Qatar Airways has become embroiled in controversy over its treatment of an ex-pilot who was sacked by the airline and then asked to repay over $162,000 in what was described as costs and expenses incurred from a pilot cadet training programme. The pilot, who is a local Qatari woman, posted a copy of her redundancy letter on Twitter several days ago and pleaded with the Emir of Qatar to personally investigate her dismissal.
The letter does not explain why Jawaher Al-Hail was sacked and Ms Al-Hail claims managers refused to give a reason for her dismissal during her redundancy meeting. Instead, she was simply handed the termination letter without any prior warning before being called in by managers.
In the last few days, Qatar Airways has started to terminate the employment of potentially thousands of staff because of the COVID-19 pandemic, although the airline hasn’t publicly commented on a series of leaked letters detailing the dire situation. However, it remains unclear as to whether this was the reason behind Ms Al-Hail being sacked and why she has been asked to pay back so much money.
Ms Al-Hail joined Qatar Airways in 2013 on the airline’s pilot cadet scholarship programme – a programme set up by the airline to increase the number of local Qatari’s in paid employment. Ms Al-Hail says she successfully graduated from Qatar Aviation College in 2017 and had remained working for the airline.
But just passing a training course and remaining an employee of Qatar Airways doesn’t necessarily mean that costs associated with that training have been accounted for. Qatar Airways usually agrees to waiver training costs only if an employee remains in employment for an agreed set period of time.
Even employees who are sacked, often through no fault of their own, are asked to repay costs associated with training and other administrative fees. In the case of foreign expat workers, they can be barred from leaving the country until these costs have been repaid in full.
As a local resident, Ms Al-Hail could still be banned from leaving the country and could face imprisonment if she fails to repay her debt.
According to Qatar Airways’ latest annual report, the airline has only managed to recruit 825 local residents into its so-called Al Darb (pathway) Qatarisation programme – less than 2 per cent of the airline’s entire workforce. However, its pilot cadet programme remains one of its most popular routes into the company and in 2018, over 200 Qatari’s joined the programme.
Hat tip: One Mile at a Time
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.