x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways defend cabin crew rules

Carriers defend their policies on pregnancy and marriage. Emirates has a policy whereby female cabin crew who become pregnant in the first three years have to leave.

“If you are hired by Emirates as cabin crew, during the first three years we expect from you to fly,” the chief commercial officer Thierry Antinori said. Paul Morigi / Getty Images for Emirates Airlines / AFP
“If you are hired by Emirates as cabin crew, during the first three years we expect from you to fly,” the chief commercial officer Thierry Antinori said. Paul Morigi / Getty Images for Emirates Airlines / AFP

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 called on women across the globe to speak out against the airline on International Women’s Day yesterday.

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

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

At the ITB travel fair in Berlin, the 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 Fifa World Cup.

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

“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 said.

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.

“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,” Mr 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 aircraft once pregnant because of 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 who become pregnant in the first three years have to leave.

“If you are hired by Emirates as cabin crew, during the first three years we expect from you to fly,” the 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.

Mr Antinori and Mr Al Baker highlighted the other benefits offered to employees, such as tax-free income and paid-for accommodation. Mr Antinori, a French native who previously worked for the 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.

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

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