Qatar Airways Allegedly Firing Senior Cabin Crew

Filed Under: Qatar

Several days ago I wrote about how Qatar Airways is in the process of laying off a significant percentage of cabin crew, as the carrier has a bleak outlook on the future.

Not much information has been made public about what these layoffs will look like, as you might expect from a government owned airline without unions. However, the information I am hearing — which I have in good authority — is concerning.

This is very different than the story that’s going viral about a pilot who was charged ~$162K, as there was a lot more to that story.

How many crew Qatar Airways is laying off

While this is still subject to change, it’s my understanding that Qatar Airways will lay off over 5,000 of their 13,000+ cabin crew, including:

  • 350 Cabin Service Directors
  • 650 Cabin Seniors
  • 2,000 First & Business Class Crew
  • 2,200 Economy Class Crew

Those are some massive layoffs, and makes you wonder what exactly Qatar Airways‘ fleet plans are, given what a modern fleet they have. It’s not like they have that many old planes to retire.

Qatar Airways is laying off 5,000+ cabin crew

How Qatar Airways is going about layoffs

At airlines with unions there’s typically a straightforward process for layoffs, as it’s ordinarily based on seniority. How is Qatar Airways handling layoffs, as a non-unionized airline?

As of now the plan is apparently to lay off the following:

  • New crew that haven’t yet completed training
  • Crew that have been at the airline for less than six months
  • Crew that are currently outside of Qatar due to entry restrictions
  • Crew that have been at the airline for 15+ years

Qatar Airways is allegedly laying off crew with 15+ years seniority

Laying off those with 15+ years is ridiculous

Assuming Qatar Airways does indeed lay off those with 15+ years of service at the airline, I can’t help but feel disgusted.

Qatar Airways’ CEO is known to love young crew — he brags about how the average age of crew at his airline is 26, and how at US airlines you’re served by grandmothers.

While I do think the US maybe takes it a bit too far (when you have no retirement age, and flight attendants who are 80+), this is the opposite extreme.

Someone who has been at Qatar Airways for 15+ years is potentially “only” 36 or so years old, and to end their career exclusively because of how loyal they’ve been is awful.

I get that they’re cutting flight attendants at all ranks, though keep in mind there’s not always a direct correlation between years of service at the company and your position. At a minimum the senior flight attendants should be offered an opportunity to “downgrade” to another position, should their role no longer be available.

Bottom line

Qatar Airways is planning on laying off over 5,000 cabin crew, and based on my understanding, that will include those who have been at the airline for less than six months, and those who have been at the airline for over 15 years.

Firing those who have been the most loyal to the company is just messed up, if you ask me. The airline seems concerned about keeping the average age of cabin crew down in this crisis, rather than taking care of those who have taken care of the airline the longest.

I hope the airline reconsiders this decision…

  1. QR does have the A330-300s to retire, and those are positively ancient. SQ is retiring much younger A333s, yet QR continues to fly these old birds when it has so many A350s, 777s and 787s.

    It is very interesting, and shocking, that both the newest and the oldest cabin crew of QR are being given the pink slip.

  2. Quite frankly, it is beyond me why anyone would want to work for them for so many years? Why be loyal to an abusive employer? They must be by far the worst company in the industry.
    That said, it is exactly those terrible conditions that ensure the good service on board and they don’t seem to struggle to find new employees.
    Anyone who works for them knows they couldn’t care less about their staff. So why don’t they leave? Go in, work for a few years and save some money, then get out and work for a decent company that doesn’t treat its staff like slaves.

  3. QR seems to be firing –
    # the ones that cannot be utilised because they aren’t trained yet
    # the ones trained but likely to be in their probation period which usually allows dismissal or resignation with no cause or notice (something quite common even in employee friendly countries in Europe)
    # the ones that cannot be utilised because they are not in Doha
    # the ones most expensive because of tenure

    What exactly is disgusting about this?

  4. I agree with Vijay. QR needs to fire some senior cabin crews because they do not need so many senior cabin crews anymore. For what it matter, QR does not care about loyalty at all because they have strict rules to make everyone to work hard without that loyalty. It seems QR can hire tons of people who are willing to work under their restrict rules, so why keep the most expensive crews when you want to cut costs? I am not saying it is nice; but it is not. However, what QR does makes economics sense as a company that wants to cut costs.

  5. What is the proportion male / female crew fired?
    The youngest and the oldest ones I interacted/dated with while flying QR were almost all intellectual, very professional and attractive (unlike 90% of other airlines). Pretty sure they’ll easily bounce back from this unfortunate news.

  6. The reduction of jobs – also at Qatar Airways – should not come as a surprise. The internal memo that leaked yesterday and which is circulating among Qatar Airways flight attendants has not yet been confirmed by Qatar Airways.
    For now, i would just wait and see if this comes true – but based on what is known about Qatar working conditions – I wouldn´t be too surprised if they lay off the old flight attendants to cut costs (higer salary).

    As long as passengers are looking for the cheapest tickets and young (but less experienced) flight attendants and as long as Qatar continues to receive fantastic flight reviews, they can continue like this.

  7. I agree this is concerning. Those who have worked there for more than 15 years certainly have been able to flourish living the QR lifestyle (which as we all have heard is not the easiest.)
    I’ve always felt that if I worked for any of the ME3 airlines as an expat that it would be temporary (perhaps 4-5 years of my life?) and I’d use it as a stepping stone for hopefully something better back home.
    Nonetheless QR is laying off a lot of employees to the point where if we are back to pre covid-19 levels by late 2022 (when Qatar will host the World Cup) I can see QR recruiting a lot of new employees spring/summer 2022.

  8. Employees who have worked there the longest are paid more, so, you fire them first if you want to save the most money. You are also saying you don’t put much value in experience or employee loyalty (but you probably expect employee loyalty), so expect that to have long lasting ramifications.

    Maybe they are changing their business model post Covid and realizing that in-flight service is going to be drastically different in the future and experience is not going to matter that much any more.

    Companies without unions have a reverse incentive when it comes to seniority. Fire the oldest first. That’s what they are doing in my job.

  9. Complain about QATAR all you like, but many of those ( legitimately) expressing deep concern about the ethics of the airline will soon be back onboard…and proclaiming it to be the best airline flying, mostly on the basis of the brand of champagne /caviar served, or the excellence of its lounges. Memories are short.

  10. Laying off the most senior employees is a very normal practice because they cost more than a newer employee.

  11. Layoffs are always unfortunate, but I’m not sure what the better alternative in this case would be. To me, laying off the most recently hired and the most senior strikes the perfect balance in eliminating both your least experienced AND most expensive employees.

  12. Lucky, those union employees at US airlines act as mafias specially those with seniority. I agree with Qatar airways model that seniority doesnt mean anything, you still have to work hard.

  13. Well.. laying off 5000 crew will also cost money as each crew has gratuity pay and other amounts to be paid by QR.. considering 15years plus crew they have higher gratuity pay..
    I think firing 5k crew will cost QR more than keeping them with reduced basic salary. Here you see the incompetence of management in QR.
    QR is offering housing to 13k crew that cost them millions$ to rent all those buidings plus free maintenance and security guards while they could give 1k $ to each crew as allowance and they rent by themselves but of course for QR watching their crew privacy is more important than saving money.

  14. My understanding is that any expat working in Qatar is given a time-limited visa (I think the maximum is 5 years), and there’s a strong expectation that after five years you’ll return to your home country or move on somewhere else. It is possible to get a renewal of your work visa (I’ve had interactions with some expats who have lived there for more than a dozen years, some moving employers within the country during that time), but, in general, the government doesn’t want expats to settle. I guess that’s because more than 80% of the population is made up of expat workers.

    So it might seem brutal to me, but dismissing the longest-serving F/As fits with Qatar’s national policy (I’d guess >99% of F/As are expats).

  15. Gigi> No decent accommodation can be found for 1K, it is far less costly to maintain crew accommodation than paying each crew an accommodation benefit. Also free accommodation is a big part of the crew decision to come to Qatar because they can save their salary in full without worrying about the expenses. Think about 20 yo can save 3-5K USD a month! That is why crew jobs are so attractive for less educated (even well educated) people.
    The nice Paul> Your assessment is completely wrong, it is not the country’s policy and visas are renewed quite regularly without any issues. People leave after 2, 3 years because the life is so boring but people who enjoy the lifestyle in Qatar can stay here long. In fact, many of friends lived here more than 5 years in the same job.

  16. I’m simply understanding that the airline does not value employees and has not considered future possibilities.

    Oh well (?! )
    Good luck and best wishes to the staff/team…

    And never an airline I would fly with because of their country’s inequality and treatment of people.

  17. I agree it is exceptionally unusual in the highly-unionized airline industry for the most senior crew members to be in-scope for layoffs, but I don’t think it would be considered that unusual in a broader corporate context. Often more senior staff are more highly paid, without commensurate increases in productivity. Obviously there is the argument that many senior staff would be happy to earn less but remain employed; however, cutting pay for staff tends to cause low morale and worse productivity. I’m not saying that what they are doing is an ethically good thing, I’m just saying there is good financial justification for this. Clearly their poor treatment of staff has not negatively impacted their financial performance nor their ability to recruit in the past, so ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

  18. Won’t be flying QR then. I know it’s hard to come by, but I’ll stick with airlines that show at least a tiny amount of respect for their most dedicated employees.

    Free market is a double edged sword.

  19. So are you claiming that those who worked below 15 years are expandable, where do you draw a line on this? It’s a business decision and it’s everywhere across the globe now, get used to it.

    I for one will not pay big bucks for a loyal employee who yells a customers and belittles them.

  20. It is fascinating to read comments from those who either lack the knowledge of the subject or comprehension of their own work culture. Why is loyalty the bedrock of employment when it should be meritocracy. These jobs require no special skills, training or education. They are at mercy of the employers who can revoke or breach the contract at anytime with impunity. Employment benefits come with the status of the position. On the upper levels, employment package include free medical, dental and prescriptions benefits, nominal inclusive rents, free annual round trip airfare and private school fees for a family. No income or sale taxes but you cannot buy property. Small severance package is offered upon employment termination. Working and living in one of the six wealthy states, prior to 2014, each year will normally enable you to accumulate savings equivalent to five years working in US. There are no places to spend money on leisure or entertaining but you can travel cheaper to nearby European, Asian or African countries. The downside is only Americans must pay US income tax on overseas earning and investments and no retirement nest egg. Employees who work for small private companies and households have higher risks of wage thefts and abuses —no differences compared to US work sites. Read about the employment culture inside Amazon, except the IT staff, managers and executives, and you will see more similarities with those overseas employers who you condemn.

  21. >Ken
    Well I live in Qatar, renting a decent 2bhk appartment costs 5000 Qr which is almost 1500$
    Many flight deck crew with big salaries they get 3k$ allowance and they rent 3 in 1 appartment each one pay 500$..
    It is not the crew who chose to come because of the free accomodation as many other airlines does not offer this benefit like Flydubai..
    QR has alot of well equipped accomodations that is a big waiste of money.
    Plus you can never save 3-5k$ per month as the salary for new joiner is only 3k$ and Qatar is expensive for food and leisure..

  22. You can see why you would lay off the most expensive, but in Qatar you have the end of service gratuity. By law you are entitled to Minimum of 21 days pay for every year of service up to ten years so there will be massive pay outs to those long serving staff members so is it really worth it? That’s also the minimum gratuity, many companies pay more and continue past ten years.

  23. I am just wondering how many employees are there that have been with QR for more than 15 years. They must have joined before 2005, and back then QR was a very different airline from what it is now. Much smaller, I wouldn’t be surprised if back then QR had less than a dozen planes…

  24. Sadly it’s easy to dismiss staff in countries with little or no job protection. No union to negotiate a deal etc

  25. @globetrotter so you believe working as crew requires no special skills , training or education?? I believe the vast majority of people would disagree
    I guess you are one of theses propels who think you are better than everyone else

  26. I for one have just lost a whole career late-2019 with an American multinational after roughly 15 years, because they don’t want anyone who’s been around longer than the current, uhm, “administration.” They don’t want anyone who knows the job well enough to question, or discuss.

    Okay, they want mindless young robots, so they made up some random violation to push me out. Didn’t even have the decency to fire me. That’s fine with me. I’m pretty sure covid has absolutely trashed them by now 😛

    The funniest concept I hear around these comment sections is “businesses aren’t charities.” You know what, businesses that lack basic decency are regularly punished by so-called “freak“ external events, until their profits are comparable to a charity. This poetic justice occurs so often it’s almost not worth mentioning… and of course Boeing (as run in the last 15 years) is exhibit A.

  27. I can see some very stupid comments here by haters. Let me tell you Qatar Airways is the best Airline in the world. His excellency Mr Akbar loves his employee’s. Qatar Airways is the only international airline which didn’t lay off any of its single employee during 2008 world crisis while so called Airlines almosg shut down and laid off 1000’s of their employee’s. Qatar Airways work according to rules and regulations. If you want to work for Qatar Airways make sure you come to work not to enjoy. You enjoy the whole world while flying with Qatar Airways. Average Cabin Crew makes 2800 to 3500 US $ with Qatar Airways which is so far the heighest tax free salary for any Cabin Crew in the world. Love it or Hate it but Qatar Airways is the best.

  28. @globetrotter
    Michael Bloomberg stated that farmers have no skills that make much sense in this modern technical era. He was recently stated that all it takes to grow things is dig holes put in seeds cover and water. Hmmm just because you do not know details of each person’s job you should not assume it doesn’t require skills or training. Maybe just different than your chosen path.
    You do make some very valid points. I just wanted to point out that it is a blanket statement that these people have little skills or training.

  29. It’s about the kind of world you want. If you’re OK with creating a permatemp subclass of employees who have little if no opportunity to build into more senior roles then sure… let’s support this approach.

    I know some folks commenting here are on the higher end of the meritocracy scale. But for every person who actually is on the higher end there are probably two who only think they are and owe their current position to luck. Karma will be a bitch to those people.

  30. Qatar will be giving out 100.000 free flights to doctors, medical practitioners, nurses, lab technicians, clinical researchers and paramedics later on tonight on a fcfs basis.
    WIth this publicity coup, I am sure that their poor working conditions will be forgiven.

  31. Didn’t Baker just do an interview with Reuters saying he will re-hire some recently laid off staff as they “ramp up operations” – @Lucky will this affect Crew now or just other positions?

  32. This is surprising only to people that are blinded by unions in America. Cutting the most costly employees is a very reasonable measure for any company. Not saying it‘s “good” or “bad”, but if you feel terribly uncomfortable for things like this then why aren’t you disgusted when companies in other industries are doing this? After all this is still a world dominated by capitalism, if you haven’t realized that.

  33. @lucky.
    What are your thoughts on us carriers doing furlough extrictly by seniority? Don’t you think this very obsolete? I think loyalty should be rewarded, but performance should not be overlooked. Companies should keep their most effective employees.
    It is time for us airlines to create a “credit score” type of system. Where best performers are rewarded and recognized. This is the reason why crew members don’t want to retire, nobody how outperformed they can be by other younger crew, they will always win.

  34. Getting rid of inflight crew with more than 15 years of tenure makes financial sense, especially if there’s no labor laws.

    1. saving money required to renew work visas
    2. they probably max’d out the pay rate of their dead-end career path
    3. older crew will more than likely question work safety issues
    4. tenured flight attendants may be able to dictate their flying roster better
    5. junior crew will most likely fly any given assignments on reserve without hesitation
    6. opening up high yield routes to juniors (4 day trip of 20 paid hours, vs 2 day/17 hours)
    7. volatile currency exchange rates may become unfeasible to hire from specific countries

    I still won’t fly any of the ME3 carriers simply because they treat inflight crew unfairly, and encourage a tattle-tale working environment. Being a flight attendant is a priviledged rite of passage. It should not be a primary source of career income.

  35. @Ben @Tiffany: My earlier comment was “awaiting moderation” and then strangely never appeared. Certainly it was far less critical than other comments I have seen on this site and was completely relevant to the posting.

    I had asked about Ben’s disrespectful insistence on referring to laid-off employees as getting “fired.” There is an important difference and misusing the term repeatedly is misleading and offensive. Other readers have brought this to your attention before. Ben, why do you keep doing this? And why was my comment censored from the discussion?

  36. Whenever I fly internationally, I make it a point to never fly one of our US-based airlines. I have no interest in watching a fly attendant pushing a cart when she should be pushing a walker. During an emergency landing, these old crones will be blocking the aisles while they’re trying to find their hearing aids and walking sticks.

  37. @ Icarus: I might come off as arrogant but the job only requires communication or language and interpersonal skills as well as appearance. On contrary, I never have an entitlement or DYKWIA attitude but I definitely have higher values and empathy than a lot of other people. I never chase or obtain an elite status. It is ironic that you are hypocritical towards people in other countries but become unhinged to those who do the exact same things here. All the jobs I had in my life I earned on my merits. Unlike many of my co-workers who had a job due to ” it is not what you know it is who you know” or office politics. Educate yourself about the prevalent corruptions and crony capitalism in this country, then you should be fearful about the fractured and dysfunctional society we live in and the world we leave behind for future generations.

  38. Ditto @Paolo when you say: Complain about QATAR all you like, but many of those ( legitimately) expressing deep concern about the ethics of the airline will soon be back onboard…and proclaiming it to be the best airline flying, mostly on the basis of the brand of champagne /caviar served, or the excellence of its lounges. Memories are short.

  39. I am wondering about another airline with worldwide reach and how they are handling inevitable layoffs.
    That airline is British Airways.
    Being under the thumb of British-style unionism, I’m guessing that senior staff are being sheltered like some protected species. This is a great pity, as I’ve never encountered any of these types with any real enthusiasm left for their jobs. Many seem to think they are minor royalty, or at least very upper-class in a way only the Brits imagine, and you, poor passenger/peasant, must put up without complaint whatever treatment they deign to dish out.
    Love to see this cohort shown the door, to keep the ‘would-be’s’ climbing the same ladder on their toes.

  40. I agree with chocolate factory, qatarairways never cares about about their employee & treat them like slaves. They will fire you as they like long before the covid19 pandemic. Now it’s becoming like Indian qatarairways coz the majority they fire are the other nationality. Many staff already got covid19. I hope this company becomes bankrupt.

  41. Gigi ever hear of short term pain for long term gain?

    That’s what they are doing by getting rid of their expensive longer term staff.

    They do these calculations quite carefully and know that yes it may cost them a lot this year to make the redundancy payments but will save even more money in the future either by not replacing them at all or if they do recruit people on lower pay scales and allowances.

    And that’s before they include the savings on not paying for staff accommodation and in going training.

  42. @ Glenn I can assure you that senior BA senior cabin crew are certainly not being protected.

    These are the very staff BA want rid off because they are on higher pay scales and receive better away allowances and a better pension scheme (that they pay into as well) etc etc.

    And there won’t be a ladder for the “would be’s” to climb because BA intends to strip away the rungs of the ladder I.e. Remove Cabin Service Director and Manager posts from the structure and replace them with cheaper supervisors.

    Service will actually get worse rather than better.

  43. 10 year contracts for all FA’s worldwide. Any longer than that and the majority become stale and disinterested in the work, critical of management (maybe justified, but irksome nevertheless) and yes, perhaps unable to launch a jammed slide when required.

    BA is a prime example. The last 777 crew I saw were smart, well dressed, groomed and appeared to wear their uniform, including jackets with pride…… Except for the two seniors who had their jackets folded up on top of their bags, fat bellies overflowing tight trousers, unkempt hair and not a sight with which I would be wished to be greeted.

    The way to solve this is not so called “loyalty” (for which read simply seniority ..hang in there!) but merit and hard work to gain promotion.

    Younger crew are always keen with regard to the job, not just the perks.

    Finally, what’s the difference between what BA are doing and QR, with 0,000’s of redundancies and now saying they want all their staff on zero hours work contracts. (This equates to a part time, or self employed job, for those who aren’t familiar)

    PS EK to the fore, so far. “Retain our experienced workforce”

  44. Interesting reading re BA, @ChrisC. Might be a good follow-up story for Lucky to do!
    Or maybe you can do that in ‘another’ blog, since you clearly have a handle on what’s going on at BA !

  45. What is Being Laid Off vs. Getting Fired?

    The key difference between being laid off vs. getting fired is that a layoff is the fault of an employer while a firing occurs because of the employee’s fault. Most workers get laid off because the company is trying to cut costs, reduce the staff, or due to mergers and acquisitions.

    For example, let’s say Company A is taken over by new management. If the new owner wants to reorganize the company’s structure, he may resort to laying off workers in order to eliminate redundant tasks.

    Getting fired is a little different from being laid off. An employee gets fired because of poor performance, failure to meet the company owner’s expectations, or office theft.

    Get with the program, Ben! You claim to care so much about all the airline workers facing hardships during the coronavirus pandemic. So stop insulting them with your willful ignorance and exploiting their misfortunes- apparently just to get people to click on otherwise banal articles.

    Shame on you for continuing to do this and ignoring readers who have called you out on this. If you actually cared about those employees you write about you would fix the inappropriate headlines and related articles immediately. For example, recently you falsely refer to South African and Qatar crew getting “fired” on your blog, but have used the appropriate terminology of “lay-off” in other instances, such as with British Airways. Why such different standards here?

  46. In response to chocolate factory’s comment

    Yes I completely your statement about working and being nothing but loyal for years. Thats how it is with most airlines and even companies outside of airlines. Its not always about how much dirt the company tosses their way for them to handle. Its more about loving what you do. If they love their job or career that much, then its not that hard to push pass that and continue serving and being loyal to the company. However it does not excuse the company for being so displeasing towards its workers and it should definitely not be an excuse to enable such atrocious behavior. I think the entire thing is messed up. The OP mentioned that not only were seniors been laid off, but some of the newer employees who were both, supposed to be trained and those who were there less than 6 months. Thats like a slap in the face for the newer team members and seniors. It isn’t easy to get into the flight attendant or pilot field. Competition is too high for it to be easy to get in (as frustrating as it is) some people have spent years trying to get in and finally have an opportunity to have their dream job only to have their opportunity crushed by a pandemic. I understand that they may have to downsize and layoff workers, but perhaps a better option is to layoff those who are NOT performing to the best of their standards. I know that airline members have to meet standards and are required to have reviews like every other company. Im sure they could find quite a few.

  47. If you have any concern for human rights in general, Qatar and any of its companies should not be high on your list.

  48. > Globethrotter
    I just read your comment about FA skills so I want to clarift something since am one of them.

    You might be travelling all around and seing many pretty FA make up and stuff so yoi think they are doing kind of modeling..
    I wanna tell you that in my experience we did CPR 3 times 2 was saved 1 died unfortunately and that was in 40k feet with bumpy cabin being on the floor with 300 people watching and you are doing what you ve been trained for..

    We delievered one baby you might say its simple and easy..

    We do fire fighting training every year and flying different AC everyday you have to always locate your equipement.
    Fire happens often onboard but passengers dont realise it.. oven fire, lithium battery fire..

    Finally in case of crash landing or ditching which is not happening everyday we know our drills by hearts.

    Most of my colleagues are holding bachelor diploma some of them are lawyers, teachers, nurses but their passion is flying.

  49. It’s so funny to me when I read comment like “why would anybody be working for Qatar”. Usually it comes from people from well developed countries that have the possibility and the language skills to work for airlines in their own countries. I would love to work for Qantas but I don’t have an Australian passport or one that gives me the right to work there. British Airways pay is too low and again not everyone can work for them…Even if I ever applied with them it won’t give me the same living standard and easy life an M3 company gives me. Sure it’s controlling your life but you just can’t let go. I’ve worked for the best one for 7 years and tried a low cost in Europe as well and I can tell you the requirements are pretty much the same. Low costs in europe have the same expectations if not higher than those M3 and they work you to the bone so yeah I would rather chose Qatar than any low vost carrier in Europe. I would go for BA only if I was british and had a place to leave. Ehat I want to say is you options are limited by the passport you have primarily… Trust me the M3 don’t ask that much from their crew…

  50. @Gigi

    Well said! Those are the aspects of the job everyone overlooks.

    So, @Globetrotter, do some studying before you belittle this job. The unfortunate trick is that they all make it LOOK easy and LOOK fresh.

    Oh and for those, (@Gigi you missed this out!) who think it’s a cheap way to travel the world, think again. More like a way to sleep round the world.

  51. @ Upperdeck Johnny
    Absolutely, I didnt even mention jet lags and negative sides of being at 40k feet most of the time which affect health and immune system.
    Then some ignorant comes and said they are taking a good salary for nothing.. believe me the salary wont compensate what you lose.. am not complaining but nothing will pay you more than what you deserve.

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