As crazy cost-cutting rumours go, this has got to be one of the best. As a professional flight attendant, I’m always surprised by the number of friends, family and passengers who ask if cabin crew are expected to share a hotel room with a colleague on layovers.
The answer, of course, is an emphatic no! I’m a grown adult and there is no way you’d get me sharing my personal space with someone who might as well be a stranger. This is especially so after a long haul flight when you need time to decompress. I just couldn’t imagine how the logistics of having to share a hotel room with a fellow member of cabin crew would work.
And it’s not just premium long-haul airlines where cabin crew should expect to enjoy the privacy of their own hotel room. One flight attendant per hotel room is pretty much standard practice across the industry. But this famous, premium carrier is apparently thinking of turning that rule on its head.
The Dubai-based Emirates, famed for its luxurious service – like the recently relaunched First Class Suite’s – is rumoured to be trialling a new cost-cutting measure that will see cabin crew at the airline being forced to share hotel rooms with one another. The trial is said to have started several weeks ago.
At the moment, Emirates is believed to be trialling the room share project on just two North American routes – Dubai to Washington DC and Dubai to San Francisco. Interestingly, Washington is just a 24-hour layover which might make the experience at least somewhat bearable. But the flight time from Dubai to San Francisco is so long, cabin crew generally get a much longer layover.
The rumour is said to have the airline’s cabin crew community up in arms but Emirates has been quick to deny any such trial is taking place. In a statement, a spokesperson for airline explained: “Emirates can confirm that there is no truth to the rumour”.
It’s understood that for the time being at least, the trial will only affect ‘junior’ cabin crew who work in the Economy cabin. It’s not known how long the trial is expected to last or what the results have been.
While this might seem like a ‘game changer’, expecting staff to share rooms isn’t entirely new for Emirates. The airline’s Cabin Service Attendant’s – dedicated cabin crew who look after the First Class Shower and Spa on Airbus A380’s – have been known to share a room with fellow CSA’s. So this would simply be an extension of that policy.
And of course, Emirates provide paid shared accommodation for their cabin crew with 2-3 members of staff sharing a flat. Although, those flats generally have separate bedrooms and bathrooms, with only the living area and kitchen shared.
We don’t know whether Emirates plans to purchase standard hotel rooms or ‘suite’ style accommodation to make the arrangement a little more liveable. Having said that, there’s even more ‘galley talk’ suggesting the airline wants staff to stay with friends and family on flights to their home country to avoid paying for any hotel accommodation at all.
The rumour seems in stark contrast to the airline we’ve grown to know and love. Traditionally, we’ve seen Emirates as an incredibly generous airline when it comes staff perks. Of course, the economic situation at the airline has led to a degree of cost-cutting, despite high profile investments including a $15.1 billion order for 40 Boeing 787 Dreamliner’s.
In the first half of the year, Emirates reported a 111% lift in profits – the airline said that was helped by “improved seat load factors, tight control on capacity deployment, and the strengthening of currencies in Emirates’ key markets against the US dollar.” It seems like, if true, Emirates isn’t yet ready to take any chances with the state of its finances.
This article was amended on Sunday 10th December 2017 to include a statement from Emirates.
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.