At what may well turn out to be a very heated event, hundreds of cabin crew at the Dubai-based Emirates are set to demand improved working conditions at a so-called ‘Forum’ which will be held on Wednesday 30th January at the airline’s headquarters near Dubai International Airport (DXB). The event follows several similar events which were held last year when thousands of crew turned up on their days off to make their voices heard.
With queues stretching around the corridors of the company HQ and the main auditorium quickly filling up, many cabin crew were forced to rely on Facebook Live broadcasts filmed without the authority of company bosses to find out what was being said – and even more importantly, what executives had to say in response.
On this occasion, however, only a small number of invited crew members will be allowed to attend the event which will likely also be attended by the airline’s head of service delivery, Thomas Ney and Adel Al Redha, Emirates’ chief operations officer.
Top of the agenda is likely to be “exhausting” rosters that have seen many crew working over 11o flying hours every month – while perfectly legal in the UAE, such practices would be strictly limited across Europe and the United States. And with Dubai International Airport operating at near full capacity 24-hours a day, 7-days a week many other crew have noted that constant night flights only compound the problem and need to be addressed.
Others have raised significant concerns about the way pregnant cabin crew are treated by the company. At present, Emirates doesn’t guarantee ground-based work for pregnant crew or new mothers – instead, many are simply offered unpaid leave and that’s on top of already being forced to leave company provided accommodation.
The end result is that many pregnant cabin crew choose to leave the airline for fear that they would otherwise be unable to afford to live.
How many changes the airline is willing to make on the back of these concerns though remains to be seen. At an earlier forum, executives did listen to worries about changes to the company’s medical insurance scheme and implemented improvements to the benefit of cabin crew. On the other hand, sources tell us further unpopular changes have been made to the sick leave process that forces cabin crew to work when sick or accept being put on unauthorised absence without pay.
It’s no secret that Emirates cabin crew are some of the hardest working in the entire aviation industry – with the number of hours worked per month and the length of time the company expects crew to work without a break the stuff of legend. At the same time, Emirates also has some of the best-trained cabin crew in the industry and also offers attractive benefits including medical insurance and free insurance.
Working conditions, unfortunately, aren’t perfect at any airline but it’s good to see that Emirates is willing to listen to staff concerns and hopefully improvements will be coming soon.
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.