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Work conditions: the gilded cage of Qatar Airways’ Air Crew

Living conditions in Doha are not always easy…

Very strict curfew, dismissals without notice, control of relationships between colleagues. The living conditions of Qatar Airways’ air crew are particularly difficult in Doha. But in exchange, they benefit from a very comfortable pay (net of taxes) and receive free accommodations in apartments belonging to the company. TourMaG transcribed the testimony of a former hostess who was harshly fired for wanting to get married.

Rédigé par Laury-Anne CHOLEZ translated by Joséphine Foucher le Mardi 23 Décembre 2014

Work conditions: the gilded cage of Qatar Airways’ Air Crew
Julia* is bitter. This young hostess was bluntly fired from Qatar Airways a few months ago.

Her wrongdoing: requesting the permission to get married.

She knew, however, that it was forbidden in her work contract, but she wanted to give it a shot anyways.

“I never received warnings for misconduct, I always scrupulously followed all the rules and had the same appreciation letters as my superiors” she tells us.

Thinking she may be protected due to her exemplary behavior, she courageously sent a request to her supervisor. A letter that will send her straight to the exit door.

“One week later, after returning from a break, I was called into the office of my supervisors. They harshly ordered me to sign my dismissal without giving me explanations, despite by interrogations.”

Julia walked away with a salary compensation equivalent to one month’s pay.

Air Crew punished for arriving 5 minutes late

Our hostess had applied to Qatar in 2012 and then followed the training program a few months later.

She had first tried her chance with Emirates and Etihad unsuccessfully. “Their hiring requirements are a lot stricter than at Qatar” she explains.

Once she integrated the team, she landed in Doha for a 2 month training session. But was quickly disenchanted.

“During the interview, they mentioned a few rules. However, I didn’t expect them to be so strict” she laments.

In fact, during training, candidates are not allowed to go out past 10 PM.

A curfew that is prolonged until 3:30 AM (4 AM today) once hired. It is forbidden to spend the night somewhere else.

Making it difficult to envision having romantic relationships, especially with colleagues. Especially since hostesses who become pregnant are fired without compensation, a clause included in their contract.

It is also forbidden to smoke and those wishing to hide cigarettes in their rooms should beware. “Our supervisors sometimes raid our rooms while we’re flying” insures Julia.

To watch its employees, Qatar gives them a type of electronic identification card that they have to swipe right when they come back home to Doha.

A way to monitor if they respect the 12 hour minimum required rest time before every flight, with an authorization of going out for 1:30 hour.

“The first time you’re late, even of 5 minutes, you get a warning. After three warnings, you’re fired” continues our hostess.

A complaint filed to the International Labour Organization

To be able to leave the country during days off, you have to request the authorization of a supervisor.

An authorization that can be refused if the employee has not been exemplary, especially for not respecting the curfew. Some of Julia’s colleagues were forbidden from going out for close to six months.

“Very few Europeans can handle this rhythm and they rarely stand it for more than the two year contract. There are very few of them in higher ranking positions. However, many employees come from Asian countries, especially India or the Philippines.”

A high turn-over combined with a strong growth of the company leads to, mechanically, important recruitment needs.

A session was organized in France in February, in the Reunion last November, or again in Tunis, as well as Morocco.

According to Julia, most of the candidates are not aware of life conditions in Doha. Even though they have been denounced for a long time by the international federation of transports workers (ITF.)

It filed a complaint to the International Labour Organization last June.

2000 and 2500 euros per month, net of taxes

The Norwegian Union, Parat, asked its government for the removal of its operating licence with Qatar due to “systematic violation of the rights of personnel.”

“But we have to keep it in perspective because nobody is forced to work at Qatar Airways.

Let’s not forget that for most of the aircrew, it’s a great career opportunity. They have rather high salaries compared to their diplomas and experiences”
highlights a lawyer who frequently works in Doha.

In fact, Qatar’s aircrew makes between 2000 and 2500 euros monthly, net of taxes. All receive free housing in rather comfortable apartment buildings in Doha, with a pool and fitness center. Their transportation fees and health insurance are fully covered.

Those looking for work in air travel today have the right to sacrifice part of their freedom for a good salary or try out in European companies, less intrusive in terms of private life, but more reluctant to hire.

*the hostess’ name was changed to preserve anonymity.

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