|It is only fair to those who wish to join this company that they know what they are getting themselves into before they make that decision of leaving behind job, country and family to come to Doha and work for Qatar Airways.
There isn’t a single Labor Union in Doha, which gives local companies like Qatar Airways the totalitarian power to make and change rules and regulations without any expected objections from employees. Labor or Worker Strikes are unheard of in this part of the world. There are no negotiations ever made between management and staff. Rules could easily change overnight at the company’s own prerogative. If only there was a Union to protect the staff, Qatar Airways would have been dragged to court relentlessly for all the misconduct and abuse it has done to its staff over the years.
Thus the ultimate goal of this article is that the staff of Qatar Airways get a chance to be heard by any international organization who possess the power and authority to force this company to change and reform its management methods.
Everyone in the region knows that Qatar Airways is a tough company to work for. It isn’t easy for the employees who already work here to just leave and find other jobs. The majority of the staff is then forced to accept the working conditions allowing the company to continue in their abuse. Here are the major rules that affect the lifestyle of the staff the most and again they are constantly changing.
If you are imagining a flat with an exquisite view of the city in a high-rise condominium building that is fully fitted with a gym and an indoor pool, you will be disappointed. The tallest accommodation building is not higher than ten floors. Not all buildings come with a gym -not what they promise you on the interview day. During the interview they also show you a photo of a pool implying that accommodations have them. Only one accommodation building has an indoor pool and the another an outdoor one. That’s not enough for over 3000 cabin crew.
If you are expecting to be living in the Manhattan area of Doha, that’s not the case. The location surrounding the accommodations makes you question yourself whether you live in one of the world wealthiest countries. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_GDP_%28PPP%29_per_capita ) For the ladies, the area isn’t safe, or at least comfortable, for a stroll unless you welcome indecent proposals from local men. It isn’t uncommon either for girls to be touched by men loitering around the accommodation buildings.
A new system has been installed in all accommodation buildings supposedly to enhance our security. The “Swipe In Swipe Out.” You will need to swipe your company ID to unlock a door every time you leave the accommodation building or enter it. Management claims it’s to protect us from intruders by keeping the main entrance to the building locked at all times and monitoring the in and out movements. This is true; however, the company isn’t just concerned about our safety. We are instructed to swipe our ID even if the door is already open. If two staff leave or enter the premises together, both of them should swipe their ID’s. If you visit your colleague in another building, you will not only have to sign in a log book indicating the time you arrived or left but you will have to swipe your ID as well. Needless to say, the system has been installed to monitor the staff’s movements more than it is to protect them from outsiders.
Cameras are installed in various areas of the building. This is of course for the crew’s protection, however, the recorded footage can also be used against again crew member who breaks the curfew and minimum rest regulations, which is explained further below.
Visiting Hours and Curfew
Visitors are allowed in the accommodations between 7:00am to 10:00pm only. All visitors are to sign in a log book at the security guard desk and put in the times they arrive and leave. However, a crew member is permitted to stay overnight at another crew member’s accommodation provided that they are of the same gender.
A curfew is set for all cabin crew at 3:30am. All crew members must be in accommodation buildings before 3:30am irrespective of the next day duty.
The log book together with Swiping ID system and camera footage can be used as evidences against any staff member in breach of the curfew rule. Strict actions -including termination of employment- can be taken. So far, the most common reason for crew members losing their jobs is not adhering to the curfew rule.
It is absolutely reasonable for an airline company to obligate the crew members to have sufficient rest prior to any flight or duty. Emergencies could occur any time, either on short of long flights, so crew must be alert and mentally capable of performing all the procedures and drills at any time. It is also unpleasant to see crew members sleeping on their jump seats during take-off and landing.
A while ago, some passengers were kind enough to take pictures of crew sleeping on jump seats and sent them to the office (sending pictures to the company offices has become a common practice recently). The outcome was that dozens of girls were fired just because they were out of their accommodation during their supposedly rest period. Eventually, many of them were reinstated because they were out just for a short time to do errands such as buying grocery or going to the laundry, yet many never got their jobs back.
The minimum rest period used to start 10 hours before reporting time of any duty. As of August 22, 2010, this rule has been changed;
“All crew members should be at company accommodations 12 hours before pick-up time.”
CAA requires that there should be a rest period of 11 hours starting from 30 minutes after chucks on (roughly when engines are shut off) until the reporting time of next duty(approximately 100-120 minutes before departure).
However, they roster crew in back to back flights in such a way that they reach the accommodation well short of the 12 hour rule.
Take this for example:
They roster a crew for a Saigon flight where the scheduled touchdown back in Doha is at 2359H. Then the next duty is a flight to Jeddah departing at 1345H with a reporting time of 1155H. After adding 30mins after engines off to calculate end of duty (which now becomes 0029H), the crew roughly has only 11 hours and 26 minutes until the next duty. This is still legal according to CAA regulations but according to the 12-hour rule, this crew isn’t at company accommodation yet. The crew is still inside the aircraft doing the post flight duties including disembarking the passengers and conducting the security checks. Then the crew leaves the aircraft and boards a bus to go to the technical building where another bus awaits to transport the crew to the accommodation. The whole process may take another one hour until the crew finally reaches his/her room in the accommodation. Now the crew has only 10 hours and 26 minutes until his next reporting time. However, the pick-up time is 20 – 40 minutes before a reporting time (depending on how far the accommodation is from the technical building). So the crew has reached company accommodation just 10 hours before the pick-up which is well in breach of the 12-hour rule. Crew has to change clothes, pack for next duty, sleep, wake up, and prepare for the next duty at least an hour before pick-up time. Crew can be terminated if found not following this rule yet the company breaks it very regularly.
The company monitors and discourages boy-girl relationships. If the company finds out that you are dating another crew member they will keep a close track of all the times you visited each other in either accommodations. If it shows in the records that a crew member was at the accommodation of his/her “special someone” during the rest period of either crew , both would be fired. The management has a strong stand against “romance” among the crew members.
If you are single, forget about tying the knot in the next three or five years depending on whichever was indicated in the contact you signed. You won’t be allowed to get married not before working 5 years with the company. This was changed to 3 years some time ago then again changed back to 5 years. It varies depending on the “mood” of management. Should you wish to get married before the agreed time, you will have to write a letter or probably go all the way up to CEO to ask for his approval. By the way, there isn’t any maternity, paternity, or any similar leave in Qatar Airways! These privileges don’t exist here. A crew member was asked to leave the company when found out that he/she married without company approval. Some were even asked to resign just for asking the approval for marriage.
All employees of Qatar Airways are required to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement. They claim that the reason is to “preserve the confidentiality of corporate information.” However, it is mentioned in the contract as well that an employee will be held responsible to cover all the expenses incurred if ever the company enters into law suits because of the employee’s “disclosure.” It’s worth wondering why a company would fear being sued in the first place unless it has happened already.
A total amount of QR7,200 (USD 1,980) shall be deducted in instalments from your salary over two years. That will serve as your service bond and will be given back to you once you complete the two years with the company. Should you decide to leave before the stipulated time of two years, you will be asked to pay the balance on your service bond. Qatar Airways hold the record in the region for the highest rate of turnover in a month. Staff leave in different fashion. Some simply resign after the service bond is over. Few can’t wait and don’t mind paying the bond and leave just as they started training. Others wait and fly a few weeks or months until they can’t take it anymore and fly to their home country or anywhere close and jump ship (never get back for duty) to avoid paying the bond. In almost every flight you will hear a crew member spreading the news of his/her resignation.
Beware: Qatar Airways has demanded payment of the service bond or whatever is balance from crew member who have been terminated! So, even if you wish to stay but the company wants to fire you, you may still be asked/forced to pay the service bond.
Salary is completely at their control. Take for example the latest incident involving the Australian staff. Australians were jump shipping at a very alarming rate that the company has decided to withhold their salaries! That meant they get only a portion of their hard-earned salary at the end of each month. However, if the English or the Spanish staff start jump shipping as well then the same rule may apply to all English or Spanish staff currently working with Qatar Airways.
Over-time pay has also become an issue lately. This is how it overtime works. Around three years ago, if you fly more than 840 hours in one year (from April to March), you get paid double the hourly pay for every hour above 840. Normally, this comes along with your salary for the month of May. At least that’s how it used to be. In May 2009, with no prior notice at all, the limit was changed to 950 hours when in fact they gave their word that the limit would always be 840 hours. That means that each crew member who was expecting any overtime pay has lost the amount equivalent to double the pay of 110 hours of flying which is roughly a whole one month of flying in itself. However, it wasn’t written on paper so they changed it just as they wished without expecting any protest.
Other airlines require you to apply for a promotion and you will have to go through the process of performance assessment. You may even have to go through a small interview. Unlike those companies, promotions and career growth in Qatar Airways aren’t exactly based on your performance or merits. Here in Qatar Airways luck plays an important role in your career advancement. You don’t have to apply for promotion. You get handpicked! The promotion process here works in just the same way as the drawing of lots or the lottery. Even seniority doesn’t play its part. You would assume that since you worked in the company longer you are more legible to get promoted before the ones who joined later than you. It isn’t strange to find people who have underperformed yet got their promotion before a hard working crew did. You could work so hard for years and not get noticed and get stuck in economy cabin. You could be working over two years in economy then find another crew who just finished his first year with the company but is now promoted to premium cabin. The most commonly used answer given by the company whenever asked why the injustice is: the company is growing rapidly thus needing more crew to work in the premium cabin while at the same time not wanting to pull out all the senior crew from the economy cabin. It’s good for those who get promoted fast but unfavourable for those who have to wait longer for the other new crew to be senior enough before they could move up.
Another scheme that Qatar Airways is famous of is that of “Fast Track.” This offers all crew members with previous flying experience the opportunity to be fast-tracked in their promotion to the premium cabin. However, one can’t still understand how this scheme works. You can easily find crew with previous flying experience and clean record with the company yet still didn’t get what they were promised during the interview. At the same time, you will find many crew with no prior flying experience getting promoted after being with the company barely over a year. These kinds of crew aren’t even competent enough to handle the duties of the economy cabin and are now positioned in the premium cabin to serve VIP customers. It is unimaginable how they still expect 5-Star service from these inexperienced crew.
It is absolutely comprehendible that a staff represents the company every time he/she wears the uniform. There are certain prohibitions for a crew member while in uniform that are acceptable and indeed must be obeyed such as smoking, drinking alcohol, “entering a bar,” chewing gum, or publicly displaying affection (kissing, holding hands and so forth). However, there are new rules unique only to Qatar Airways Staff:
• Male and female staff while in uniform must NOT share the same means of transportation, let it be a taxi or a private car. If caught doing so, it is immediate termination of employment. This has happened all too often. So, in a hot cloudless summer day in a country where Taxi’s are a rare commodity, you still have to take separate cars.
• “Female Cabin Crew using non-QR Transport except taxi or limousine service vehicles, whether in uniform or not, may not be dropped off at or picked up from any Qatar Airways official premises, by a male other than her father, brother or husband.”
• “... the use of mobile phones and other entertainment gadgets whilst in uniform, are also not permitted under any circumstances.” This also applies during those long bus trips between airports and hotels which takes from 30 minutes to two hours in some destinations. Female Cabin Crew are also not permitted to remove their hats during this trips despite being in a bus for fear of being seen by outside onlookers. However, some supervisors instruct the crew to draw the curtains and allow them to remove their hats but this is done at their own risks.
• If you want to show your friends how you look in uniform, you can’t do it on any social network websites. It is no longer permitted to post any photos of yourself while in uniform online.
• Too much hair gel could get you fired! Yes, this and similar cases have happened. A male cabin crew while still undergoing his training at the Qatar Airways Towers ran into the CEO one day and apparently had too much gel on his hair. The CEO just simply took his ID number and the boy was sent home almost immediately. A female cabin crew once had a dusty hat while reporting for duty and unfortunately she also ran into the CEO. It is reported that he took her hat and offloaded her from the flight and asked the office to fire her.
This is strictly a non-smoking airline/company. All cabin crew members are not allowed to smoke at all. Not even at home, in layovers, or during your vacation. Cabin crew have signed in their job offer contracts that they are non-smokers therefore should not be caught smoking at any circumstance.
The company has the right to “spot check” all cabin crew flats and search extensively (which means run through you closets and drawers) for cigarettes, lighters, or ash trays. Once any of these is found, the crew will be terminated immediately.
The recent trend of the company is to check Facebook and search for pictures smoking cabin crew!
It is a common joke here that whenever a crew announces his/her resignation, the response would be, “Congratulations!”
During the economic crisis, when neighbouring airline companies were downsizing or asking the staff to go on either short unpaid leave or long paid leave, Qatar Airways was still hiring! We actually had a shortage of crew. Yes, they did start routes to new destinations and they did get new aircraft but the influx of new crew member every month was more than enough to cover for these two factors. The primary reason for the continued recruitment is that we had crew members being terminated left and right and some of course just resigned.
Every other month or so, there is news of another wave of terminations which could reach up 30 crew member at one time for many different reasons.
In the past there was a large number of cabin crew who directly joined neighbouring airline Etihad Airways. There were so many who left that consequently Qatar Airways has ended its good relations with Etihad and it is no longer possible fly on discounted or (ID) tickets on their planes/routes.
With Qatar Airways, you can be terminated for simple reasons as forgetting to give a glass of water, wine or coffee to a passenger.
It will then be your word against the passenger’s and most likely your word is rendered worthless. You can be terminated, demoted, or receive a warning letter. All your past positive performance and contributions to the company will also be disregarded. What’s worse is that even the supervisors will be asked to explain the incident and may at times pay for the mistake done by the crew who is under his/her supervision.
Whenever the CEO steps on the plane during boarding or deplaning, it almost always means someone is going to be in trouble. He intentionally looks for mistakes. It is good to maintain a high quality of service and performance but causing someone to lose his/her job or be demoted just because a hair scrunchie wasn’t placed high enough, for example, or because a passenger has changed his seat without the crew member’s knowledge is simply outrageous. All employees constantly work in fear whenever he is around. That is Akbar Al Baker’s work philosophy.
The list of causes of termination in this company is endless. You can lose your job for personal photos of you (not even posted in facebook) or parking your car in the wrong place in front of company official premises. Stress is good when it promotes more focus and attentiveness to one’s work but in this company the stress level is so high that it becomes paranoia. All these cases of terminations are true. The crew will vouch for them if asked at any given time.
The latest news of terminations was because the company has been checking the photos posted by the crew on Facebook. Any crew caught smoking or with cigarettes around will be fired instantly!
A staff who has worked for Qatar Airways for nine years was fired recently without even getting the gratuity owed to her. This is extremely illegal and is the trend this company is using. This is how they do it:
When a crew member has worked more than five years, he/she is entitled to receive additional one month basic salary for every year he/she worked once he/she resigns. So, for crew who stayed a lot longer than 5 years are expecting to receive a hefty amount upon their resignation. But for the company to avoid giving out this “gratuity” pay they find ways (or faults) in the crew members record in order to terminate the crew rendering him/her eligible of receiving the gratuity or end-of-service pay. This has happened all too often to the very senior crew. This is how they pay you back for contributing all the hard effort through the years with the company. They forget the good deeds you did for them and get you on one mistake and cause you to lose a huge amount of money for it. However, some crew are fighting for it in the courts.
Profit And Profit Share
It is believed that the perceived success of Qatar Airways is mainly due to imposing certain rules and regulations to the staff. Emirates Airlines, the biggest and most successful in the region, doesn’t have these rules. Actually, they laugh at Qatar Airways staff whenever they hear of these ridiculous rules. Termination of employees isn’t a common activity in their company yet Emirates boast of creating huge revenues, whereas so far Qatar Airways still hasn’t even showed to the world its financial records. This is a quote from the CEO himself, “I would like to ask him how does he know that since Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways are not publishing their financial reports as yet?” (http://www.gulf-times.com/site/topics/article.asp?cu_no=2&item_no=415394&version=1&template_id=36&parent_id=16)
(Reuters) - State-owned Qatar Airways expects to make its first profit by 2010 and could sell shares to local and foreign investors three years after that, the company's chief executive said on Sunday.
Mr. Al Baker claims that Qatar Airways finally broke even in the year 2010 and for the first time Profit Share was distributed to all employees which trickled down to be worth just two weeks equivalent of each employee’s basic salary.
Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker announced on 20-Dec-2010 that Qatar Airways is on track to declare “a very hefty profit” this year, clearing the way for an IPO. The CEO stated he is "pretty confident" the carrier will launch an IPO in early 2012, after achieving three consecutive years of profitability.
The CEO added that Qatar Airways achieved a net profit in 2009, although the carrier has not reported specific figures. The airline is on track to declare a net profit this year and Mr Al Baker is “hopeful of deriving a net profit in the next financial year as well”. Late in 2008, Mr Al Baker said that he had been hopeful of launching an IPO in 2010, but the impact of the global financial crisis had delayed the carrier from achieving its break-even target.
Just how profitable Qatar Airways actually is remains a mystery, as the carrier is simply not telling. Qatar Airways is 50% owed by the Qatari Government and 50% owned by private interests and does not disclose its accounts. Mr Al Baker stated that the carrier will “will disclose the exact figure only when we get listed”.
The scale of any IPO has not been made clear either. The percentage of the airline to be put on public offer and the timing will be decided by the owners, according to Mr Al Baker.
Emirates has been distributing Profit Shares to its staff for years which could sometimes reach up two months worth of basic salary. They made a huge profit for the year 2010 as stated below.
Emirates has declared a USD964 million profit (AED3,565 million) for the 12 months to 31-Mar-2010, an impressive performance against a backdrop of the worst global recession in generations. Chairman and CEO of the carrier, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, described the period as the airline’s “toughest year”. But a profit approaching USD1 billion is a tough year most of its competitors would be happy to endure. Whatever anyone says about Emirates being government owned, it is unavoidably an increasingly powerful model and extremely cost effective, while being able to drive better than average yields.
Passenger traffic was up nearly 21%, to 27.5 million, while load factors recovered 2.3 percentage points from FY2008/09.
This only shows that strict rules and increasing restriction on the staff doesn’t necessarily mean good business and produce profit. Emirates staff enjoy one of the best lifestyles in the cabin crew world. The rules and regulations of Qatar Airways are unfathomable to them. Their work environment is so open and encourages their staff to stay and contribute more the airline.
The word “Report” is used far more frequently here than in any other airline company. The phrase “Let’s support and not report each other” has no relevance in Qatar Airways. In fact, the CEO himself will encourage all his staff to report each other. If you don’t like someone here, make up a story, gather some evidences to support your story and go to the office and report your colleague. The people in office thrive on such incidents.
The company also urges passengers to write comments on “tells us” forms. It is of course part of any customer service business to receive feedbacks from clients to continually improve its product. Customer is King! But to allow a custoner to threaten a staff just to get what he/she wants is a little too much. Customers flying Qatar Airways know how strict this airline is towards the cabin crew and abuse this power in getting what they want from the helpless staff.
On every flight you fly with Qatar Airways, there will be a public announcement (PA) that goes like this, “Ladies and gentlemen, we aim to offer you genuine service and hospitality every to travel with us. We would like to know how well we achieved this today and truly welcome your feedback. If you would like to tell us your thoughts, the cabin crew will provide you with a Tell US survey form...”
I haven’t heard any other airline making such PA. Not even the so called other 5-star airlines. In other words, it’s saying to the passengers to report the staff. If a crew member can’t provide something to a passenger, he/she will always be afraid whether that passenger will complain. So, crew are at constant fear when dealing with passengers. The passengers in turn have the upper hand and really make good use of their authority to intimidate the crew.
It is once said that in a flight on a competitor airline, a passenger was complaining and threatening to report the cabin crew member. The crew member mockingly responded by saying, “We are not Qatar Airways.”
This only shows how far our reputation has reached of being the intimidated crew. Yet, all this is overshadowed by the cabin crew achievements in recent years. Qatar Airways cabin crew was voted Best Cabin Crew in the Middle East for the seventh consecutive year at the 2009 Skytrax airline awards. It was voted as the Airline of the year in 2011 by Skytrax as well. All these awards high-lighten the fact that injustice is being committed against the staff who has obviously achieved so much.
All who have successfully completed the training (which is called AB-initio training and takes roughly 7 weeks) will be scheduled to return to attend an orientation conducted by the CEO Akbar Al-Baker himself. It is commonly known as Wings Day or CEO Speech. A few batches of new crew will be put together in one classroom which could reach 50 members to listen to the speech. When it comes to this punctuality doesn’t mean much to the CEO. There are times when you will have to wait for hours until he comes. At times as well, that after being picked up from your accommodation and waiting for him to come, the meeting is cancelled. This meeting is not to congratulate and welcome the new comers but the instruct and warn them.
There is no other airline in the world that has a CEO who uses profanity while addressing his staff. He even uses these words in the presence of young females.
The most common phrase that he will say goes something like this, “If you think you come here for F....ing, think again. You come here to work.”
Or, “if you came here to f....k young girls, go home.”
He has also said something like this, “you didn’t come here to travel, you came here to serve passengers.”
After listening to his speech you will wonder whether you would want to stay in the company.
He has even raised his voice once at a girl, saying this, “you look at me, I want everyone here to maintain eye contact with me when I talk.”
All these of course is hidden from the world. When you see him all decent with a smiling face at the Air shows and conferences shaking hands with big names in the airline industry, you don’t see the other side of him and how he controls his company with such abuse of human rights. It is our prayers and hope that he would be exposed for the world to see his true self and somehow human activist organization would come to our rescue. This company has huge potentials and will grow in the future but on whose expense?