Qatar Airways Fires Pilot, Demands $162K… But There’s More To The Story

Filed Under: Qatar

Qatar Airways is currently in the process of reducing their workforce, as the airline is starting to send out termination notices to flight attendants and pilots. Well, there’s one story of a Qatar Airways pilot going viral, though it might not be as scandalous as it sounds.

Qatar Airways demands $162K from fired pilot

There’s a letter circulating about a Qatar Airways pilot who was fired. Her services were terminated as of May 7, and she will be paid seven days salary in lieu of the notice period, per contractual terms.

Furthermore, she is told that she’ll need to pay QAR 591,091 to the company, which is the equivalent of 162,343 USD. This is in line with the scholarship program agreement signed in October 2013, as she received her commercial pilot training with the airline, and they want to be reimbursed for that.

Obviously this sounds absolutely terrible. Not only are they firing a pilot, but they’re charging her ~$162K as well?

I’ve seen outrage across the internet, with people saying they’ll never fly Qatar Airways again, and pointing out how disgusting this is, how bad Qatar Airways treats foreigners, and how people wonder if this would have happened to a male.

When I first saw this story I also worried this was as bad as it sounded, but it appears there may be more to the story.

What we know about the fired pilot

The first interesting fact here is that the pilot in question was actually a Qatari national. The Qatar Airways scholarship program is exclusively available to “locals,” and as anyone familiar with the region knows, locals get special treatment.

The fired pilot had shared this story directly on Twitter, even tagging Qatar’s Emir and Prime Minister.

The Tweet mentions that the pilot wants an investigation, and that no disciplinary reasons were given for the termination.

So what really happened? There are two sides to every story, and it’s tough to make sense of where exactly the truth lies.

The other side of the story here is that the pilot has spent the past six years completing a two year training course, and still hasn’t passed any of the tests necessary to become a pilot. The airline became fed up, and since they’re firing pilots anyway and trying to cut costs, they also decided to terminate their contract with her at this point.

Bottom line

While Qatar Airways firing a pilot and charging her $162K sounds scandalous, I don’t think we should be attacking the airline without knowing more.

At a minimum, there’s more to this story than meets the eye. The pilot in question was a local, and as anyone familiar with employment in the Middle East knows, there’s a lot of privilege that comes with being a local.

So on the spectrum of Middle East employment scandals, I’m not convinced this one necessarily ranks that high…

  1. in the contract, did it state and sign by both parties that if the pilot does not pass after X years or X attempts, he/she must be paying back all cost of the training program? I am not an attorney, but I think the contract can determine who is right in this case.

  2. This could well be true Lucky. Locals dont usually get fired unless something quite dramatic has happened.

  3. I’d still happily fly Qatar. They’re *the* way to fly. Good luck to those settling for Emirates & Etihad lol

  4. You cannot mandate quotas of any race/gender without pushing some into a job they really shouldn’t be doing.

    For everyone’s sake.

  5. Although I normally go with the legally correct argument, and legally speaking, the employer is certainly entitled to dismiss whoever they please, as long as they follow a process of providing sufficient notice, which varies from country to country; in the case of Qatar I’m sure this letter is suffice.
    If the terms of the scholarship are that it is repayable, should employment cease, then again legally speaking Qatar can reclaim the funds.
    However, this is Qatar and the law is based on medieval mythology, not a constitution, so I leave it to you how much law means there.
    In this kind of society, the importance of reading and understanding contracts you sign is markedly different from the west, and cannot be applied in the same way.
    Therefore, I would go with the argument, which salaried pilot has $160k lying around (which is legally unsound – but I’ve explained why that’s not relevant to me in this unique situation). How can they reasonably expect the person to pay that amount?
    I’m not anti the Middle East and their ways, but they can’t apply western contractual law with excessive compensation in their system. A contract demanding $164k from someone who’s animal salary is around that much, wouldn’t make it off the paralegal’s desk in the west. Unfair contracts are a thing and don’t stand, they are not a huge issue in the west because lawyers know their duty of care, and won’t let their clients utilise them in the first place.

  6. I have a friend who completed his commercial pilot’s license last year in the US, paid for by his employer, Spring Air in China. He had a choice between signing a contract for a lifetime contract (with a full scholarship to pay the costs of the ridiculously expensive training) or a 30 year contract, in which he had to pay some of the costs. If he failed out(like several classmates did because they repeated back an air traffic controller’s instruction slightly incorrectly) he’d be on the hook for the entire costs. Talk about pressure.

  7. If QATAR made an error in offering a scholarship to this person ( the result being failure to complete the program…maybe academically poor, temperamentally unsuited, recruited through patronage, whatever…) then they have to wear it. By all means fire him, but trying to recoup the scholarship costs is over the top, at least at face-value).

  8. This tells a lot. In civilized societies you would solve such a labour dispute by going to the court whereas the mentioned Qatari citizen literally posts on twitter to call on the ruler Al Thani to solve it. How convenient!

  9. @K4 Pilot training contracts are definitely a thing in as you say “western countries” where the same types of contractual terms exist. There is no shortage of pilots getting stuck with them and while the company may not always go after the trainee, they can definitely be for more than a years salary. I’ve read of trainees being on the hook for USD50K+ where most regional pilots make in the USD40K range and could probably claim it as unjust enrichment. The Qatar civil code seems to be pretty similar to freedom of contract common law provided it does not contravene public policy.

  10. I thought with this gulf family name she must be a local. So no worries she won’t spend a night in prison over not paying.

  11. Usually very difficult to fire the locals in the Gulf countries even if they are no good, simply get lower paid staff from overseas to do the work for them.

  12. 6 years to complete a 2 year pilot certification course and still not qualified? Would anyone feel comfortable having her or him in the cockpit safely piloting their flight? Sometimes certain types of work never work for some of the individuals and this appears to be the case. The individual has invested 6 years of their life and the airline has invested time and money to train the individusl. Time to shake hands, end the relationship and both sides to get on with life.

  13. The only outrageous point in this is that Qatar Airways has payed someone who is obviously not the right person for a pilot job for more than 6(!) years.

  14. No cerificate,yet flying nonetheless? Something is rotten in the state of Denmark..Are there no longer any seasoned male pilots to tap from? So sad,where have all the good pilots gone? As to this lady,this is the price the airline pays for catering to politically correct agendas and quotas. Qatar did well to end their alliance with this subpar employee. Perhaps she may wish to try culinary school or homemaking 101 next??

  15. There is indeed more to this.

    On other boards it has been posted that she completed her training (hence the certificate) but she has since got married and her husband would not let her work.

    If she cannot work then she cannot fly the hours / years as required by her willingly signed contract for the loan to be paid off.

    Any company would want it’s costs recovered in that situation if they were in the contract and the employee failed to meet it.

    Now imagine if this was a US based airline that did this would you still be outraged to the same degree? No you wouldn’t you’d be shrugging your shoulders because she had broken her contract!

  16. All you bloggers keep stirring this up is likely to get Ms. Al-Hail in a lot more trouble than financial.

  17. I believe there is so much more to this story, and a lot of it cannot, and may never be, filled in “over here” due to the many cultural, legal and bureaucratic differencesfiret off, @ljdoise, that is NOT a pilot certificate, ICAO, FAA, or otherwise. That looks like some type of “diploma” that was probably given for passing ground school.

    Second, of we’re to assume that she was enrolled in some type of ab-initio training program, then yes, it’s perfectly acceptable to think the airline would want some type of contract to protect their investment. But after 6 years for a 2 year curriculum, someone should have failed her out of the program.

    I’m leaning more in Qatar’s favour here, if only because I believe there are extenuating circumstances. And by making her plight public, this pilot cadet is trying to garner public support, and as a result, public shame, to rally her cause.

  18. Glad to read/see another side of the story. If a pilot/student agreed to and completed training, was engaged as a safe/productive flying pilot for Qatar Airways, and then was terminated at the convenience of the airline, demanding repayment for the flight school costs would seem unfair.

    However, if “the pilot has spent the past six years completing a two year training course, and still hasn’t passed any of the tests necessary to become a pilot”, then this surely deviates from the original intent of the pilot training program that Qatar Airways and this candidate engaged in.

    This may more along the lines of one of the funniest movie quotes: “Lane, I’ve been going to this high school for seven and a half years. I’m no dummy.”

  19. Fortunately this did not happen in the USA.

    If it was here, suddenly she will become an divorced single parent ethnic minority LGBT women who got wrongfully terminated and was personally discriminated.

    Race card always work here in USA.

    By the way if a kid with 162,343 USD in student loan got fired can that person tweet @POTUS?

  20. Eskimo anyone can tweet POTUS whether anything happens is a different matter!

    In Qatar the state owns the airline so people think the prime minister is responsible for it.

    And these loans aren’t the same as US student loans.

    They pay for your training on the basis that you will then provide the trained for service over a relativly lengthy period of time.

    Fail to provide that service then they will charge you for the money they have spent either when you leave to get another job (most airlines will take over the loan) or get fired for cause.

  21. Lucky, what about rumors that Qatar Airways is demanding a reimbursement from all the pilots they are firing? I get that it is their right to do so as per contracts signed with the pilot, but from a PR, it doesn’t look good doing at this time, given the special circumstances…

  22. According to her twitter, she received a diploma for said course on 21 April 2017

  23. @K4:

    “Unfair contracts are a thing and don’t stand”

    The hell they don’t. And, yes, IAAL.

    What does not stand are ILLEGAL contracts. Unfair contracts are not illegal.

  24. The Qatar Airways scholarship program is exclusively available to “locals,” and as anyone familiar with the region knows, locals get special treatment.

    Man I don’t know why you keep bringing this up again and again. If any other non-ME airline in the world had a program like this, it’d be to support patriotism or as in the US you’d say, “create American jobs”. Yet just because of the region’s stereotypes (that omg you have “experienced” in your such looong haul travels there) you have to push your opinion like this. Every country in the world supports its “locals” through welfare programs and what no. Such bias for Qatar, and you haven’t even lived there!

  25. 1kbrad
    hate to break it to you but unfair contracts are legal even in the US. Look up Pat Benetar’s or Tiffany’s contracts or any other performer.

  26. @dan

    I know. Re-read my response. It was K4 who made the erroneous assertion unfair contracts are not enforceable.

  27. So I saw a post online about this. A guy said he heard the actual issue was that, the lady finally finished and got her license then shortly after she got married and her husband insisted that she doesn’t fly, so she was fired cuz she hasn’t been coming to work. The government has paid for you then you don’t want to fly again cuz of your husband, then he should be ready to pay up cuz it’s the countries money. She would have paid the money in form of her service but since there is no service then she has to pay the money. If this is the case then I don’t see what the airline did wrong.

  28. Of course she has to pay back for the education she received grooming her for this profession.

  29. Qatar right now are price gouging . May 29th , Hong Kong to Athens , Qatar Euros 1,064 ,Turkish Airlines Euro 347 for one economy seat ,one way .Well done Turkish , you will get my business

  30. @RETIREDATLATC said: All you bloggers keep stirring this up is likely to get Ms. Al-Hail in a lot more trouble than financial.

    He’s right. Lucky’s free seats in his favourite Business Class will be at risk.

  31. The Headlines is misleading, The lady in Question is NOT a qualified pilot. Just call her intern or Trainee pilot who fails repeatedly to Pass her exams, 6 yrs of what was a normal 2 yr programme.

  32. Qatar Airways is a worst employer, everything mismanaged and no respect for its employees

  33. Absolute bull
    The pilot would have signed the contract at the beginning that either parties would terminate the contract n she may require to pay the bond amount back. This is just a disgruntled staff trying to seek revenge. No wonder she got sacked. Sad she can’t read but want to fly. Whether or not the company requires her services is immaterial at this stage of the pandemic. Either ways she would benefit from the flying lessons that Qatar Airways has paid. You can’t have your cake and eat it too.

  34. This is the fault of Qatar airways. She should have been fired many years ago. Asking money back is shameful. Sometimes one has to bear the cost of this kind of investment in human resources. This absolutely bad management. I would take action against the responsible manager. I have worked in an international company for 6 years in the middle East.

  35. Six years to still not complete a two year course? Flying is not for her. She shouldn’t be allowed to fly , but must they take back the money?

  36. @kq747

    Part of the point I’m making is that whilst in writing Gulf laws may appear similar to Western laws, they are implemented very differently.

    Speaking from experience, whilst being given a Western style deed, Sharia prevailed in a Dubai court. The terms of the deed which did not adhere to Sharia were basically ignored.

  37. So to all the whiners saying it only happened cause she’s a she…..1. 6 years for a 2 yr course, they certainly would not let a white male that luxury. 2. Would you that chic flying your family across the pound at 0200 with an engine on fire? 3. The same whiners screaming about sexism will be the first to file a lawsuit when the chic makes a smoking hole in the desert and kills their families.

  38. living in Qatar for over 10 years, I can totally believe that they took forever to get something done, if not tea time they useless

  39. @Timothy Thomason

    Taking about one, not in front of you, makes you a “coward” I’m sure they need you in Qatar…….another option could be return to your home country where I’m sure they are useless as you are…ouch!

  40. Thank you for your investigation and I think the message is correct, research the sources and find the facts before you act!

    On another note, you cannot generalise and say that locals get special treatment across the middle east. This might be the case on some occassions but definately not across the middle east. As a GCC citizen, I clearly see special treatment towards Westerners and are given high paid jobs just for being a westerner. I for one, as a local in my country, was recruited by companies paying a Westerner twice my wage for the same position, with similar or lower qualifications and similar experience! Would you not call that special treatment?

  41. QR is at fault for not nipping this problem at the onset. Their training program contract should have been written better to include getting certified and licensed at the end of the program, PLUS a guaranteed number of flying hours at a reduced salary all at a given timetable. Proper contracts cannot have a vague clause or an open ended time limit.

    I’m sure the trainee/pilot can declare bankruptcy in Qatar and work abroad to begin residency at a foreign country.

  42. @kevin

    That would be helpful, but it is still probably more than a years salary.

    Everyone is not as dexterous as each other, we don’t penalise people for not playing football like Ronaldo.

    I’m confident that if I was given this case in the UK, I could silence Qatar’s claim with the relevant unfair contract act, which I have given the link for (but not heard back from 1kbrad as to why he feels they are not a “thing” in western countries).

    Had the training course been for $5000, I would perhaps have difficulty defending this client (sic.)

    Going back to the reality, of this case being in Qatar, government backed entities can and will do as they please. Whilst they are often not greedy for money, having reasonable requests and expectations isn’t their strong point. A person not being able to pay in one go isn’t their problem, if they were an expat they would slap a travel ban till they paid, with possible jail time. In the west we can usually rely on the courts to accept reasonable repayment proposals, the exact opposite is true in the Gulf. You may stand a chance offering a repayment plan to the creditor, but offer it to the court and you can be sure they will punish you more strictly. Another reason reasonable expectations are not a thing in the Gulf is that housing rent is usually paid years in advance; the fact that you receive your salary monthly – not their problem. Mortgages are rarely if ever given without collateral other than the property you are buying. Their laws are written by Sheikhs and Emirs that can just call on the treasury if they need more money, and they have no experience of a life any other way.

  43. I traveled by Quatar Aitlines Last February the service was excellent, very professional and the crews were very helpful. Good luck.

  44. I’d imagine that in this part of the Arab world, debtor prison is alive and well. So that means QATAR will effectively be putting this young woman in prison. If this were run like the rest of the civilized world, if QATAR insisted on repayment, they’d mutually agree upon a settlement. Based upon monthly and annual salaries in that part of the world, I’d imagine $20-40 a month for the rest of her life.

    In a civilized part of the world, she’d have a pilots’ union to help…that part of the world outlaws unions.

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