The painful truth behind the “glamorous cabin crew lifestyle” in Emirates Airline

Today’s main news about Emirates Airline is its refusal to be FIFA’s sponsor next year. As a reason for this we can find that “Emirates are reportedly ending the co-operation because of Fifa’s tainted image over corruption allegations”.

This news just made me laugh. One corrupted company is leaving another corrupted company and love is over once the corruption got into public. FIFA was not a saint organization before, occasional corruption allegations showed up here and there in media during past years. It seems that the newest one is going to backfire to FIFA’s head very hard so sponsors decided to leave the ship once it has sailed into public waters.

As I told you yesterday I’ve got many stories about employees’ experiences within Emirates Airline. This story of one cabin crew from Eastern Europe is just one of them. Many stories will follow.

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I joined emirates in 2012. As a 22 year old Eastern European who has a restless soul and funny thoughts about settling down, I was full of enthusiasm and excitement when I gave my resignation letter to the head master of the school where I was working at to leave for the glamorous trollydolly world in Dubai. I had seen all the possible recruitment videos, read all forums where I – subconsciously cut out all the parts where EK staff treatment was discussed-  and I couldn’t wait to turn new page, to leave my tiny salary and all-year-round shitty sky weather behind.

The sugar icing on top of the new glamour cake started to melt sooner than I ever expected. I can still recall, even after 27 months of serving chicken and beef and killing my brain and memory with numb obedience and no thinking, how a girl in an auditorium full of approx. 100 people,  was spotted during the induction week by a speech giving trainer. This girl violated a big no go rule. She was drinking water from the bottle! As all hundred heads turned onto this blushing face, it became clear that there is no messing around with what you have been told. This girl was being embarrassed and humiliated in front of a crowd and as I later learned, this is airlines management works.

A friend of mine had a one on her flight review because the perfumes in the lavatories didn’t face the right way. Another friend had the same mark because she has bending for the trays in the cart in an incorrect manner. One on my favourite ones was on a long flight where the senior overheard a colleague talking to passenger who was from the same city as her, about her family and childhood. One should not discuss personal things with passenger! Although it doesn’t say anywhere that you can’t, the power gets into peoples head and as rules and regulations change more often than day and night, seniors often take advantage of it. And crew cannot be bothered to fight for their rights because that would mean giving explanations in the office on your rare day off. For the same reasons, most of the seniors on board request the crew to do most of the cleaner’s job after landing. If there is a blanket left under the seat or sachet of sugar on top of the galley, it might get documented and senior must explain in writing why it happened and what is the learning point of this event.

There is a constant fear of reporting which is stimulated by the company. A lot of reporters are magically upgraded in their carrier. On e senior reporting another that economy class didn’t do towels on a six-and-a-half hour London flight where they didn’t sit down and eat not even for one minute and instead by the time they finished the first service they should have already started the next one. The crew travelling as passenger reporting his/hers colleagues for giving them a full bottle of water although we shouldn’t but for god’s sake, for your own colleague! The reason why the purses don’t even give a 10 longer brake in the crc even on an empty quiet flight is because they have been reported and even downgraded because of that.

Long flights are for me the worst. Especially the ones where EK is violating all the legal rest time regulations. The flight to JFK is aprox 13-14 hours. Reporting time for the crew is 2 hours before departure.  Given that the flight departs at 08.30, we need to report at 0630, take the bus – depending on the accommodation – at 0530 and wake up – again depending on the person – around 0430.   In JFK the immigration procedures and bus ride to the hotel takes around two to two and-a-half hours.   By that time most of us have been awake ca 20 hours. The ones with irregular sleeping patterns, probably way more. From the time we get to the hotel room, it’s usually 19-20 hours left until the wake up call. And the same long 24 hour shift can start again. Every one in this company knows that EK is paying fain for that in the US but its still cheaper for them than to provide us with one extra night of sleep and adjustment. The same flying time is applicable to Washington, Sao Paolo, Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Adelaide. Two hour inflight rest in the A380 CRC where you can end up sleeping literally on the floor in the compartment which is located next to 4 toilets and main socializing area on this aircraft. It is rather impossible to have sleep when every two seconds there is a toilet flushing, many people talking, banging the door and what not. The same time ca 5 crew on the main deck have to attend to 429 peoples needs.

On one of my 15 hour flights, we had a 45 minute delay from Dubai. We reported to the duty around 8 AM, took off around 11AM, did a 15 hour flight, disembarked all 350 passengers, did our checks, cleaned blankets, headsets, sealed all containers etc, went through the immigration, sat on the bus. By the time we got to the hotel, it was around 9 PM local time whereas the wake up call is 7 PM the next evening.  So I went to bed immediately when I got to my room, slept nicely the whole night, woke up in the morning, trying to adjust to the time difference and jet lag. But what should I do in order to be able to take another nap before the wake up call in the evening? So by the time we take off the next evening at 11.30 PM, I have been awake for 15 hours already, the jet lag and time difference doesn’t’ allow me to sleep twice in 12 hour daylight time. We arrived to Dubai and I have been awake over 30 hours. How can be held responsible if god forbid we have to evacuate, be alert, sharp and take care of my own and 350 other peoples lives? I filled out fatigue report stating that this layover time needs to be increased or Emirates should never say that safety is their first priority. The answer that I received from Ted Green one month and four days was that increasing the layover time is simply not possible.

A friend of my friend is in final warning because she fainted in the briefing and needed to be offloaded from the flight. But if crew is forced to do the flights like my Sao Paulo maybe 3 times a month followed by couple e.g CMB, MLE, NBO, ATH or IST turnarounds which take around 15 hours of your day?

I think we don’t even want to go to the salary thing. We get paid from the moment the aircraft pushes back. The longest that I personally have been delayed onboard with customers is 5 hours, together with signing in its 7 hours. We did a full service on the ground. For free.

The two years that I’ve been in the company, the whole concept of swapping flights have been changed; every month there is some new regulation which doesn’t allow you to change pretty much anything on your roster. And the rules- as they say – come from GCAA which is surprisingly ruled by the same man as Emirates. The chairman of the government-owned airline, Sheik Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, is also president of the CAA and on the board of the GCAA.

This is something to give thought about.

I don’t even want to start with the image and uniform issues. Every single crew is just so tired of it and just can’t care anymore.  On my flight to LHR, the purser insisted to offload 6 people, because ones skirt was too long, the other ones too tight, the SFSs hair color was not correct, the SUPYs skirt was greased etc.  We are asked to remove the jackets during I&U checks so that the SFS could see if our bras have appropriate color.

There are many examples of people who got sick while on vacation in their hometown. This is not acceptable according to Emirates. Even if you have a doctor’s certificate not to fly because of let’s say an ear infection, you will still get ordered back to Dubai, or an absent and a warning most probably.  If you pop your ears and get permanent damage, you are not covered and treated on the insurance.  Because of this punishment culture, there is a tendency to refrain from calling sick after a vacation, and to actually operate ill.  You are mostly seen as a number and a chart which states your attendance.

Most of us are dream about a cabin crew job but in a different airline. People go to Europe and work for low cost airlines, where they have unions, laws and protection. In difference with our ground staff colleagues we get a nice pay at the end of the month and this is the one and only motivation for 95% of the crew. The rest enjoys the power, and in this two years I’ve actually seen about 5-10 people who do believe in Emirates and it’s way of taking care of their employees like in the middle ages.  One the Emirates big value is being empathetic, that’s how we as the faces of Emirates – the ground staff, the crew, the pilots, should be. Why doesn’t Emirates show us how it is done?


13 responses to “The painful truth behind the “glamorous cabin crew lifestyle” in Emirates Airline

  • Anonymous

    You are nothing but a whinge r if you don’t like your job is not rocket science


    • admindragana

      I agree with you, job is nice. Even ground staff job is ok. It is interesting to work at the airport and after sometime airline industry gets under your skin.

      This blog or this article are not about the quality of the job itself, they’re about the quality of the conditions where you do that job. Airline jobs are mentally and physically hard. This is why the international airline community has rules and laws regarding these conditions, which Emirates Airline is in obligation to respect.

      Now, when you sign for one thing, and you think you are going to have a certain amount of working hours per week, a certain number of days off per month, or a certain amount of breaks on board, and you get something much more and you are not paid for that, employer is violating your contract with them. And maybe everything would be still fine if you had the tools to correct this abuse and to sue the employer or to turn to the Ministry of labour or to your union. The trick is that your employer in this case is not the subject of any law and union and strikes are forbidden.

      It turns out that you were tricked to come to work for EK, since they are abusing your youth and health by violating labour rights and your contract with them, knowing that there is absolutely NOTHING you can do to correct the injustice than to resign.

      But you gave up of everything in your country to come to their country and you are already there for sometime and it isn’t easy to resign. Your employer knows this fact perfectly and abuses it as well. It’s a kind of sneaky and mean emotional manipulation when they tell someone “if you don’t like it, resign”, since it’s not fair and everywhere else in the world that employer would be punished drastically for treating people the way EK does, except in the middle east.

      EK wants to be an international and multicultural company and it has to have international rules and standards. “If you don’t like it, resign” is simply NOT one of them, but rather the rule of a bunch of uneducated and soulless people who call themselves “managers”.

      What EK does IS a new kind of slavery. Yes, you have your physical freedom, but your mental and emotional ones are taken away from you during the work with them and pretty much after, because damage is so huge that it leaves many psychological consequences.


    • Anonymous

      Emirates wishes to be the best by eliminating humane working conditions.

      This model works for the Gulf but is a threat to models that protect workers in other parts of the world.

      Emirates capitalized on the vulnerabilities of other airlines and in the long run will collapse in on itself as a result of new social movements and…it’s own greed.

      Liked by 1 person

      • admindragana

        Yes, I totally agree. They wanted to play on the international playground but they are not ready to respect international rules. Very odd considering that majority of their managers come from western countries.

        Actually, they’re already falling apart.


  • Jade

    I can’t wait to see this company fall apart…they deserve it. Remember EK…Karma, what goes around comes straight back around! I agree with the above post…they want to be International and come across as “modern” but EK is everything BUT Modern! They wish…they have NO tolerance for other people and their cultures/religions so how can they call themselves “modern”? Yet they EXPECT everyone to understand and tolerate their BACKWARD ways. Dubai is living in the dark ages still but they think a few skyscrapers is going to make them look cool and “modern” to the rest of the world. At the end of the day…Dubai is the Middle East and they are never going to change their ways for anyone. I’m not saying they should, but they need to stop pretending that they have.


  • tankisha

    Whats wrong with you guys??Its not like you coming from perfect parts of thw world seems that you guys are still thinking that life is so sweet and momy is there for you at every fall..
    you are alwayes looking at the emptey part of the glass…
    Emirates is not perfect and so are many companies..and i bet that human rights in Dubai are so much morebthen many other countries in the world including Eastern Europe..
    so shame on those who spit in a plate that feed them for sometime..
    so much of errors and problems in thw whole world..
    trust me Emirates made it not because of cheap laboure..its because the worked hard fo it and they have stratigical giografical spot..
    you people write like uneducated and just for the purpose of writing..
    I would be impressed if i see a comment that is well studied and evaluated before posting it..all of your comments are just negative and was put because of anger and no logic…
    I am an arab and i can assure you that The EU citizen have more rights then locals even..
    stop playing the hurted game and be realistic…


    • admindragana

      So, when a Muslim is paid more for less hours of working during Ramadan, that’s “more rights for EU citizens than locals”?

      When NOBODY is protecting foreigners (and I have checked that fact by myself by going to relevant governmental institutions to complain on a Labour Law and contract violations) and you have NO governmental institution where you can ask for you rights, that’s better than in the rest of the world?

      Sorry, I just have to laugh here.

      NOWHERE in the world does one company present a government for itself (making and changing its own rules), not being regulated by ANY labour law, except where you are writing from. Company that gives DUMMY contracts to its employees is not a company, but a circus. For dummies. A circus that threatens its employees with prison for writing a blog.

      Why should people stop flying Emirates? I don’t know their reasons, but mine would be because I don’t want to contribute to this greedy and superficial concept of making business and, hence, ruining the planet by promoting (and defending) violation of every civilized achievement so far.

      Are you writing from Canada or Dubai, finally? Make up your mind, please.


  • Jade


    So you think the rights in Eastern Europe is worse than in Dubai? Are you serious? Ok, here’s
    a scenario….woman walks down the road with her husband/partner holding hands somewhere in Eastern Europe, will she get arrested/put in prison? NO…will she in Dubai…YES. So where is this theory of yours coming from exactly? Have you actually VISITED anywhere in Eastern Europe? And then you have the cheek to say we write like uneducated people? Have you READ your post and how badly it’s written?!
    I’m writing out of experience of when I went to Dubai I’m not writing out of anger or no logic as you say. I’m an EU Citizen and I don’t remember having more rights than a local person over there…


    • Anonymous

      You need to get your facts straight. No one gets arrested for holding hands in dubai. You must be thinking of sharjah.


      • Jade


        I think the fact you’re calling yourself Anonymous is quite funny in itself…:) I was talking to Tankisha, not yourself so no need to worry or get involved. You can get into trouble just for looking at someone in the wrong way in Dubai so anything is possible!


  • Jullyah

    You can write your oppinion whatever you want, maybe you are not more than a spoilt child that never worked before for a company, big ot small doesnt matter, why do you think they should treat you like a queen?? Open your own company to see how difficult is have employees that do not follow the rules and that’s why there is so many of it, thats the real world babe! All companies are corrupted and think about MONEY, accept that and try stopp stressing yourself with something will never change.


  • Jullyah

    By the way, this horrible place where you talk about, is where many people make their lives, and earn 10x more than back home, even with a qualified certification.


  • Anonymous

    It is really sad to see how one dreams about having a cabin crew job and then tastes the reality of it after joining emirates. I know that the cabin crew inside emirates are going through a lot. But let me tell u something the airline is not interested in your well being. The layover time is very short for you to get some decent rest and if you are denied rest it will show up in your health. Not just that safety is an issue too. I would say one thing, you should not continue with an organisation that does not listen to you nor is interested in your well being. Dont feel bad, feel bad for emirates. Its a whole big lie that the brand portrays one thing but hidden inside is punitive culture managed by rogues and rascales. I have been in Corporate life for long time young lady, I never seen a company like Emirates the moment you entire that HQ building you can sense the whole culture of fear and punishment. And this does not work for long, people do not want to be left uncared, punished and work in fear of their jobs. Now thats how the company is run, but it is soon crumbling down as it culture is being resisted so strongly that it will start showing up in its brand. I have only one advise, do not over expect from any job or over dream about a particular career…in your case cabin crew. Whenever you join a company, be prepared to expect things you many not like. I said in the beginning that the management in emirates is not bored about it cabin crew staff, they are the face of the company. It is good if you find another airline and move on with your career, dont waste your time discussing about an airline that does not care even if you dont sleep due to a short layover. Remember if you loose your health and mind you wouldnt get it back. Move on with you career!



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