Last week, Qatar Airways chief executive Akbar Al Baker warned the airline would be forced to make “substantial” job cuts because the dramatic slump in travel demand caused by the COVID-19 pandemic meant the airline “simply cannot sustain the current staff numbers”. Despite reassuring staffers that “no effort was spared” in tackling the crisis, Baker admitted that the outlook for global aviation was “grim” and that Qatar Airways was not immune to the significant challenges facing airlines around the world.
Qatar Airways has shared few details of the true scale of job cuts at the Doha-based airline. In fact, the airline hasn’t actually publicly acknowledged a leaked memo that shared the news with thousands of cabin crew who face an uncertain future. And the day after the news went viral, Qatar Airways even boasted that it planned to resume flights to around 80 international destinations by June.
But new details are slowly emerging of what those job cuts could look like in reality and who is at most risk of being laid off. For cabin crew, sources now suggest that the airline has opted not to make those tough decisions based on performance but arbitarily on length of service.
Choosing a “last in, first out” approach, Qatar Airways is believed to be informing all cabin crew who joined the airline within the last six months that they must offer their resignation. The same will apply to new hires who are still to complete their cabin crew course, while unsurprisingly, those who are still to join Qatar Airways have had their offers of employment withdrawn.
Controversially, however, Qatar Airways also plans to ask cabin crew with 15 years or more experience to resign. In 2017, Akbar Al Baker stoked an angry backlash after boasting about the young age of Qatar Airways cabin crew, saying “the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years, so there is no need for you to travel on this crap American carriers. You know you are always being served by grandmothers at American carriers.”
In addition, a number of foreign expat cabin crew who have been stuck outside of Qatar after the country suddenly announced border closures will also be asked to resign because there is still no timescale for when they might be able to return.
Baker has promised to allow laid-off cabin crew who become stuck in Doha because of ongoing travel restrictions to remain in company accommodation until borders are reopened. Qatar Airways says it will pay a special living allowance and the costs of repatriation will also be covered by the airline.
Qatar Airways has been contacted for comment but had not responded by the time of publication.
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.