It’s been more than seven months since Emirates and Etihad last recruited any new Cabin Crew. And it doesn’t look like either airline is about to start hiring again anytime soon – Emirates recently launched a glossy new careers website that gave hope they would restart recruitment soon but this no longer looks to be the case.
The airline recently binned a number of successful candidates who had been waiting in vain for training courses to become available. Meanwhile, Etihad continues to hold people in their so called ‘candidate pool’ – yet no Assessment Day’s are scheduled for the next few months at least.
It’s easy to see why aspiring Cabin Crew dream of working for Emirates or Etihad. Both are excellent airlines and recruit staff from around the world. They have excellent route network’s, even better pay and benefits, new aircraft and fantastic career opportunities. And on top of all that, the UAE is regarded as a safe, welcoming and relatively tolerant society.
But people are starting to get itchy feet. With no sign of recruitment yet restarting at Emirates and Etihad, it’s hardly surprising that other airline’s in the region have seen a surge in interest (and applications) for the few positions available. It’s completely understandable why people would start considering alternative options.
The only thing is – will working for these other airline’s provide the life that people are searching for? We decided to take a closer look at some of the most well-known airline’s in the Middle East and spoke to current and former crew to learn what the pro’s and con’s of each airline are.
1. Qatar Airways
The most obvious alternative to Emirates and Etihad has got to be Qatar Airways. On the face of it, Qatar Airways is really similar – It has a similar route network, comparable career opportunities and a salary package which stacks up well. It’s also the only airline of the big ‘Middle East Three’ that is actively recruiting Cabin Crew.
But for all the similarities, it doesn’t attract the nickname ‘Guantanamo Bay’ for no reason. Some employees find the restrictive rules a little hard to live with – Others, however, have no problem and find Doha to be a great place to live and work.
And of course, there’s the diplomatic crisis that Qatar is has found itself in. It’s still too early to tell what effect the crisis will have on Cabin Crew recruitment but the airline has been forced to slash services to a number of countries.
Unlike some of the other alternatives on this list, Qatar Airways recruit people from all over the world, have no upper age limit (within reason – this is the Middle East after all) and even recruit males.
The pay and benefits are generous and career opportunities abound. Accommodation is provided and is generally of a good standard.
Qatar Airways has been condemned by a number of Human Rights groups for the way it treats females employees. It’s alleged that female Cabin Crew have been dismissed for getting pregnant and are banned from marriage.
Living conditions are also stricter than Emirates and Etihad with a nighttime curfew and an expectation that staff stay in their apartments on ‘rest days’. For its part, Qatar Airways says it has significantly relaxed the rules for Cabin Crew and that female staff will be treated fairly in the future.
Okay, so flydubai isn’t a full-service airline like Emirates and Etihad but this low-cost carrier does still have a lot going for it. The airline was only created in 2008 and started flying just a year later. In the short time that it’s been in existence, flydubai has already built its route network to 90 destinations, including 62 that didn’t previously have direct air links from Dubai.
flydubai is fully owned by the government of Dubai and there’s been talk it merging with Emirates. Several months ago, the ruler of Dubai said there was room for ‘synergies‘ between the two and even the President of Emirates, Tim Clark, has acknowledged there could be a tie-up between Emirates and flydubai.
One of the most obvious benefits is that flydubai is based in Dubai – it’s a well organised, safe and cosmopolitan city with plenty of benefits for residents. It’s easy to see why people flock to this city in search of year-round sunshine and fun.
As an airline, flydubai doesn’t have an upper age limit, recruits male candidates and has plenty of career opportunities. Despite the tragic crash in Russia last year, flydubai is a well-organised airline that follows established rules and procedures.
flydubai has its strongest presence in the Middle East, Eastern Europe and Africa. That means there aren’t so many layovers or big name destinations like New York, London and Sydney to visit. You’ll also be expected to meet tough onboard sales targets with a smaller team of colleagues to help you.
Unlike Emirates and Etihad, you also won’t get free company provided accommodation. However, although the salary is lower, you will get an allowance to help pay your monthly rent costs.
3. Oman Air
Oman Air could be one of the biggest winners from the current diplomatic crisis affecting Qatar Airways. The Sultanate of Oman’s national carrier is still able to fly between its hub in Muscat to Doha as well as to the UAE, Saudia Arabia and Bahrain. And it’s been taking advantage of this new competitive edge by upgrading services between the countries.
What’s more, Oman Air was already in the middle of a big expansion, having updated its aircraft fleet to include five Boeing 787 Dreamliners. A further four 787’s will join the airline in the next few years, bringing the fleet size up to 68 aircraft.
Oman is considered a safe and tolerant, Islamic country. The airline’s base, Muscat, is admired as a charming city that showcases 5,000 years of rich heritage and history. The traditional Arabic architecture, old-fashioned souqs and medieval forts are a stark contrast to the glitz and glamour of Dubai.
As an airline, Oman Air is transforming itself into a major player in the region. It offers a good product and excellent training/career opportunities. The salary and benefits package are reasonable for the size of the airline.
Unfortunately, Oman Air doesn’t hire male expat Cabin Crew and it enforces an upper age limit of 31 years old. Interestingly, the airline will also only accept applications from candidates who are at least 23 years old so the age window for eligibility is really quite small.
Oman Air also doesn’t have the biggest route network at the moment. Its presence is strongest in the Middle East as well as India, with European routes limited to London, Manchester, Milan, Munich, Frankfurt, Paris and Zurich.
4. Kuwait Airways
Kuwait Airways is one of the oldest airlines in the region but also one of the smallest. Just like the country, Kuwait Airways was hit hard by the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990. The airline’s HQ and 15 aircraft were destroyed during the war. Now, Kuwait Airways has just 17 aircraft in its fleet and flies to just a handful of countries around the world.
That’s not to say that the airline doesn’t have grand ambitions. Kuwait Airways was recently relaunched and plans to expand its global operations to reach 46 countries in the coming years.
As an airline, Kuwait Airways has a rich history and the ability to transform lives. The airline is going through a period of significant investment which should see more routes added and an improvement to its onboard product.
Kuwait Airways only hires female, expat Cabin Crew and imposes an upper age limit of 32 years old. You’ll be living in Kuwait City which is not nearly as developed as Dubai or Abu Dhabi. Pay, benefits and living conditions do not match those of UAE airlines.
5. Gulf Air
Gulf Air is another of the older airlines in the region but again not nearly as successful as some of its younger rivals. Famously, Gulf Air used to provide air services for Dubai but this came to an end when the ruler of Dubai created Emirates as a bigger and better alternative.
The airline is the national carrier of Bahrain and is based in the country’s capital of Manama. The city frequently see’s protests that can turn violent. During the Arab Spring, the rulers of Bahrain crushed a popular uprising but widespread dissent remains.
Working for Gulf Air attracts mixed reviews and the airline nearly always only hires female Cabin Crew from Eastern Europe, the Philippines and Thailand. The airline will be replacing its fleet of aircraft starting in 2018 and now serves 42 destinations in 25 countries.
6. Saudia Airlines
Saudia Arabia is positioning itself as a major player in commercial aviation – which means plenty of opportunities to work as Cabin Crew. Yet for all the possibilities, Saudia might not be an airline suitable for everyone. First of all, Saudia only hires female expat flight attendants between 22-30 years old (up to 35 years old if you have previous flying experience).
Remember also that Saudi Arabia follows a very strict interpretation of Islam. Life in the country is strictly controlled and civil liberties are lacking compared to what you may be used to. However, as an Islamic airline, Saudia is one of the few airlines that permits female Cabin Crew to wear hijab.
Saudia Airline recruit Cabin Crew via the PrivatAir agency.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.