Life of a cabin crew in Emirates Airline

Many present and ex members of EK cabin crew are sending me their stories and experiences.

Here is one correspondence between cabin crew (CC) management and one cabin crew. I will repeat: I worked in the ground staff, so I will not comment this particular story (much). I will post the correspondence here instead and let you make your own conclusions.

I will leave just one remark here, from my professional point of view: bad staff treatment and undeveloped organizational culture in Emirates Airline demand immediate education of managers through trainings and workshops.

From my experience Emirates Airline fills its management positions mostly with people who have no proper education or experience.

First of all, I do understand that EK, as an governmental company, has an interest in having as many Emiratis on management positions as they can, but this intention went in totally wrong direction because many too young and too inexperienced Emiratis get management position. I have had a lot of experience with local managers. They are nice and polite, but many of them have no real knowledge in dealing with staff or operation because they have no life experience to recognize and approach problems in a successful way, especially when we know that UAE economy is young and in the process of development, so they have no real economy tradition to rely on or to inherit know-how and practical knowledge. I have to say here that couple of local managers and duty officers are really good in terms of communication and people skills, but they have some experience already.

Other managers are there because they had some strong connections (and HR management is always responsible for any kind of employment corruption) or because they have worked previously, in other airliners, with some top managers. There are some managers who got the position due to many years spent in the company but they are rare and they’re in the middle management, mostly.

We will take an ex DVP EKAS as an example. I have a huge respect for her being able to reach a very high position from a very modest beginner’s position. But, education is a very valuable asset in your work, besides experience. It allows you to have some basic knowledge about people’s psychology and economic theories, for starters. Education is there to provide you a foundation on top of which you can line up bricks of experience. There is no house without foundation or bricks, but you start with a foundation because bricks are useless without it.

It seems to me that EK began with bricks in the form of imported managers who were considered as a “guarantee” for a good business. But, as we have found out earlier, a (western) passport and native English language skills are not a guarantee of a skilled and good manager. HR management should know better than to employ people based almost just on these two criteria (“Native English speaker” and “UAE Nationals only” are often official criteria in job openings in EK).

All of this, in combination with firing “disobedient” people (thinking people, actually) brought the crisis in EK. Of course, top and high management will not notice this crisis until it’s too late (if it isn’t already) because mostly incapable middle management is not recognizing it as well or they hide the truth.

'Let's take another look at the plans, shall we?'

The correspondence between a cabin crew and the cabin crew management:

From: Jo Burke – MCC
Sent: Thu 1/27/2011 3:03 PM
To:  [cabin crew’s name]
Subject: 24th February 2010

Dear [cabin crew’s name]
We know what a difficult trip you had with your JFK trip EK202 26th December which finally returned to Dubai on the 30th December – and were delighted to hear how hard the team worked despite the many and various challenges.
As a gesture of thanks we have tried to organize a dinner with as many of the team from the flight as are available.
It seems that the date which allows most people to attend is 24th February 2010. Unfortunately there is no single date when we can get everyone together. I see that you have a flight over this date but if for any reason your roster should change – please do let me know – we would be delighted if you could come along.
The details are: Abdel Wahab Restaurant, Souk al Bahar, Downtown area (near Dubai Mall) at 7.30pm.
With very best regards
The A380 Cabin Crew management team

From:[cabin crew’s name]
Sent: 06 February 2011 20:51
To: Kevin Griffiths – SVP – CC
Subject: 24th February 2010

Dear crew, Kevin Griffiths, Terry Daly, and Jo Burke,
Thank you for the benevolent Dinner Emirates is offering us, after what happened in our JFK flight. In order to make the most of this dinner, here are 10 topics-questions we can introduce to break the ice and maintain the flow of conversation during the night:
1. Why, despíte all the TV news were informing people to stay at home, due to the bad conditions in the road, and the danger it can bring (our bus got stuck in the snow for some time!), we were obliged to go to the airport?
2. If the Airport was not confirmed to reopen (again, not confirmed, it was only an estimated time of possible reopening) why were we forced to go?
3. Why Emirates airline crew was the only one at the airport? Was Emirates really taking care of us?
4. Why, a so called 5-star-airline (only Emirates think this way, skytrax doesn’t, and the rest of the world as well) have their crew sleeping for hours on the floor, at the bridge, in front of all passangers who were at the terminal but could see us thru the windows? What is ”professional image”, then?
5. How in the world can a crew, after being disturbed at 6.30 am, be well rested and safe to fly after being awake for 24 hours ? Is it what Emirates call ”safety comes first”?
6. If everything that happened was legal, according to Emirates norms, New York airport norms, and all the other lies, why was everybody complaining they couldnt handle the flight,even before the bording had started? Do we have to inform something that obvious to the captain?
7. If Emirates is so concerned with the service (and obviously not with us!). how is the passanger experience when they see almost all of us not smiling (because our body just couldn’t), and even sleeping on the floor of the Business Class Lounge (maybe unconsciosly), and being seen by some of the J Class passengers who were using the toilets?
8. We stayed awake for almost 30 hours because of Emirates irresponsability. What will Emirates do when one of the JFK crew arrive 1 minute late for any other flight? Will Emirates call it irresponsability as well?
9. Why did we receive a AED25 Costa voucher after all this slavery treatment? Is it only to confirm how idiot and slaves we are?
10. With this lack of responsability concerning ”safety”, when is Emirates expecting to have the first inevitable historical air accident?
[cabin crew’s name]

From: Jo Burke – MCC
Sent:  9/2/2011 12:07
To: [Cabin Crew Team]
Cc: Kevin Griffiths – SVP – CC; Jan Fiorini – CCM; Sheryl Williams – CCM; Samantha James – CCM; Obaid Fikree – CCM; Tracey Carlton – CCM
Subject: A chance to say Thank you

I wanted to drop you a line further to the email sent below.

We fully understand what a tremendously difficult duty this was with so many challenges placed before you as crew. There were a number of things that as an airline we did not manage well and we fully acknowledge this. We have made changes to a number of processes as a result to avoid anything similar happening again.

We really are hugely appreciative of the efforts of the crew on this trip. We want to recognise how you worked so hard throughout. This recognition should and will be the focus of your evening – with an opportunity to relax and enjoy yourselves. I can assure you that it is not our intention to talk about the events of the trip. If anyone would like to understand a little more about what happened and why, we will of course be happy to do this one to one or collectively – but at a separate time and forum.

It really would be good to see as many of you as possible on the 24th.

With kind regards


From[cabin crew’s name]

Sent: Wed 09/02/2011 21:13

To: Jo Burke – MCC
Cc: Kevin Griffiths – SVP – CC; Jan Fiorini – CCM; Sheryl Williams – CCM; Samantha James – CCM; Obaid Fikree – CCM; Tracey Carlton – CCM; [Cabin Crew Team]

Dear Crew and all the management,

With all respect, I suppose you, Mrs. Jo Burke, is not the one who decides what ”should and will” be the focus of the evening. This is not a ”duty” and, with respect and professionalism,  we are free to enjoy the night, and talk about whatever we would like to. You can suggest ‘recognition’ (only suggest!), but if the crew is revolted, they have the FREEDOM to express themselves – you cannot tell a bedtime story to a sick child  if you don’t give, firstly, a proper medication. We do not want bedtime stories, we do not want Costa Vouchers or Dinners, or ”We do understand and appreciate, and apologise and blablabla”:  We want dignity, respect, human rights! Something Emirates is refusing to give, on a daily basis, from a long time, to their Crew Team.

As as you know,  JKF incident was not an isolated event. It was only  ONE  of the frequent and current cases  of  indignity we, crew, are obliged to deal in order to have our jobs! (I wonder you are thinking:” If you do not like it, why don’t you leave”. My answer is: I already did,  JFK was my LAST flight!).

Going further in my view, you suggested ” ‘If ‘anyone would like to understand a bit more about what happened and why”  (again, ”if”, as if it was not something THAT serious that deserves an explanation, even before we request!).  Having respect and consideration as a way of treatment to the crew, don’t you think a ”Meeting of Explanation” should have been the first thing Ek should have done after what happened? Of course you thought about it, but, as you are confortably placed behind an office desk and having a nice daily 8 hour of sleep, and the rest of the crew just can’t express their feeling, otherwise they will be punished, there is no need to do so. Well, there is a need, and because there is, you said: “We have made changes to a number of processes as a result to avoid anything similar happening again”!.  That was  a beautiful, but empty sentece, and it inspires me to have some more questions we can discuss.

1. What are the process changes Emirates has made to avoid anything similiar happening again, if, days later, something similar  happened to my crew friend?

2. If everything that happened was made based on a Comercial perspective, what is the  finantial benefit to Emirates, when all the passengers saw, from the terminal window, a ‘fancy’ crew sleeping for . hours on the bridge floor; onboard, on the J Louge floor (with boarded passangers present in the lounge), with no etiquete at all (how can one think of etiquete in that humiliating and extremely fatiguing situation)?

4. Why answers like ”we do apologise”, ”we do appreciate” are the only useless and meaninless answers given by Emirates (with the exception of ”Rumour Buster”, where, besides ”we do understand”, and ”we do apologise”, we also read ”please refer this question to your line manager”  (and we know, they will repeat the same ”wedo”)?

5.Why is everybody so afraid of expressing their feelings, that crew seldom give their words (everybody nows that a high percentage of the crew were afraid of answering the Company Survey because of the unknown consequences? (to reinforce the fact, we were being informed: ”please answer the survey, this is confidential, you won’t be penalised”). Against facts there are no arguments.

6. Now, only as a curiosity and as something to wonder, here is my last question: why are we called ”Emirates Slaves”, instead of ”Emirates Crew” by other airlines (airlines with good reputation and human rights)? Once again, against facts there are no arguments.

Having expressed my ideas, you, Mrs. Jo Burke, have the FREEDOM:

  1. not to talk about it during the dinner;
  2. to book an ALREADY TOO LATE Explanatory Meeting;
  3. to reply all the anwers to us, via email, with consistent content;
  4. to send another bedtime story answer, “We fully understand what a tremendously difficult duty this was”, and blablabla;  or
  5. to do nothing at all and just keep a fake smile at the dinner as if everybody was happy, proud to be ”Emirates Slaves” and RECOGNISED for the slavery work.

Part of my opinion and concerns about Emirates Airline and Dubai are being shared with you, JFK Team, and are also being  shared with professionals from Human Rights institutions, Media and Aviation, here in Brazil and some other parts of the world. It might seem insignificant and useless, but I have already received some good feedbacks. It is a small change, but, as Emirates says: ”A little change can change a lot”.


[Cabin crew’s name]

Cabin crew's e-mail to the management

Cabin crew’s e-mail to the management


10 responses to “Life of a cabin crew in Emirates Airline

  • Nickolas Chivas

    Ek is filled with *** and they have really ruined ek and also dubai actually. The most ***, unprofessional *** are the *** who have *** not only emirates airlines but also other companies with their ***, *** politics, unfairness and sick games. I am also an ex employee of emirates and had a tough and disturbing tenure of 4 years. Really, booo to emirates airlines.

    *comment edited for rude words. Please do provide some arguments for your claims next time you are commenting or your comment will be deleted. Thank you. Admindragana


  • Anonymous

    Wait a second, so, from what I have just read… They were inviting her to dinner without noticing she had left the airline two months before? ROFL

    Liked by 1 person

  • Juls

    It’s a “she”? Omg she is my hero amazing !!! Finally someone said it in their face !! RESPECT


  • Juls

    Damn it now i read again and realise this happened 5 years ago…so this is going on for so long this horible conditions that people are working in this company and incidents like this are so ofthen …i wonder when it will stop


  • Abe

    modern slavery at its finest! EMIRATES is well known for its abuse….


  • sl

    I believe that emirates airlines is the best company in the world !


  • Anonymous

    Yes it is


  • Prefer not to say

    I was in that flight!! They gave us a coffee costa voucher! I resigned the same year! I remember I was watching the local news on TV that morning “stay at home, do not leave your house” and EK bus was waiting for us at the hotel… Our bus got stuck in the snow somewhere in Brooklyn, . After many hours we arrived at the airport and we were the only crew there…we had to sleep at the airport bridge for many hours… we were awake for more than 24 hours and EK forced us to do the 13 hours flight back to Dubai..if Im not wrong the flight did not leave and we had to go to a far away hotel in long island (after nearly one day awake)



  • The Crow

    I’m happy I left. I did 6 years, I guess I just let myself stay out of comfort, but I couldn’t take it anymore, nor Dubai. Dubai is one of the most sad cities in the world. So lonely even if you have loads of friends. Came back to Europe with a depression, struggling real hard to find myself. Emirates gives us a lot but sure takes a lot form us too. Still I met amazing colleagues and trying to think only about the good times I’ve had. If you have the opportunity to fly back home do it. At least you will have longer layovers and less stress. Seniors onboard most of them are a joke, too young and immature.
    Also UK, Australians, Indians, South Africans plus a few more seem to have priority to get all the upgrades. Just something I’ve noticed all over these years.
    All the best people, Dragana you’ve been too quiet hehe

    Liked by 1 person


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