

Highly trained instructors are always present to supervise flyers inside the vertical wind tunnels. “They manage the experience,” says Ryan. “And from a technology perspective, there is, in addition to the instructors, there’s a dedicated driver that controls the wind speed.”

That one-on-one experience inside the vertical wind tunnels is what leaves a lasting impression on consumers. “The iFLY reviews typically credit an amazing instructor. Parents will mention if a specific instructor was great with their kids,” says Ryan. “Those are the things that make the intensive training process worth it.”