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Emirates Cabin Crew Lays Bare Life Working at the Airline: Morale Has Never Been Lower and Here’s Why

Emirates Cabin Crew Lays Bare Life Working at the Airline: Morale Has Never Been Lower and Here’s Why

Emirates Cabin Crew Lays Bare Life Working at the Airline: Morale Has Never Been Lower and Here's Why

Just over ten years ago, Agnieszka donned the famous Emirates cabin crew hat for the very first time. She was proud to finally be wearing the iconic uniform after successfully becoming one of the airline’s glamorous flight attendants.

Just weeks earlier, she had been flown by Emirates to its home in Dubai – a cosmopolitan and glamorous oasis on the Arabian peninsula. Her life had been turned upside down but there was so much to look forward to.

Sure, the training had been tough – Emirates expected the very best of their cabin crew. Agnieszka was equipped to deal with in-flight emergencies, medical incidents, fire drills and of course the legendary Emirates service.

But even getting the chance to take part in the training course hadn’t been easy. The recruitment event took two full days and the competition was fierce. Held in a Five Star hotel in her European home city, Agnieszka (not her real name) and the many others who attended listened to presentations about the life that awaited them.

The Emirates recruiters promised the hopefuls a modern tax-free lifestyle with paid accommodation in luxury apartments. They were shown marketing photos of the famous Sheikh Zayed Road – it’s towering skyscrapers reaching up into clear blue skies.

The dream, however, isn’t looking quite so picture perfect for Agnieszka anymore. And nor is it for many of her colleagues – Idle galley chit chat about their resignation plans is a common way to bond nowadays. Times had been good, they agree, but now they would rather take their chances in their home countries.

Dubai's sleek and modern skyline may seem appealing but Emirates cabin crew don't get to enjoy views like this. Photo Credit: Emirates
Dubai’s sleek and modern skyline may seem appealing but Emirates cabin crew don’t get to enjoy views like this. Photo Credit: Emirates

Agnieszka says she still enjoys her job and describes her past experience at Emirates as “amazing.” But those days are have faded away – instead, she’s becoming increasingly dismayed at how Emirates is being run and how its many expat staff are being treated. Over the past 12-months, conditions have quickly deteriorated and moral is now lower than what she can ever remember.

Like so many other crew, Agnieszka doesn’t live in a luxury apartment in the centre of Dubai. She has no views of the Burj Khalifa and she’s not a stone’s throw away from the beach either. Just a few miles away from the world-famous sights of Dubai is the desert – scattered with identikit tower blocks, purpose-built for Emirates cabin crew.

She agree’s, they’re okay. Certainly a lot better than most workers in Dubai get but it’s not even close to what she was promised when she signed the contract. Not that she is allowed to express her dissatisfaction with management – there are no unions, so when a decision is made, it’s final.

When we discussed the situation, Agnieszka wrote that she felt like “our rights and benefits have been totally violated.” It’s a common feeling amongst the airline’s cabin crew community.  A new internal news service, nicknamed ‘Crew Pulse’ recently had the comments function disabled when cabin crew started to speak up against their superiors.

She points to a long list of recent changes that have been made by airline bosses – none of which seemingly benefit the cabin crew. A big concern for Agnieszka is Emirate’s medical insurance scheme – after all, without it, getting medical treatment in Dubai is horrendously expensive.

But now Emirates has changed its medical benefits – cabin crew will now be expected to cover up to 30% of the cost of hospital treatment. A sum that many simply can’t afford. The pressure for sick crew to return to work as quickly as possible is huge.  Salaries are quickly reduced to half pay after just 15 days sick leave.

The airline has made it perfectly clear they only want young cabin crew in their prime –  Even if staff have given Emirates many years of dedicated service. Injured cabin crew are forced to resign. Crew members who reach their 50th birthday will only have their contracts renewed for one year before being forced out the company.

It’s not just Agnieszka who has become dejected about the way Emirates is treating its own staff. Many cabin crew have taken to calling sick in order to get days off. The situation recently got so bad, Lynda Briody, the airline’s Cabin Crew Manager sent a memo to her staff saying “firm action” including dismissal would be taken against anyone who “abused” the sickness policy.

While Briody said she felt “compelled” to pen the warning to address “unacceptable” sickness levels, it seems to have backfired. A growing discord amongst the Emirates cabin crew ranks has seen sickness rates soar in the days following Briody’s stern telling-off.

Emirates has seemingly stopped listening to its cabin crew. Turning off comments, deleting posts and censoring views on controversial issues.
Emirates has seemingly stopped listening to its cabin crew. Turning off comments, deleting posts and censoring views on controversial issues.

The cost of living is also causing consternation. Agnieszka tells us crew find deductions on their wage slips for seemingly no apparent reason. Wages at the airline haven’t risen in over a year and the company bonus scheme has been put on ice. At the same time, Dubai has just introduced Value Added Tax (VAT) at 5% – in an already famously expensive city.  Shoppers have already noticed

But while cabin crew might feel like they’ve got it bad, Agnieszka points to the airline’s Cabin Service Attendants (CSA’s) who have it even worse. Emirates employ these workers to take care of the shower spa’s on their luxury A380’s – and while they aren’t ‘cabin crew’ many were employed under the pretence that one day they would become one.

Agnieszka says she knows of just 50 CSA’s who eventually succeeded in their dream to become cabin crew. The rest are paid a measly basic monthly salary of €300 with a much lower hourly flying rate than the cabin crew they work alongside.

If they didn’t already feel like second-class citizens then a new policy for crew rest on ultra-long-haul flights should make it clear. According to Agnieszka, Emirates reconfigured their new A380’s with less room in the crew rest compartment as before – as a result, there’s no room for CSA’s to rest in a bunk. Instead, they have to sit on a jumpseat with a curtain closed.

When it comes to work conditions Agnieszka agree’s that Emirates has always been strict and has more than its fair share of rules.  But the pressure is now becoming unbearable for many crew.

“Working for Emirates was amazing years ago but nowadays nearly everyone is unhappy,” she explains, likening her working life to a “nightmare”.

She says it feels like she “has no freedom” and many of her colleagues spend their time on board fearful that the tiniest mistake could see them dismissed.  Emirates’ fleet of A380 aircraft have around 18 surveillance cameras throughout the cabins – staff are monitored and quickly reprimanded should they be seen to be acting incorrectly.

Of course, as long as passengers are getting a good service, why should they care how working and living conditions have changed for the airline’s cabin crew?  Yet Agnieszka claims they should be concerned – she tells of deep-rooted coverups and an emphasis on service that compromises safety.

Last summer, she points to an incident in which a purser attacked a Captain inside the cockpit of an Emirates aircraft.  It’s widely believed that the purser was involved in a love spat but Emirates claimed the purser was simply suffering a “seizure”.  Nonetheless, the staff involved were quickly repatriated to their home countries.  Media outlets in the UAE were forbidden from reporting on the incident.

Agnieszka doesn’t know how much longer she’ll be working for Emirates.  She expects to resign within months – although wants to continue doing the job she loves – if only conditions were different.  She’s not alone, many of her colleagues have openly spoken about leaving the company.

For now, the Emirates cabin crew community and the airline they work for remain at loggerheads.  In light of the economic woes that have beset the airline, Agnieszka is doubtful whether conditions will improve anytime soon.

View Comments (26)
  • I’m Emirates crew…..can’t wait to quit, conditions are going down, everything is going down. Going to work is a nightmare. Hate it!!! but can’t leave before I take care of few things, few months to go. On board the only topic between the crew is how much we hate Emirates. When we hear that someone quit all you can hear is “congrats”. DON’T FLY EMIRATES

    • You kids are totally spoilt at Emirates. Guess what, I’m not telling you to leave but I’m telling you go work somewhere else- eventually you will wake up, and realize to earn money – you will have to work. You guys feel so entitled – makes me laugh.

      • I totally agree. It’s all going down very fast and at the expense of some very good crew. Ek doesn’t deserve the good people it has.

  • Then stop complaining and leave! What do you expect? Did you really expect spectacular labour law protections under UAE law? I’ve flown with Emirates for years and it USED to be a great airline. It was a great airline in large part because all the stewardesses were hot treated each and every passenger like a welcome guest in the cabin. Dinner service, beverages and all reqests were met with a smile. Now Emirates seem to only recruit unattractive, grumpy women who smile only when the passengers are disembarking! So if Agnieszka has been working there for 10 years, she really has no place in the ideal Emirates cabin. If you don’t like Emirates leave and go work for LOT or British Airways where you can be as grumpy as you want.

    • Do you fly Emirates as a passenger? Because if you’ve flown Emirates for years as crew, you’d know better! And Alex Alex is right, if the requirements from crew are what you’ve listed in your ridiculous comment, go to a brothel!

      • Well a lot of my colleagues until just a few years ago were eyeing guys on flights and exchanging numbers. No wonder people get the wrong impression about cabin crew.

    • Propably crew are not smiling anymore because they overworked tired and demotivated.has that ever crossed your mind.or propably you want slaves to treat you when flying

    • “So if Agnieszka has been working there for 10 years, she really has no place in the ideal Emirates cabin.“
      what exactly do you mean here?

    • Oh my god, are you the biggest arsehole in the world?? I pity any cabin crew who ever have you on board, you creepy old fark!

  • We had 2 cabin crew and 1 pilot that is in the process of resigning on my most recent flight. The culture and management at Emirates has created an environment of mistrust, fear, and deceitfulness. There are many people in management that are trying to change the culture but unfortunately, the senior management prioritized savings as opposed to retention. This place is one accident away from national attention.

  • It’s the same story across the UAE especially in government firms/departments. They are are overworking expats and not even appreciating them for it.

  • I completely agree with this email. And it only touches on the problems crew face.
    I have been ek crew for over 7 years. It use to be a very nice job but conditions had rapidly deteriorated over the past year.
    In fact I would not recommend anyone to join.
    Within this last year I was forced to move out of single accommodation back to a shared apartment with a shared bathroom. (I was given option to take a live out allowance but it is not enough and I would have to pay close to two months salary out of my own pocket)
    Three weeks after moving back into a shared apartment I received and email stating that I would be forced to move again because my current building was closing in a few months.
    This happen to MANY crew!
    Another crew I know received less than 3 weeks notice that her building was closing, the A/c to her building was cut before everyone was moved out. Mostly likely to save the company money. Everyone in that building was left without A/c for over a week. This was in the months approaching summer. People where sleeping on their balconies because it was too hot inside.
    The accommodation situation is a complete mess. It plays a major part in our lives and ek does not care.

  • I’m so glad I quit 5 months ago before it went even worse. The reporting system is the worst for me. Some snitchers will report you and make up things in order to show their managers that they work hard and care for the business. Then they get promoted and you get warnings. Now they are short on crew but not recruiting. Crew have to work like crazy and the company and the country made some rules even more strict. Plus the country is not tax free anymore. Many of my ex-colleagues are waiting in line to resign. I’m very glad that I left. Living there for 2 years never made me feel attached to that country.

  • I worked for Emirates for 12 years and I left as a purser. When I first joined in 1999 it was a great company to work for . On average we flew 60 hours a month. Upon resigning my flying time got to 120 hours a month average. As the company grew more rules came into place and company like Dubai itself became greedy. Crew was so fatigued going to work I kept breaking the rules to allow crew rest on flights as for me it was a huge safety issue. I got Breast cancer whilst working for this company, the treatment I received from management was appalling.Radiation exposure reports were hidden from me ( after flying for 12 years). I spent a year fighting with Emirates medical benefits as they refuse to pay what was involved in my treatment plan. Breast reconstruction was deemed as Cosmetic so they wouldn’t have to pay for it. My colleague ( also senior in the airline ) had a massive stroke which required urgent surgery in Rashid Hospital , his hospital bill was huge , Emirates medical benefits refused to pay his bill because they suspected his condition was congenital. Think twice before you join .. take care of yourself.

  • Typical ‘Polish’ mentality… just complain always on everything ??‍♀️
    Those people never gonna be happy, doesn’t matter when and where are they. Most of them don’t have previous experience in their career so they don’t know how ‘lovely’ they can be threat in other companies.. Well go back to Poland Agnieszka to a ‘land of happiness’ and for the future, stop spreading informations that are not confirmed and u simply made it up,
    cause u not gonna built ur career like this ?
    Good luck anyway

    • It’s written the name is made up, it’s not actual name and nowhere it’s written the person who gives the interview is Polish.

  • I was there for nearly 7 years. The last 2 years were hell, too many Junior crew fast tracking to senior positions and having a power trip. Resigned last year, couldn’t take it anymore. I have good memories, and I’m not bitter, but I do feel I wasted too many years there, should be just done 2 or 3 years. I feel all that time was in vain, it froze my career and despite everyone thinking we were working for a great airline, in reality, we are serving microwave meals like waiters. So I’m starting from the bottom again, as those years do t really count for anything… This airline will succumb soon, it’s a matter of time. Dubai came from dust and to dust it will return…

    • Seems to me like you lived the good life in Dubai for quite a long time. Just when the going gets a bit tough you start trashing the city. You need to own up to your actions. If you had better prospects you would have left a long time ago. Stop kidding yourself.

  • Its been an amazing adventure at the beginning, great one, but slowly, as the years pass the company changed into a military organization that push soldiers to their mission.

    Illegal flights, minimum rest, senior abuse and much much more.

    I felt abused many times and even changed into a different person. Had many stories to tell, so year by year been writing mi travel diary, and now is a crazy book, In Spanish, sorry.

    They said, Welcome to Dubai, and then push me on a 777.

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