Emirates Wants To Recruit “Local” Cabin Crew

Filed Under: Emirates

One of the things that I enjoy about flying with Gulf carriers is just how international the cabin crew are. For example, after takeoff on every Emirates flight, the purser will announce how many countries the crew is from, and how many languages the crew speaks. On an A380 the crew may very well be from 20 countries and also speak that many languages.

There are lots of job opportunities in the Gulf for foreigners, and that’s both because they’re looking for talent from abroad, and because there are certain jobs perceived as being “not good enough” for locals.

How Many Emiratis Work At Emirates?

Emirates is the largest airline in the Gulf region, with over 100,000 employees. Of those, only about 3,000 are Emiratis. Many of those work in management positions.

For example, looking at cabin crew, the airline has over 23,000 cabin crew, and fewer than 50 of those are Emiratis. Well, the airline is trying to change that… at a steep cost.

Many Emiratis work at Emirates headquarters

Emirates Wants To Hire “Local” Cabin Crew

Gulf News reports that Abdul Aziz Ali, Emirates’ VP of Human Resources, is working on hiring more locals, in particular for cabin crew positions:

“Emiratis do not want to do jobs in the low-ranking grades. That is why we are inviting them to do jobs like cabin crew and also ground staff, with attractive packages and benefits.

Cabin crew role provides the opportunity for Emirati men and women to act as ambassadors of the distinct Emirati culture abroad. More than just a role focused on service and ensuring safety on board, Cabin crew members are primed for long and fruitful careers within the group. The diversity [of the job profile] helps us. This is why I want to encourage Emiratisation of cabin crew.”

Emirates wants more locals to work as cabin crew

Emirates Will Pay Locals About 3x As Much

Cabin crew packages for Emiratis start at Dh18,000 per month (~4,900USD), and that includes a monthly retention allowance ranging from Dh4000 to Dh5000 (~1,090-1360USD). Then there are per diem allowances, free transportation, meals, and accommodation.

As a point of comparison, the base salary for newly hired Emirates flight attendants from outside the UAE is Dh4,260 (~1,160USD), so locals would be earning about three times as much as foreigners.

Locals can expect much higher pay than foreigners

I Get What The UAE Wants To Accomplish

I understand what Emirates is trying to accomplish here. The airline is owned by the government, and the government wants more locals working “regular” jobs, especially as the country tries to become less reliant on oil. It’s worth it to them, even if they have to pay a big premium for it.

It’s also understandable that the airline is going to have to pay locals significantly more to take on those jobs. The salaries Emirates pays foreigners are often attractive, given that they’re getting tax free incomes, and that their housing and transportation is paid for.

For cabin crew coming from many countries in Southeast Asia, Central Asia, Africa, Eastern Europe, etc., Emirates’ salaries are really attractive.

Given the high standard of living among Emirati nationals, it’s no surprise that they’ll have to pay more to employ locals.

The Bigger Issue With This Plan

The way I view it, a bigger issue than the pay scale is going to be actually integrating locals into the workforce. I tend to think that the golden rule of the UAE is not to get in “trouble” with locals. They enjoy special privileges, and a complaint from a local will carry a lot more weight than a complaint from a foreigner.

Along those lines, unless Emirates is hiring locals with no experience and immediately promoting them to the position of purser, I can see big issues with locals following instructions, since they may view themselves as being “higher rank” than foreign workers.

Bottom Line

For many, becoming cabin crew with Emirates is a dream job, with great pay, and it’s a job that allows people to see the world. Unfortunately the job doesn’t hold the same appeal among locals.

Emirates seems serious about greatly increasing the number of local cabin crew, and I’ll be curious to see how these efforts go. They’d be paid significantly more, but I think the much bigger issue will involve how well they can be integrated into the hierarchy of the workforce.

As a point of comparison, both Saudia and Oman Air hire both locals and foreigners as cabin crew. A vast majority of the local flight attendants are foreigners, and I’ve almost consistently found service to be much better from foreigners.

Saudia has both international and local cabin crew

Do you think Emirates will be successful in greatly increasingly the percentage of local cabin crew?

  1. You are actually wrong.
    Cabin crew packages for Emiratis start at Dh18,000 per month (~4,900USD): True
    The difference is actually only this “monthly retention allowance that ranges from Dh4000 to Dh5000 (~1,090-1360USD)”, which is part of the package.
    You are comparing the basic pay to the complete package.
    So in Essence, the difference in pay between Emirati and Non-Emirati Cabin Crew is Dh4000 to Dh5000 (~1,090-1360USD).
    Hence, it’s not 4x More.

  2. I wonder if you would make such positive remarks if Akbar Al Baker would announce he wants to hire more Qataris. It appears to be obvious that you have a rather irrational affection to EK, while you have no rational grounds not to like QR, you will never leave out an opportunity to throw something at Al Baker. Irrespective of what he says or claims, whereas to be honest he at times tends to go over the top a bit.

  3. @ Charles — Not sure in this case it’s ethnicity, but rather nationality. For what it’s worth, this is a common practice around the world for airlines, and it works both ways. For example, Kazakhstan’s Air Astana pays locals significantly less than they pay their ex-pat pilots. That’s only one example, but the same is true at Fiji Airways, a number of Chinese airlines, etc.

    Cathay Pacific pays their US-based pilots less than their Hong Kong based pilots.

    Admittedly there’s some amount of nationalism here, but ultimately this comes down to supply and demand.

  4. @ JP — I’m a huge fan of Qatar Airways. I think Al Baker as such is hilarious/a bit nutty, but I love the product offered by the airline. And let me be clear — I think this initiative by Emirates is going to be a disaster, if they can actually find locals to take the job. I think there will be big problems with locals following orders and being accountable, especially when reporting to foreigners.

  5. @ Mo — So are you saying the best pay for starting foreign Emirates cabin crew is in fact Dh13,000-14,000 per month? Because I know for a fact that’s not the case. I could be wrong with my actual numbers (I’m going off Gulf News here), but this is definitely more of a difference than Dh4,000-5,000 per month.

  6. Those locals that you can see wandering the malls with their national white suits and looking at you like if they were owning your life, wouldn’t be hired anywhere in a western country.

  7. @Ben in UAE the ethnicity equals nationality in a 99% or more

    Emirates have the TCP supply of foreigners, they are just creating a false supply need of only locals

  8. Are they hiring Emirati women? I would think that would be difficult given that sharia law stuff about having to be accompanied by a male relative. Or is the recruiting limited to Emirati men? It’s a good thing that almost all flight attendants are straight, because being gay is a capital offense in the UAE.

  9. Lucky
    Yes, the starting pay for foreign crew in Emirates (Total Package is between 13,000 and 14,000 Dirhams.
    One reason why you might think it’s less is because of the Accommodation Allowance, If you decide to live in Company provided Accommodation, it’s deducted from the salary (13-14K), thus resulting in a net salary of about 10,00 Dirhams.
    But the total package is in fact 13-14,000 if you decide to find your own accommodation.

  10. Discrimination at its best.
    Now, if this were to happen in a predominantly male/ white / straight or for male/ white / straight county, this will be all over the place. But here no one cares. Where is our dear leader Kamala? and Maxine? and Schitt? and Nadler?

  11. @ Mo — So you’re suggesting that the starting salary for Emirates cabin crew who choose to live in company accommodation is about 10,000AED per month? That contradicts literally every single source out there on Emirates’ cabin crew pay.

  12. My experience flying business class with Saudia has shown me what may happen. It is not unusual for the host national male purser to relax in business class while the Asian flight attendants serve him dinner etc. I also predict a HR disaster

  13. This is a prime example of the closeness between the capital provider (Emirate of Dubai) and the operating company (Emirates). There’s no business reason for the operating company to pay a premium for what will most likely result in a degradation in service unless the capital provider says so. In this respect, the US3 (and EU2) have a very valid point.

  14. Discrimination pure and simple.

    It’s as if British Airways advertised paying Caucasian British staff 3 x more than other ethnic groups.

    However no surprise in a region that actively discriminates and there’s no legislation

    And not sure what ‘Emirati culture “ they mean unless it’s shopping, since Dubai was almost nothing before the 1980s

  15. Lucky,
    You might need look it up again.
    Basic pay is approx 4,500 Dirhams + 58 Dirhams per hour (100 Hours per month * 58= 5,800)
    4,500+5,800 = 10,300
    Hence the 14,000 Total Package. (If you include Accommodation)
    Then come to the locals, the only difference is the “UAE National Retention Allowance” which is about 4,000-5,000 Extra.
    This is how it adds up to 18,000 Dirhams for them

  16. I can’t wait for the true Emirati hospitality on my next flight from a local Emirati. It’ll be a truly epic moment for when they have to serve someone else, let alone a Filipino or African who they typically keep as slaves themselves. Can you imagine a flight to Lagos with a passenger snapping their fingers and “whisping” at an Emirati cabin crew member? I can’t wait to see how that plays out!

    I’m sure this has to due with the UAE governments mandate to hire more locals, but it’ll more likely than not accelerate the downhill decline of the company. The locals Emiratis I have conversed with are utterly stupid and can’t be bothered to do anything for themselves. A virtually worthless society that really shouldn’t exist to start with. I’m sure they’re targeting the Bedoun people of the northern Emirates (maybe this will finally get them passports) with this policy who are the typically lower-skilled, unemployed types that complain about not getting the support from the government they feel they’re entitled to.

    Best of luck to the expats still sticking it out at Emirates because they’re going to need nothing short of a miracle to keep their airline from deteriorating on the doorstep of Expo2020.

  17. I see the want ad now. “Wanted: Local men to fill up empty seats and drink coffee while watching foreign workers do all the actual work.”

  18. Lol, try getting them to show up for their flights on time!
    As a side note, more than ten years ago, Gulf Air attempted to encourage Bahraini women to become cabin crew with the carrot that they would only be put on flights that could have them home before nightfall.

  19. Everyone in the UAE does this. In order to keep the expat visas flowing you need to demonstrate to the relevant authorities that you are making efforts to hire local resources. The reality is few will apply for these jobs and once they have been open for long enough they can be released to expats. They’re having a crackdown on it at the moment so people are having to make more of a show of effort than usual.

  20. The locals are far too pampered, and have too high of a sense of self worth to take on jobs in what would only logically be considered a service role. My time in the UAE has been met with very, very few humble, and down to Earth nationals – there’s a very apparent “holier than thou” unspoken philosophy within the locals, so I can see this being a complete PR stunt by EK, or a complete disaster if they are truly looking for genuine results.

    Cute, though.

  21. Being served by old hag unionized seniority-entitled UA FA’s who have picked premium cabins on desirable routes to perform their “work” grudgingly is bad.

    The thought that any Emirati who has been trained from birth to view outsiders, whether westerners performing professional tasks, or easterners performing more menial tasks, as “customers” they need to “serve” just hurts me.

  22. Can anyone with experience on the ground clarify whether or not 90% of so-called “locals” are lazy/inexperienced appointed in management position just because of their name/contacts ?

    I keep reading comments online saying that it is the case.

  23. If this step is truly implemented by Emirates then I am sure they will engage the local Emirati crew only in premium cabins.

    Emirates is a multi cultural airline with its core business coming from transportation of Asians to western countries. The local Emirati crew will find it degrading to serve the labour work force which travels on Emirates flights. It will be a disaster.

  24. Hilarious quote #1: And not sure what ‘Emirati culture “ they mean unless it’s shopping, since Dubai was almost nothing before the 1980s.

    Hilarious quote #2: I can’t wait for the true Emirati hospitality on my next flight from a local Emirati. It’ll be a truly epic moment for when they have to serve someone else, let alone a Filipino or African who they typically keep as slaves themselves.

    Hilarious quote #3: The locals Emiratis I have conversed with are utterly stupid and can’t be bothered to do anything for themselves. A virtually worthless society that really shouldn’t exist to start with

    Hilarious quote #4: If this step is truly implemented by Emirates then I am sure they will engage the local Emirati crew only in premium cabins.

  25. @Julia,you can absolutely believe locals are put in positions of authority due to the importance of their tribe name and wasta. Without a doubt, some are exceedingly competent, diligent, empathetic and giving. However, it is not the majority.

  26. @CEN

    I imagine they’re too busy dealing with the problems in the US now…


    Actually, your example is wrong, it would be as if BA paid more for UK citizens than they did for foreign nationals to work for the airline.

    @Daniel Mendes

    True, but, Abu Dhabi does subsidize Dubai more than people realize, and does bail them out on occasion when needed…who do you think Burj Khalifa is named after?

    With that said…yes, filling out locals for jobs in this company won’t be easy. And it isn’t just the UAE, it’s also across the GCC in general. Even the ones who aren’t lazy expect top managerial posts but don’t want to work for those posts, they want insta-promotions, and don’t have the experience to handle the jobs. We’ll see what happens…

  27. Aaron – No, their example is correct. On paper you are right, but as it’s almost impossible to become a UAE citizen, ethnicity and nationality are almost synonymous.

  28. @Callum

    Not exactly. The Emirati people (the ones with citizenship) are composed of many ethnicities. They are a mix of Arabs, Persians, people from the Levant, Africa, Southwest Asia…to the untrained eye, they may all look the same, but they aren’t. Once you are a citizen, they they tend to circle the wagons, so to speak. So the example cited above regarding British Airways still doesn’t work.

  29. The 50 that are currently working are comprised of the most extreme gays that want to live a certain lifestyle away from prying eyes.

    It has nothing to do with travel or remuneration.

    The rest of the comments above are bang on. This is still not enough money to attract these people to this job.

    The first time a pax snaps their fingers or grabs their arm, it’s over. Unfortunately par for the course with EK pax demographics.

  30. @aaron you are entirely incorrect .

    In the UK there are foreign nationals including EU citizens. What you are saying is it would be ok for BA to pay a British citizen £25000 a year and a French national £15000 for doing the same job

    Discrimination based on colour, sexuality and gender is widespread throughout all the gulf countries ( and others ) and there is nothing anyone can do about it locally as you’ll probably end up being fired , imprisoned or deported

    Horrible countries and wouldn’t have any desire to step foot in any of them

  31. I am not sure if some comments are a bit oversimplified when it comes to UAE nationals just being lazy and protected.

    I have worked with UAE nationals that are highly motivated and eagerly working.
    Of course there are also some (maybe more…) that are satisfied by all subsidies and less inclined to work. But not sure if they will apply anyway.
    To me the challenge is to make sure that procedures are applicable to everyone and not only non nationals and that this is also respected.
    Furthermore it seems like in the end the salary is not 3x as much but “only” 40% higher, as the clarifications above seem plausible.

  32. Laughing at all the hypocrites crying “discrimination”. How about in the USA where Mexicans are paid $2/hr? It’s the same in any country where Big Money (whether that’s governments or corporations) have their way.

  33. @Dennis, Ah, you mean the unskilled workers who are not registered residents? Don’t compare them to skilled legal residents in the UAE, Bahrain or Qatar.
    As an aside, I have a friend who is a dean in a public university (he’s North American) and his salary is less than his secretary (who is a national). And yes, the secretary unfortunately fits the stereotype of the lazy local. However, its almost impossible to fire them once they are on the payroll.

  34. @Dennis:
    Yes, point well taken. The word discrimination should not be thrown about carelessly. The core component of discrimination, to me at least, is that there is an INTENT is to discriminate or disadvantage one group of people. The opposite intent, that is to promote or encourage a certain group of people, is not analogous or “reverse discrimination” as some people like call it.

    While one may debate whether this policy makes sense (and yes I see a number of problems with it, as detailed above), it is not INTENDED to discriminate against foreigners. It’s to promote local population opportunities.

  35. And if a flight attendant thought you had been disrespectful to him or her on the flight he or she will get you arrested on landing at dubai or Abu dhabi

  36. If they want to do the job, I say rock on. It’s not all glamorous, as anyone working with the public can vouch for. Think it’s steps in the right direction. I have worked with local cabin crew in the past and found them generally hard working like the rest of us.

  37. Of the big 3 airline powerhouses in the region-indeed in worldwide aviation-I wonder why Emirates dares risking their stellar on-board service reputation by promoting local hire native Emiratis. The very nature of their carefully selected, mixed, trained, groomed and nurtured cabin crew is a crucial component of the amazing Emirates success story. Etihad and Qatar are also known for their levels of in-flight service, but both also have only a token handful of native Emiratis and Qataris flying, respectively. Introducing a wave of natives who do not come from a service oriented culture makes no sense whatsoever, especially if it is merely to comply with an arbitrary, assigned quota concocted by someone in Abu Dhabi who never flies commercial anyway. A huge fan and loyal Emirates customer for over 15 years, I worry that now their onboard service will degrade to similar to that as one receives at a phone company, government office, or airport immigration in the UAE. All who are frequent travelers or residents know exactly what I mean. Finally, there is also the very real risk of demoralizing the current cabin crew- who have done such a great job so far in attaining these amazing levels of service and care on board-by now making them subject to “carrying” the new hires who will certainly be incapable of not bringing their entitlement issues to work in as confined a space as an airplane cabin is, and the risk they over-extend their tightly held mantle-if novelty- of being native Emiratis, as opposed to the rest of the international crew.
    Surely there must be a better way of achieving a different kind of “Ambassador”, but please leave them on the ground. They will not at all be a good fit in the air. Why try to fix something that is most certainly not broken, and instead is one of the legendary hallmarks of your organization and iconic brand?
    I love Emirates, and flying on it is always the best part of my journey. Don’t make this a business school case study in what NOT to do.

  38. Hi Ben,

    Emirates airlines Executive Vice President of Human Resources is “Abdulaziz Al Ali”, not “Abdul Aziz Ali”.

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