You might not think it but being a flight attendant can be tough. We know what you’re thinking – How can serving chicken or beef and then spending a couple of nights away in some exotic location be tough? But trust us on this one, the long hours, jet lag and fatty inflight catering can take its toll.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle doesn’t come easy but its absolutely essential if you don’t want to end up feeling lethargic, bloated and ordering the next size up in the uniform. If you do happen to fall off the bandwagon at least most airlines don’t resort to the extremes of Malaysia Airlines and Air India.
A few weeks ago, several flight attendants at Mayalasia Airlines were sacked for being overweight. The airline said the staffers had been given multiple opportunities to lose weight but had failed to achieve their targets. Air India has also put a number of its flight attendants on weight loss programmes – the ultimate sanction is dismissal.
Emirates, however, is trying a slightly different approach, encouraging all of its 20,000 cabin crew to improve their lifestyles and sign up to the Dubai Fitness Challenge. Starting on the 20th October, the challenge encourages everyone in Dubai to participate in at least 30 minutes of exercise, every day for 30 days.
The idea was devised by the Crown Prince of Dubai – His Highness Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum. He wants Dubai to be the most active city in the world.
“Dubai aims to set an example for cities around the world in encouraging citizens to give high importance to physical activity and sports,” the Sheikh said at the launch of the initiative.
“The Dubai Fitness Challenge has been designed to motivate people to pursue an active and energetic lifestyle.”
Dubai’s government-owned airline, Emirates has wholeheartedly signed up to the challenge and is calling on all its serving cabin crew to take part – no matter how jetlagged they might be. And there’s a good incentive to get involved – Emirates is offering flight attendants free flights and prizes for taking part. The top performers will even be rewarded will extra annual leave!
The Dubai Fitness Challenge will see a number of ‘fitness festivals’ held throughout the city – that includes a colour run, cycle challenges and running events. So even residents who don’t have access to a gym or lack the know-how can get educated and get involved.
Luckily for Emirates cabin crew, the airline already spoils them rotten for ways to get in shape and maintain their fitness. The company provides accommodation for all its flight attendants and most come with either a gym or swimming pool. Even the hotels in which cabin crew stay have health and fitness facilities.
But these benefits do come at a price – It’s said that Emirates flight attendants are some of the hardest working in the industry. Not that hard work should be considered a bad thing at all – unless it becomes a safety issue of course.
It’s on this point that some flight attendants at the Gulf airline sometimes call foul, saying Emirates overwork them and don’t provide adequate rest. It’s widely known that Emirates cabin crew don’t get any kind of rest on flights of seven hours or less – well below European standards.
That doesn’t sound too bad but cabin crew will have reported for duty around two hours before the flight departs. Then there’s the work to be done after the flight has landed. In reality, Emirates cabin crew can expect to work a 10 hour day without a break.
Of course, as airlines are at pains to point out, cabin crew are there primarily there for your safety. Which could be a problem if the crew are tired or even worse, fatigued – a chronic, constant state of tiredness that the aviation industry knows too well is a big factor in accidents.
Not that there’s any accusation that Emirates cabin crew are chronically fatigued – although, no doubt, many will be hoping to score some extra days off courtesy of the Dubai Fitness Challenge.
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.