Both Emirates and Etihad Airways are turning to hi-tech virtual recruitment technology to keep on hiring new cabin crew throughout the Coronavirus pandemic with candidates taking part in prerecorded interviews or live video chats with recruiters. The move to an online-only recruitment process follows the cancellation of all in-person Open Days and Assessment Events around the world.
What might be the biggest surprise about this move, however, is the fact that either airline is still in a position to hire any new cabin crew at all. Air travel has been virtually suspended worldwide because of the COVID-19 crisis and many airlines now don’t foresee a dramatic recovery in demand once travel restrictions are eventually eased.
Emirates and Etihad were forced to suspend all regularly scheduled passenger operations on March 24 and regulators have only since granted permission for the resumption of very limited operations. The two airlines are operating only a tiny fraction of the flights they would normally operate and with stringent conditions attached.
While Emirates is no flying to London Heathrow, Brussels, Frankfurt, Paris and Frankfurt, the carrier can only accept bookings for passengers flying out of Dubai. Even those flights, though, will be suspended starting from April 11, with only Frankfurt and London running up until April 19.
Etihad, meanwhile, is operating what it calls a “regular” service to Seoul, Singapore, Manila and Jakarta, as well as Melbourne and Amsterdam. These services are subject to the same restrictions and Etihad says its normal service will be suspended until at least April 21.
No one knows for sure how long global travel restrictions might be in effect and the recovery, certainly for air travel, looks set to be slow and painful. But while other carriers are shedding cabin crew roles, Emirates and Etihad are making plans to actually increase recruitment.
Although physical Open Day’s were quickly cancelled in early March, Emirates is still actively accepting applications on its official recruitment website. Shortlisted candidates must then contend with a pre-recorded interview to further little down numbers – it’s a system that Emirates has tried to use before, subsequently scrapped and then quickly introduced again.
Meanwhile, Etihad is arranging live video calls with potential new hires to conduct the initial parts of its normal Assessment Day over the internet. Anyone lucky enough to be shortlisted, however, will then have to wait for the crisis to finish before they can complete their recruitment journey in a face-to-face meeting.
The turnover rate for Middle East airlines is generally quite high which may explain the confidence of Emirates and Etihad to continue hiring. It may also be a case of the airlines hedging their bets – making sure they have a talent pool of ready willing candidates ready to go just in case there is a surprise rebound in travel demand.
We’ll have to watch this space to find out for sure.
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.