We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Sat 8 Mar 2014 03:38 PM

Font Size

- Aa +

Gulf airlines defend female cabin crew policies

Emirates, Qatar Airways defend policies on pregnancy and marriage amid union criticism

Gulf airlines defend female cabin crew policies
Emirates cabin crew. (Getty Images - for illustrative purposes only)

Qatar Airways and Emirates Airline have defended their policies on pregnancy and marriage for cabin crew after the Qatar carrier came under fire over its working conditions.

The International Transport Workers' Federation (ITF) is running a campaign against Qatar Airways over its monitoring of staff and rules preventing women from becoming pregnant and getting married.

It has called on women across the globe to speak out against the airline on Saturday, International Women's Day.

"The treatment of workers at Qatar Airways goes further than cultural differences. They are the worst for women's rights among airlines," Gabriel Mocho, civil aviation secretary at the international grouping of transport unions, told Reuters.

A Swedish newspaper last year published a report entitled "The truth about the luxury of Qatar Airways", which described restrictions imposed on cabin crew.

At the ITB travel fair in Berlin, Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar al Baker reacted furiously to questions about the article and said people were attacking Qatar because it had won the right to host the 2022 soccer World Cup.

Qatar has been criticised for its treatment of migrant workers helping build facilities for the World Cup.

"All this was a big sensational (effort) to target my country because of 2022, saying people have no human rights. It is not true," he told reporters.

Qatar Airways contracts forbid any member of the cabin crew, the vast majority of whom are female, from marrying during the first five years of their employment with the firm.

"You know they have come there to do a job and we make sure that they are doing a job, that they give us a good return on our investment," Al Baker said.

He said because local regulations prevented pregnant cabin crew from flying and the company did not have many ground jobs available for them, pregnant women must often leave.

"We are not in the business where we can guarantee ground jobs or let people stay away ... and don't do anything for the airline," he said.

Cabin crew across the world may not work on board airplanes once pregnant due to health concerns, although some countries allow them to work for up to three months into the pregnancy.

Most airlines then find them work on the ground or put them on maternity leave. In Europe, pregnant women are protected from being fired or made redundant.

Emirates said it has a policy whereby female cabin crew that become pregnant in the first three years have to leave.

"If you are hired by Emirates as a cabin crew, during the first three years we expect from you to fly," Chief Commercial Officer Thierry Antinori said.

Cabin crew who have been employed for more than three years have the option of taking paid maternity leave.

Antinori and Al Baker highlighted the other benefits offered to employees, such as tax-free income and paid-for accommodation. Antinori, a French native who previously worked for German carrier Lufthansa, also said Emirates offered profit-sharing schemes.

"Last year, we had 129,000 applications for cabin crew at Emirates. I do not think these are conditions that are making people reluctant to work for us," he said.

Al Baker said Qatar Airways was recruiting 250 to 300 cabin crew every month and that each open recruitment session saw around 800 and 2,500 candidates.

Back in the 1970s and 1980s, sexism in the industry was a common issue, especially towards cabin crew, but the ITF said such times were long past.

"You can't see that deep level of sexism anywhere now except at these airlines in the Gulf," Mocho said.

International Women's Day has been observed for just over 100 years. According to the United Nations, it is a day when women are recognised for their achievements without regard to nationality, ethnicity, language, economics or politics.

Arabian Business: why we're going behind a paywall

For all the latest transport news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.
Real news, real analysis and real insight have real value – especially at a time like this. Unlimited access ArabianBusiness.com can be unlocked for as little as $4.75 per month. Click here for more details.
TAHA M AHMED 6 years ago

I smell jealousy in this episode because these 2 airlines are doing good, they are being targeted by their counterparts by using these so called unions.

zak 6 years ago

Can I please understand why Emirates does not allow Veiled (muhajabah) hostesses, such as saudi or other asian airline. Isn't that sad from an airline that represents a country that talk about human rights and freedom of religion...
its just sad...

Peter 6 years ago

"All this was a big sensational (effort) to target my country because of 2022, saying people have no human rights. It is not true,"

Really?! how can he say that with a straight face. This has nothing to do with 2022

So trying to make it sound like people are attacking them as an act of jealousy seems ridiculous and a desperate attempt to derail the conversation and coverup the real issue

leo50 6 years ago

not sad. Sensible!

James Marshall 6 years ago

zak, are you out of this world ? You mean to say you would like veiled hostesses (nothing but the eyes) on Emirates Airlines ? Emirates Airline is an "international" airline and though it may be based in Dubai, most of the hostesses are not Arabs and are non-Muslims anyway. And your argument about human rights and freedom of religion does not make sense when complaining about the non-existance of veils on hostesses

Neil 6 years ago

So called unions? Surely just unions?

Mark Renton 6 years ago

@Taha, the ITF and other such bodies exist to work in the interests of the airline workers and are frequently in conflict with the management of all airlines; the idea that they are some sort of tool of "counterpart" airlines is just laughable. Both QA and EK have admitted that the allegations are essentially true, the suggestion that this is some sort of conspiracy is simply a smokescreen to deflect blame away, and frankly "reacting furiously" is not going to help make the issue go away.

Telcoguy 6 years ago

I am with you Taha, the world started to go to hell the day they outlawed whipping the slaves, I mean the employees. Bloody unions

Jonnie Millar 6 years ago

I have travelled on many ME and Asian airlines (including Saudi Arabian Airlines) and though there have been female cabin crew on board. none have ever been veiled.

I'd imagine this is due to international regulations on safety rather than anything else. as in an emergency, cabin crew would need to exercise full peripheral vision and any veiling may impede this.

Anyone got other thoughts on this?

Ponder 6 years ago

Seriously Zak? What next? A flight attendant can refuse to serve alcohol? Or not talk to a man who isnt related to her?

Where does it stop? How will they service the passengers on board? Increasing work load on others basically?!

Most airlines try to go for a most neutral middle of the road look onboard with hints of local touches from land of origin. Thus SQ and MH have their attendants dressed in sarong kebaya with color scheme of outfits and cabins stressing local tones/colors.

Drinks, cocktails/mocktails are served based on local fruit blends BUT it stops there. They dont only force you to only eat sambal or bakmi goreng.

Why does everything have to have religion and or particular interpretations of culture dragged into it?

Oh...and EK full outfit has a scarf built into the headgear that crew can wear at airports/transit/boarding and landing time. But maybe thats not good enough for you, pls buy EK and executive order a rule change!