Emirates has relaunched a cabin crew recruitment drive aimed at local UAE nationals by offering a basic salary which is over three times that enjoyed by other crew, as well as Ad Diem allowances, an attractive monthly retention allowance, free accommodation and food and transport. The Dubai-based airline has long tried to convince Emirati citizens to join the carrier as cabin crew but despite these efforts, locals make up just 0.22 per cent of the entire crew community.
According to the airline’s head of human resources around 3,000 Emiratis are currently employed by the carrier. That number is small in itself (Emirates and its ground handling arm Dnata employs over 102,000 people worldwide). But the figures are even starker when you delve into the numbers working as cabin crew – at present, there are 50 locals working amongst the 22,000 strong cabin crew workforce.
For some of the hundreds of thousands of international candidates who apply for a coveted position as Emirates cabin crew every year, the thought of getting the so-called Golden Call is something they can only dream of. But that’s not a dream shared by many Emiratis.
“Emiratis do not want to do jobs in the low-ranking grades,” explains Abdul Aziz Ali, the airline’s executive vice-president of Human Resources.
“That is why we are inviting them to do jobs like cabin crew and also ground staff, with attractive packages and benefits.”
And attractive they most certainly are. Emirati cabin crew would start on a basic monthly salary of 18,000 Dirhams (approximately $4,900 USD). In contrast, the airline’s international crew who hail from over 135 countries would normally start on a basic monthly wage of around 4,300 Dirhams ($1,160).
In addition, locally hired cabin crew would be set to enjoy a special monthly ‘retention’ payment of between 4,000 to 5,000 Dirhams ($1,000 – $1,360). On top of basic payments, all crew receive Ad Diem payments and flying allowances.
“Cabin crew role provides the opportunity for Emirati men and women to act as ambassadors of the distinct Emirati culture abroad,” Aziz Ali told the Gulf News.
“More than just a role focused on service and ensuring safety on board, Cabin crew members are primed for long and fruitful careers within the group. The diversity [of the job profile] helps us. This is why I want to encourage Emiratisation of cabin crew.”
Yet even with such an attractive remuneration package, Emirates may still struggle to attract the right talent. Long-held but outdated beliefs about the social status of cabin crew will put many candidates off – and some will even find that family members discourage or even forbid them from applying.
As a predominantly Muslim culture, the need to work during Ramadan and serve alcohol won’t help matters either. Nor will the requirement to be aged between 21 and the young age of 30 years old.
But Emirates needs to at least try. A few days ago, Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum launched a new Emiratisation drive promising a job for every UAE national. The prince said Dubai’s government was looking at the “challenges and obstacles” that have so far marred the Emiratisation process in a bid to get more Emiratis into employment.
If all goes well, Emirates may even find itself in the same position as Oman Air. The national carrier of the UAE’s neighbour has managed to recruit nearly 500 locals as cabin crew – who make up a third of all crew at the airline. Recently, the carrier said it would now focus on increasing the number of Omani female crew, who currently number less than 50.