Over the last few weeks, we’ve had quite a few concerned emails from readers who want to know whether it’s both safe and sensible to apply to become cabin crew with Qatar Airways. It’s totally understandable – the country is facing an unprecedented blockade and the diplomatic tensions between Qatar and its neighbours have never looked so bad.
As we now know, a group of Arab countries, led by Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Qatar at the start of June. The measures these countries took were sudden and dramatic. Saudi Arabia claims Qatar has been funding and encouraging terrorism and is unhappy with the tiny State’s foreign policy. To say the deterioration in relations took the world by surprise would be an understatement, to say the least.
Here’s what people have been asking about the situation…
What action has been taken against Qatar?
Suddenly, Qatar was cut off from the outside world. Over the course of a few days the countries involved in the dispute took a number of dramatic measures against Qatar:
Only Land Border Closed: The country sits on a peninsula off the coast of Saudi Arabia with which it shares its only land border. Saudi Arabia has closed the border meaning that the transportation of food and other vital supplies into Qatar has suddenly got a lot harder.
Airspace Closed: Then, there was the decision made by Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain and Egypt to close their airspace to Qatar Airways aircraft. It’s something that Qatar Airways chief executive, Akbar Al Baker has described as an “illegal act”. He’s called on international aviation bodies to step in but so far to no avail.
Licences Revoked: Saudi Arabia and the UAE have also revoked the airline’s licence to operate in the two countries. That means the airline can’t even sell tickets or help customers who might want to fly with Qatar Airways.
Other Measures: A lot of the measures taken against Qatar has had a direct effect on their national airline. But other measures are also being taken against Qatar and its citizens. For example, Qatari citizens have been forced to leave both the UAE and Saudi Arabia – in some cases, this has meant families have been torn apart. Business between Qatar and the Saudi-led bloc has also been effectively suspended.
How long is it going to go on for?
When the news initially broke, we suspected that this might have the potential to drag on and on – even though, we hoped it would be resolved quickly. As the weeks pass by, however, it looks like this crisis isn’t going anywhere soon.
We won’t go into too much detail over the politics of the situation as there are better sources of information available – but the biggest concern at the moment is a thirteen point list of demands dreamt up by the Saudi-led bloc of countries.
The list includes closing down satellite news channel, Al Jazeera and paying an undisclosed sum in compensation. Qatar has roundly rejected the demands. A meeting will be held in Egypt to discuss the crisis but the date is yet to be set.
So what is life like in Qatar?
Surprisingly, it’s still okay. The country is getting its food delivered by sea and plane and life goes on as normal. For a country that’s apparently in the grip of such a major crisis, there’s very little to suggest that life in the country has changed at all.
If the situation continues (or escalates), expect groceries and other imported goods to increase in price. Otherwise, its business as normal.
Could there be war?
The countries involved in the spat have said they haven’t ruled anything out – which could hint at a military intervention. That being said, this is probably the last thing that anybody wants. The chances of war or even civil unrest in Qatar is so remote that it’s really not a concern.
Of course, it could always happen – who saw the crisis coming in the first place? – but it certainly wouldn’t put us off from working for Qatar Airways (but their human rights record would).
Could Qatar Airways go out of business? Would I get sacked?
Qatar Airways has been forced to ground a small but significant chunk of its aircraft and cabin crew as a result of this crisis. The airline used to operate a lot of flights to Saudi Arabia, as well as the UAE and Bahrain. Those operations ceased overnight.
For any normal airline, that would put real pressure on their bottom line and call into question the viability of their business. Not so at Qatar Airways, where economics never seems to matter too much. So what’s going to happen with the spare aircraft and cabin crew?
The airline is expanding: Over the last few weeks, Qatar Airways has launched new routes to Dublin in the Republic of Ireland on 12th June, followed by Nice in the South of France on 4th July and Skopje, Macedonia will follow on 17th July.
Other new destinations planned for the remainder of this year and 2018 include Las Vegas (USA), Canberra (Australia), Douala (Cameroon), Libreville (Gabon), Medan (Indonesia), Rio de Janeiro (Brazil), Santiago (Chile) and Sarajevo (Bosnia and Herzegovina).
Oh, and now the airline is bringing forward two more route launches. Prague will be joining the route network on 21st August and Soha in Oman gets added on 08th August. This is what Al Baker said about the expansion plans in an interview with Al Jazeera:
“You know that, not too long ago, I announced that I was going to increase to twenty-four new destinations, I couldn’t do it because I had capacity restraints. Now that we have a release, capacity from the eighteen destinations, that we have been barred illegally from operating, we are now going to accelerate the other regions of the world, where we feel that we will mitigate the reduction in passenger numbers from this eighteen destinations. So Qatar Airways has a robust plan B, to continue our march ahead.”
And lending its cabin crew to British Airways: The airline has also been wet-leasing its aircraft and cabin crew to British Airways to cover for a major strike at their partner airline. BA has taken nine of Qatar’s Airbus A320 aircraft, along with crew, for a two week period.
And now it looks like that might be extended – the union behind the strike action has said BA cabin crew will be walking out for a further 14 days in the middle of July.
As we’ve previously reported, Qatar Airways seems pretty unstoppable and continues to recruit new cabin crew. Not only is the airline expanding its route network but its services to the United States have been given a huge boost with the Laptop Ban now no longer applying to Qatar Airways flights. The current situation hasn’t changed life in Qatar or at the airline and nor does it look like it will do.
Remember, deciding to work for any airline requires compromises – choosing the airline for you is rarely an easy decision. There are plenty of people who criticise employment practices at Qatar Airways but also quite a few happy employees. Moving to Doha could work for you but it’s a decision you have to weigh uo very carefully.
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.