The United Kingdom’s immigration authorities have moved to ban the use of Emirates’ Cabin Service Attendants on flights to the country on account of their immigration status according to a leaked company memo. CSA’s are also known as shower spa attendants and are responsible for organising the luxe onboard First Class showers which are installed on Emirates’ fleet of Airbus A380’s.
The memo says the UK Border Force has implemented a “restriction with entry of non-licensed crew” meaning that CSA’s aren’t permitted to use the normal exemptions afforded to fully-trained cabin crew.
Unlike their cabin crew colleagues, CSA’s receive only basic safety and emergency equipment training. They cannot operate doors – either in standard operation or in an emergency, they are expected to be seated in the event of turbulence just like a passenger and do not makeup part of the normal crew complement.
Instead, CSA’s are rostered to operate A380’s purely to look after the shower spa for the 14 First Class passengers and, time permitting, to clean the other lavatories onboard.
But the CSA programme isn’t without its critics. Cabin Service Attendants, who predominantly come from the Philipines, are paid significantly less than Emirates’ cabin crew. They are expected to share hotel rooms during layovers, do not have the protections of what are known as ‘Flight Time Limitations’ – which governs maximum working hours, minimum layover and onboard rest periods.
In fact, on some ultra-long-haul flights, CSA’s have been expected to take their rest on a jumpseat because there isn’t enough room in the crew bunks for them to have horizontal rest. Controversially, it’s alleged that many CSA’s were hired on the promise that they would one day become a fully-fledged member of cabin crew – a promise that critics say never materialises.
Generally speaking, CSA’s are always female and can be told apart from other female crew because they wear trousers and in-flight wear a tabard rather than a waistcoat.
It’s not clear why the UK Border Force has decided to now ban CSA’s from using the usual crew entry exemption – although, on the face of it, the reasoning does seem sound. What will be interesting to see is whether other countries also decided that CSA’s shouldn’t be able to use usual crew privileges.
But even with this issue currently only affecting UK flights, it could still have a big impact. The UK has proved to be a major and important market for Emirates. The airline currently serves London Heathrow will six daily A380 flights, while Manchester has three daily A380 services and Birmingham has two.
Other British destinations such as Newcastle, Stansted, Glasgow, and Edinburgh are served by Boeing 777 aircraft which do not have shower spa facilities and are therefore not affected.
Emirates will likely be able to obtain visa’s for its CSA’s but in the meantime, the airline plans on rostering an extra member of First Class crew to look after the shower spa.
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.