Talking about lifestyle brand

Since HH the Chairman of Emirates Airline Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed AlMaktoum did not reply to open letter (yet), here are some suggestions on how to improve conditions at the airport.

This e-mail was sent 5 months ago to HQ by couple of our colleagues from EKAS. Again, seems like nobody listened.

As you will see, salary was not mentioned at all. After sometime from this e-mail, when nothing was changed, salary issue became important. Why else should anyone work if they do not have decent working conditions and/or decent salary that doesn’t require “surviving” in Dubai, especially after prices in Dubai hit the sky?


  • Shifts for check-in and boarding staff are designed just to cover the load at the airport busiest hours with total disregard for staff’s mental and physical health. This is due to lack of employees, so we are forced to replace and work for non-existing but much needed employees in ground staff.
  • New shifts at check-in area require waking up at 3:00 am and working  11 to 12 hours for 4 days per week, or working 4 days with 2 days off in which 1st  working day is morning and then the rest of the 3 days are night shifts. How would a human body adjust to waking up or having a sleeping pattern with these shifts? This is causing a lot of sick leaves and absenteeism. 4 by 4 pattern would be most effective if we would have the same shifts as supervisors and managers. This way shift changes would be in the least busy timings 5:00am, 5:00pm or 6:00 am and  6:00pm, and there will be more staff on the floor if you calculate it properly.
Seems like this did not turn out as expected. Same as ABC.

Seems like this did not turn out as expected. Same as ABC.

 “Standby” has a different meaning than forced overtime Ms Anoma. Unless you wanted us to be on standby at the airport, then it’s forced OT only.

  • We are forced to come to work on our days off. For four months now (8 until this moment) we have forced over-time. If we don’t come to work on the forced OT day, which is normally our day off, we are marked absent and money is deducted from our salaries due to “rostered off” absence. This is very humiliating, it takes away our freedom of choice and it seriously violates human and working rights.
  • These tiring shifts are catastrophic and they cause staff to be very tired, depressed, frustrated and unhappy. We do not get to sleep enough and we almost have no personal lives.
  • It is psychologically impossible to continuously work with a smile for up to 11 and 12 hours, with all kinds of people, some of them very difficult and aggressive. Staff became nervous, impatient and impolite towards customers due to long and very exhausting working hours.
  • In an 11-hours shift we have only 45 minutes break. To eat once in 14 hours (time to come and to go from the airport included) is very unhealthy for human body.
Forced overtime (or standby at the airport) for (almost) everyone

Forced overtime (or standby at the airport) for (almost) everyone

  • We are forced to seat for 5 or 6 hours at the counters, doing same, repetitive job, although we were promised to have training for another area of work after 6 months of working with Emirates Airline. These long hours at the same counter are another reason that causes staff’s nervousness and discomfort.
  • If we complain about short breaks the usual answer is that we can always ask supervisors for additional breaks, but the truth is that nowadays it’s so crowded most of the time that supervisors hesitate to give us any break at all when it’s busy, let alone another break for having a snack or meal.


  • Some of the supervisors and duty officers behave very repressive. When they don’t know how to deal with exhausted and stressed out staff they use some very old methods of controlling situation like punishments and threats with QMs. Sometimes they raise QMs and warnings against staff without even asking them for their side of the story, misusing and misunderstanding their power to take restrictive actions towards staff. As a result, most of the staffs have some undeserved QMs and warnings and this is very negative for staff’s motivation and working energy.
  • Since we have only one 45 minutes break, we have to ask supervisors for additional breaks. This feels very humiliating as we reached the point where we have to ask even to go to the toilet. It is like we are in the elementary school, and let’s not forget that most of the staff actually have BA and MBA degrees, so this causes huge revolt and dissatisfaction.
  • During rush hours (which is almost the whole day at the airport) supervisors and duty officers have no other choice but to keep their staff at the counters by forbidding them to leave them without asking, because exhausted and stressed staffs are seeking alternative ways to get rest from continuous check in and stressed passengers (which is called “missing staff” at the airport). This is closed circle of misunderstanding of each other’s needs and problems. It is understandable that superiors and duty officers are responsible for clearing the queue and since they have less available staff, they pressurize remaining exhausting staff, who, then, due to lack of breaks and food, have no choice but to miss from their counters without supervisor’s permission.
  • Instead of having trust between supervisors and staff, we have very repressive situation where supervisors are pressuring staff to clear the queue, which feels like we are slaves. All of this causes poor and non-motivating working environment where nobody respects anybody, and it is caused by higher management’s rule of fear and threats.
  • Due to lack of staff, it happens that same people do several tasks at once, for which they are not paid for. This especially happens at denied boarding counters, where staff is forced to do regular check in while dealing with very stressful situations that denied boarding causes. It also happens at skywards counters. It is important to underline the fact that no staff has an issue with helping with operational needs, but the problem here is the way we are treated. We are never asked to help, we are forced to help. Supervisors will simply call another check in area to “send some passengers to skywards or DB counters” without asking us if we feel capable to do additional tasks.
  • We were promised that we will have level two training in two months and gate training in six months when we have signed our contract. Staff at check in work there for more than one year before getting gates training, and even then they are withdrawn back to check in due to lack of check in staff. Mobility of the staff between departments, which is normally very important for staff’s working motivation and satisfaction, is almost non-existent.
  • Since we are educated and mature people, we can easily spot the difference that this company makes between us and members of cabin crew. Usual answer of our management is that cabin crew risk their lives and health by flying so it is normal that they have better conditions. This is just an excuse for discrimination because ground staff is the first point of contact between customers and company, so we are, actually, very important for company’s image. With all due respect to cabin crew who are working very hard also.


  • Organization of work at the airport is poor and it goes on the expense of check in agents. We do not have any control over our job. Passengers come to the counters from all sides (exits and entrances; there are no technical possibilities to announce to passengers when particular counter is available for check in). Marhaba, Dnata and Concierge staff feel the freedom to approach to the counters any time, even if the agent is busy. This causes chaos and nervousness, and many times even customer complaints and great dissatisfaction (both – from those who wait in queue and from those who come with Dnata, Marhaba and Concierge services).
  • Developed culture of punishments. No organizational culture whatsoever.
Written warning for having “negative impact on others”. Culture of punishments and rule of fear.

Written warning for having “negative impact on others”. Culture of punishments and rule of fear.

Suggestions for improvement:

We believe that it is in everyone interest to have some improvements of ground staff’s working and living conditions. Customer service is sensitive area of work and it influences the most company’s image and brand. We can all resign and find jobs somewhere else, but that is not the goal here. Our goal is to be proud of the company we are working for and to have dignity and respect on our working posts.

  • To introduce shifts which comply with the signed conditions from our contracts (42 hours per week – currently, we are working more than 42 hours per week in some shifts) and with respect to our mental and physical health.
  • To abolish forced overtime.
  • To abolish culture of constant punishments and rule of fear.
  • To make the system for equal and fair distribution and rotation of the shifts, so that everyone gets every shift in a given period of time.
  • To make our tasks at the same counter shorter (this includes standing tasks, which now lasts for 3 hours of standing on high heels).
  • To make our breaks more frequent and longer especially if we are working “over 7 hours up to 12 hours”.
  • To brief our superiors (supervisors, duty officers and managers) about fair usage of power to take restrictive actions against staff.
  • To brief superiors about respectful organizational culture and polite communication with staff.
  • To introduce the system of protection of the staff against unfair usage of superior’s power (many staff are afraid of losing their job if they express their disagreement with superiors and given QMs and warnings).
  • To ease the transport from company accommodation to the airport (at this point we have to change two buses and lose more than one hour minimum to get to the airport).
  • To make mobility of the staff between departments (check in, boarding gates, UM lounge, F/J, transfer desk, ramp…) more often.
  • To make our working and living conditions less discriminatory in comparison with the working and living conditions of cabin crew.
  • Introduce technical possibilities for check-in agents to announce their availability to the passengers.
  • Better Medical insurance.
  • Less discriminatory and wastas culture of promotion often under nationality key. Many managers are too young, too under qualified and too incapable to be good managers and leaders especially. This makes non existing organizational culture.
  • You have chosen some very educated and experienced staff for grade 4 posts. These staff came to work with you with normal expectations that they will learn and grow within the company. Do not deny them their right to advance in their careers by treating them as disposable working force.

Thank you very much for reading this e-mail, we all hope to hear from you soon, and we do see you as our final hope for improvement of our working conditions and, consequently, customer service experience.


17 responses to “Talking about lifestyle brand

  • my staff number starts with 2

    You better take it with news outlets bbc, al jazeera re slave working conditions in uae.

    Liked by 1 person

  • Filippo Boebel

    Please contact me. I’m a former EK pilot with an interesting story,


  • JaneJones

    i am so glad you are speaking out like this. it’s great to raise awareness about ill treatment in any UAE institution. I am not an employee there but i do sympathize with your situation. please keep us updated!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Anonymous

    Dear Dragana,

    I would like to say thanks to your bravery. I also used to be a ground staff working for EKAS, so I know how awful that environment is. Nobody has logically presented as much as you’ve done. Buddy, cheer up!!

    Liked by 1 person

  • Kika

    Dear Dragana,

    I used to be a cabin crew, and with us is not very different. Please contact me. Im with you. Lets try to bring this to bbc or cnn.


  • Anonymous

    MYGOD..I thought i was the only one who had suffered for such slavery treatment…Me too I’ve been leaving my family, friends for a dream…To work with such a GREAT COMPANY, but the first time I landed, i realize that it was the big mistake ever…!!!!I’ve been so disappointed…There’s no words to describe how I feel when reading all you’ve said.
    ITS 100% right…Thanks for such bravery, you should be proud of you for such guts…!!!
    And am begging everyone, dont let you be fool…!!! Its just lies they promised you…


  • Anonymous

    The same is happening in Dnata,




    Thanks a lot for making sacrifice for us so that the real truth can be heard, people are blinded out there not knowing the real truth about EK. Hope changes will occur soon especially starting from some managers who have no knowledge at all about leadership skills; just because they come from certain countries and wear certain type of skin or speak a certain kind of language, they are considered to be highly educated and fit for managerial or supervisor position, where else more dark skin is considered to be dumb or less educated.

    Discrimination is at large in this company. EK should wake up and smell the coffee, its about time……………………..

    Liked by 1 person

  • Hyperhogg


    I’ve always been frank that some of this would be done differently, and I wish someone had been around to perhaps polish down some of the wording, without pulling punches. You have to match the thing to your target audience. I’m also clear that it was less than wise to involve His Highness in your disciplinary hearing – with the atmosphere that exists, that one was always going to go against you.

    However you ultimately did the right thing standing up, speaking truth to power, and refusing to be cowed – that’s why they got rid of you, they were literally terrified of what you pointed out. You had them all spooked, which is why they trampled all over their own rules (the ones they expected you to uphold) in order to get rid of you. Anoma could run a branch of Wal-Mart, but not Emirates. I fear EK will alienate and then lose its elite workforce in much the same way that BA did. Next step: the media.

    You made the mistakes you did because you didn’t have any advice or support – a deliberate state of affairs probably designed to weaken dissent. Your point about non-objective parties in the kangaroo court that got rid of you illustrates the point perfectly. There have been problems in other countries through giving workers ‘too many rights’ but in your case there aren’t enough, and the few that exist are not upheld in practice

    What utterly amazes me about this is, it’s bad business. The most ice-blooded or ignorant HR manager would recognise that a happy workforce makes for happy customers., treat them badly and you inevitably get increasing absenteeism, declining service, more people leaving and therefore heightened costs training them.

    The ‘ten more waiting to take your place’ is a line you might use against labourers on the Sheikh Zayed road – but never customer-facing professionals exemplifying the UAE’s aspiration to project multi-ethnic harmony and values.

    Stay strong and good luck. EK should smell the coffee before it is thrown at them by the customers!


    • dragana1981

      Dear Hyperhogg, I am experienced and not that young (over 30). I played my cards on purpose and perfectly concious.

      I was trying for more than 8 months to speak with somebody there. They were constantly ignoring my e-mails, postponing meetings and then never called me again, punishing for speaking up etc.
      I tried to polish my words and not to involve HH for 8 months. Nobody listened.
      I caught myself sleeping at the counter, sleeping in the bus, dead tired and malnourished, without money at the end of every month. The job lost every meaning, especially if you know that you have no pension at the end, waiting for you. So, once you are not capable to work any more, you starve because you are too old and/or too damaged to find another job. I could not continue like that and I was aware of that.

      After my second warning for telling the trainer that I do not appreciate the choices she is giving to us (famous take it or leave it attitude) HR manager asked me “Why don’t you resign if you are not happy”, I only realized that the whole system is rotten and that it needs big shake and a slap in the cheek.
      They don’t like publicity and I gave them almost two months after my termination to accept me back and listen to their employees internally. They saw me as a threat, like someone who is influencing others to ask their rights, so they fired me. Moreover, they tortured me.

      I told them on the forum, even, that I think that job of the managers is to make employees happy(ier). Ms Anoma interrupted me with “we are not here to discuss MY job”. You cannot have equal interaction with that. You cannot speak with her. She is eternally blind. She did not want to be treated as a house maid, but she treated everyone else like that. She had her opportunity to learn, and she didn’t. She became more selfish and ruthless. Those kinds of people are poison. She (almost) ruined EKAS beyond repair.

      I don’t know if you know, but she is moved from her position yesterday. Another person is coming as DVP EKAS. Everyone who protected her are responsible for spilling the milk in public.

      I have nothing personal against them or Ms Anoma. It is the fact that negative selection brought whole set of managers incapable to have a long term vision or to manage overgrowth of the company.

      Why I did all of this? I did lose my job and I have expected it. Sometimes we have to follow our path and do what we do the best.
      Thank you for your wise and knowledgeable comments. It is really nice to meet someone who has similar understanding of HR management as I do. 🙂


  • Hyperhogg

    No problem Dragana.

    I take your points entirely about the utterly unprofessional and inappropriate methods of this supposed ‘HR DVP’ – ‘if you don’t like it then go to Russia’, sounds almost like America in the paranoid 1950s.

    I wasn’t knocking your experience etc or judgement, just saying that some of the phrases could have been crafted differently (I know you cannot always sugar coat it, but think of the way that adverts make you want to buy something. There are times when it’s good to be confrontational and there is no other choice, but if someone been there to assist they would have changed the wording). Pick your fights and pick how to fight – it then makes it difficult for them to dress you up (wrongly ) as a ‘loudmouth who sent an email to everyone slagging Emirates’.

    All the conditions you describe and the unjust treatment, I identify with it – have had exhausted friends and relatives of both genders relaying similar experiences and staying over at my home. These are people who love the UAE and the Emirates Airline. And I’ve seen people in tearful frustration at the manner in which they have been spoken to – vide my previous comment about a car engine. Pilots attend similar sports clubs to me and we’ve had the inside track from all levels. A pity because so much of it is GOOD, but also much is rotten.

    It was particular distasteful to see the way the whole ‘machine’ was put into action against you and false allegations made to the embassy in order to intimidate you into compliance, blatant disregard of basic principle (and EK rules) in a kangaroo court disciplinary hearing. It’s almost like Soviet Russia – anything that isn’t complete agreement with the word and letter, is ‘demotivating and inappropriate’ behaviour that invited punishment.

    You also see the typical way a large organisation deals with a bad manager – doesn’t discipline or sack them, just moves them sideways for when the inevitable media enquiry comes! (‘She’s no longer in post’ etc)

    Once again – you’ve done well, been brave and principled, broadly done the right thing, and said what needs to be said. I suspect you have started something which will go on and have further repercussions – so they’ve already failed and you’ve already won.

    Good luck and all the best.

    Liked by 1 person

    • dragana1981

      Dear Hyperhogg,

      Thank you for your kind words and for understanding.

      I did what I did, and while it is certain that I could choose some of my words differently, I was under great pressure for more than 8 months, constantly punished and harassed. At one point I even filed official complaint against Ms Anoma for harassment at work (having no other choice to defend myself from her abusing the position), but HR refused it.

      Thank you for your feedback, I will think about it on my next life events and experiences, trying to sugar coat what must be sugar coated in order to not be misunderstood. 🙂

      All the best to you also.



  • Anonymous

    eye opening piece, i thought working with EK was likea dream come true!! No wonder they come to my country every now and then to recruit unsuspecting pple..Selling the ‘Dubai dream’.I have visted the UAE and underneath the glitter you can see the misery and loneliness of the workers. Sad 😦


  • RR

    Dear Dragana,

    That’s a well done job, I have more to add and details of more than you can imagine. On your other page, I wrote a comment for you and for all, take it seriously and don’t give up now at least for those who have accepted the job to support their families.


    I can’t say more here not because that I am afraid, I’ve reached a very painful situations and condition that I could face death at any moment because of what you’ve mentioned and I could be a great and live example….I have consulted lawyers and we are taking this seriously specially after what happened few days ago.

    Get in touch and don’t give up.


  • Ahmed

    Yes, the transport facility has gone bad to worse last couple of years. STAFF have to travel 3 hours change 2 to 3 busses to come to work .
    Don’t know who suggested RTA busses.
    The earlier transport was better.

    To travel 10kms it takes 3 hours.

    Please change this stupid arrangements.



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