In a surprising and disappointing turn of events, Etihad Airways has just announced plans to drop hundreds of aspiring cabin crew who had passed the airline’s tough recruitment process but were still waiting to start a training course with the Abu Dhabi-based carrier. Many of the candidates had been waiting in a so-called “talent pool” since 2016.
Last year, Etihad reported a loss of $1.87 billion for 2016 following what the airline’s chief executive, Peter Baumgartner has recently called a “perfect storm” of events. Etihad was hit hard by a collapse in oil prices during 2016, as well as failed airline equity investments, overcapacity in the market and increased competition from low-cost carriers.
While Etihad is still to release its financials for 2017, analysts predict Etihad to continue to be running at a loss. But Baumgartner, told an American news channel last week that it was “business as usual” at Etihad, citing “very solid” load factors and describing the airline as “a very agile business in a very agile environment.”
That being said, Etihad has been undertaking a huge review of its business over the last 12-months. We recently learnt the airline will drop services to Edinburgh in Scotland and Perth, Australia later this year as part of a “strategic review” and only recently, flights to Dallas Fort Worth in Texas were also suspended.
Even more route cuts are widely anticipated, although Tony Douglas, the new chief executive of the wider Etihad Airways Group is said to have stopped further announcements being made for the time being at least. He recently said Etihad would “develop growth in a sustainable way. We will choose wisely; we will make sure that detail is well-attended to.”
Candidates dropped in new email
But in an email sent to hundreds of successful cabin crew candidates from Etihad’s recruitment team today, the airline says it doesn’t anticipate any new training courses for the whole of 2018.
“We understand that you have been patiently waiting for an update in regards to a date of joining. As always we have very much appreciated your continuing interest in joining Etihad Airways and the commitment that you have shown throughout the time your application has been on hold,” the email reads.
“Unfortunately at this stage we still do not have confirmation of a start date and sadly we no longer anticipate having an available start date for you in 2018. Regrettably, this means we are no longer in a position to keep your application in the holding pool.”
Many of the candidates who have today received this news have been waiting for nearly two years since their Final Interview. In the last few months, the recruitment team had sent a very different email to the same candidates claiming they would have new training courses opening up very soon.
And last year, Etihad even started to open up recruitment for yet more candidates – although that was quickly suspended after only a couple of Assessment Day’s. Clearly, the strategic review is moving quickly – and cabin crew hopefuls have been caught in the crosshairs.
Etihad recruiters described the news as “disappointing” saying they had “expected that places on training courses would become available mid-year.” Understandably, disappointed candidates have reacted with anger and disbelief.
Meanwhile, Douglas says he does not see Etihad turning into a “boutique airline” – saying, instead that he wants it to become an “airline of choice”. He plans to learn lessons from rival Emirates and increase cooperation with the neighbouring airline – although rumours of a merger are likely just that and nothing else.
Etihad currently has a workforce of 5,800 cabin crew who are all based in Abu Dhabi. Cabin crew haven’t received a pay raise in over 10 years.