In light of the coronavirus, we’ve seen many airlines cancel flights to China. Emirates and Etihad, the two global airlines of the UAE, have taken an unconventional approach to China service, and it’s interesting to see how one of those airlines is going about staffing their flights.
Emirates & Etihad maintain Beijing flights
As I’ve written about before, both Emirates and Etihad are maintaining their flights from the UAE to Beijing. Meanwhile all other flights to China have been canceled.
The experience of flying with these airlines from Beijing sounds awful, as passengers are advised to show up at the airport eight hours early for medical exams. Ouch.
UAE airlines maintaining Beijing flights sure seems like a political move, when you consider that it’s the UAE aviation authority that told airlines to cancel all flights to China except to Beijing.
The challenge with staffing flights to Beijing
As you might expect, staffing Beijing flights is challenging for a couple of reasons:
- Presumably many crew members view this as “risky,” and don’t want to take these flights (whether that’s a rational fear or not)
- Many countries are asking those entering whether they’ve been to mainland China in the past 14 days, and this could present a big problem for airline crews
When Qatar Airways canceled mainland China flights, they claimed to do so “due to significant operational challenges caused by entry restrictions imposed by several countries.”
How Etihad is staffing Beijing flights
Given the situation, if an airline were going to maintain Beijing flights, ideally they’d have crews dedicated exclusively to this route for the time being. That way crew members won’t face the issue of operating a Beijing flight, and then having big issues when they try to enter another country on their next trip, for example.
But how on earth can you get employees to volunteer to operate nothing but Beijing flights? Well, Etihad has a plan.
In a memo to cabin crew, Etihad notes that “there has been significant roster disruption imposed on crew who have traveled to mainland China.”
For a temporary period, Etihad is offering cabin crew the opportunity to volunteer to exclusively operate flights to & from Beijing to resolve these ongoing roster disruptions.
Why would anyone want to do this?
- Etihad is offering double the hourly duty pay during this period
- Meals will be provided in the hotel, up to the value of CNY300 per day
- The crews will be on three day rotations — they’ll fly to Beijing, have a 15 hour daytime layover (the flight lands at 8:50AM and departs at 1:25AM), return to Abu Dhabi, and then have two days off
Etihad is looking for 70 crew members to volunteer for this special assignment, and the company says “preference will be given to Chinese cabin crew who may wish to support China during this time.”
Note that “double hourly duty pay” doesn’t actually translate to twice as much overall pay. Etihad crew are paid a basic monthly salary, plus flying pay, which is their per hour pay. For most crews, just over half of their pay is made up of flying pay, so in reality their overall pay would go up by a bit over 50%.
If you’re going to fully maintain Beijing flights (which I have a lot of questions about to begin with, because these flights look empty), then this is definitely the way to go about it.
Etihad is creating dedicated Beijing crews who will operate nothing but Beijing trips. They’ll get extra pay and a bigger food allowance so they can have all their meals in the hotel.
I am curious if they’ll get enough volunteers, if they’ll get way more volunteers than they need, or what.