Topic of the Week: Do You Care About Working Conditions at an Airline?

Quite a sensational portrait of the rough (to say the least) working conditions at Qatar Airways was published this week. Though I have no personal knowledge of those conditions, comments made publicly in various places seem to confirm that it’s basically the way things work there. Does this impact whether or not you’d fly an airline?

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39 Comments on "Topic of the Week: Do You Care About Working Conditions at an Airline?"

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richard tod
Guest

I would certainly be concerned as I know that dissatisfied staff will not pay full attention and accidents, bad quality of service and inattention to detail are the result.

BOS Flyer
Guest

Of course it would and should impact your decision to fly an airline. Control over employees as described in the article (whether completely or only partially true) are unacceptable, and I for one could not in good conscience choose QR for my travels.

JRS
Guest

This situation does not surprise me in the least, there is an article in a recent edition of National Geographic about the disgusting conditions that guest workers from other countries have to endure working in various mideast countries.

BNZ
Guest

A friend of mine ended up working in QR when Spanair went bankrupt. Only seven months later it was more than she could handle (in her own words “My Orwellian Summer”). Since then I try to avoid all Gulf airlines for my travels… Anyway she is European, as you know working conditions for people born in Southeast Asia are quite worse…

Shane
Member
This is consistent with the various accounts of human trafficking and other labor abuses surounding the construction industry, in particular in relation to the World Cup preparations (http://tinyurl.com/oaq696j). The reason why the Gulf carriers are so much less expensive yet have opulent service (at least for business & first class) is not because they have such great business skills. It is because they have government sanctions human trafficking with artificially low wages and other advantages handed to them by the government. It is not true market condition when labor is not allowed to move freely between jobs or leave, or… Read more »
A
Guest
Do working conditions at Walmart or you local McFastFood keep you from visiting those places? For the vast majority it does not, all the public wants is their goods & services cheap. Even in my own field clients are squeezing our fees so tight it’s hard to even earn a profit. That downward pressure has cost me bonuses that I used to enjoy, not to mention many other perks that made the workplace more enjoyable. Unfortunately the race to the bottom seems to be the new normal. It’s happening everywhere. So, while Qatar might not be the best place to… Read more »
Southeasterner
Guest

Agreed. I have an iphone and a gap shirt on today, I’m typing on a keyboard, linked to a computer and monitor all made in sweatshops throughout Southeast Asia.

Hard for me to take the moral high ground on employees working for an airline who are far better off than the thousands of people working in essential slavery to produce the billions worth of stuff we Americans import and consume.

Oliver
Guest

Where are the Walmart and McD’s guarded dorms?

Mark Skinner
Guest

Heh,

If you pay people less than they need to live, they won’t have time to misbehave. They will be too busy working second and third jobs.

Mind you, there are plenty of security cameras at Walmart too!

matt weber
Member
Having lived in the Gulf States in the Middle East, and traveled there extensively, there is very little difference between what goes on at Gulf Air, Kuwait Airways, Oman Air, Qatar or Emirates. These are very strong patriarch societies in which women have always had limited rights. Keep in mind that many of the cabin staff on these carriers come from the 3rd world and often lack first world judgement, even those that have 1st world judgement, are going to find that what is acceptable in their home culture is not acceptable the Sunni Muslim Middle East.. When I lived… Read more »
ANCJason
Guest

For me, flying is a little different than shopping at Wal Mart or eating at McDonald’s. All a badly treated employee at WalMart can do is make the checkout process longer. All a McDonald’s employee can do is screw up a burger. The implications at an airline, however……

There is one American carrier that I absolutely will not fly because of the horror stories that I have heard from past employees, contractors, and passengers.

David
Guest

Is it nice when you hear about what goes on ? No
Will QR get a bit embarassed about this ? Yes
Will this all blow over in a week’s time ? Yes
Will customers really care in a week’s time ? No
Will this change anything ? No

Jon
Member
@A – “Do working conditions at Walmart or you local McFastFood keep you from visiting those places?” I’m not sure about you, but I’ve worked in retail and fast food making minimum wage. Equating working at McDonalds with the articles on Qatar Airways’ working conditions either indicates that you did not in fact read the article, have no clue of the reality of working at a place like Wal-Mart or McDonalds, or have no clue about what life for flight attendants looks like for US/Euro airlines. Working at a fast food chain wasn’t the most glamorous job in my job… Read more »
John G
Guest

Spare me the sob story about airline employees. Especially when you are talking about flight attendants. When tens of thousands of people apply for a job that has several hundred openings, somehow I’m not going to think it’s that horrible.

Part of it isn’t an easy gig. But for the long-term flight attendants that are surly, I just say if you don’t like it, take a walk. There are literally a thousand people standing in line that would love to have that job you hate so much.

Airline Insider
Guest
John G – you really have no clue about this story. The article is spot-on correct and I have interacted with several current and and former QR crew members while working myself in the Gulf as a Western expat worker in the airline industry. The stuff that goes on at QR for F/As is ridiculous – but I will say the conditions are much better for F/As working at Emirates and even better at Etihad – although they aren’t the same as what you’d find in Western Europe or North America, for example. QR is the *worst* in the region… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member
I’ve seen on TV things like this before about the middle east. There’s a reason the middle east carriers have a lot of flights to places like India, Pakistan, the Philippines, Indonesia, etc. It to transport all the slave labor they use for the (peon) manual jobs. Even westerns working in the M.E. are subject to some form of slavery and in some cases need permission from their employer to do basic things we all take for granted. Lincoln freed our slaves, the middle east will only free their’s when the oil runs out and they can’t paid someone a… Read more »
David SF eastbay
Member

Forgot to add that travelers don’t know what goes on or even cares. Who wouldn’t want to fly in luxury and be treated like a king when they travel.

MeanMeosh
Guest
This does not surprise me, given that the Gulf states have a long, sordid history of abusing foreign workers, especially those from South and Southeast Asia. The Indian press has done several exposes of the conditions faced by Indian laborers in places like Qatar – passports confiscated, 15 people thrown in to an apartment the size of my office, fired for no reason, etc. That’s one reason why I refuse to set foot in any of the Gulf states, or give them even one penny of my tourist money. But at the end of the day, while boycotting Doha and… Read more »
Donald
Guest

One night, we were on the hotel van heading for the overnight. Our flight attendant mentioned it
would be fun to work for one of the airlines in the middle east. A stranger in the van turned and in
very strong terms responded NO! Turns out he was an pilot working out there to escape a bad
family situation. Bought him a drink and got an education, afterwards our FA said she was glad she
heard the story.

Tatum
Guest

Is Qatar a popular airline amongst travelers? There is a promotional video for Qatar (though not produced by Qatar) where the plane from somewhere in America to Doha is literally empty. The reviewer himself even said Qatar flights are never to capacity. Strange how they were promoting the airline with a practically empty plane.

DesertGhost
Guest

As a human being I care about how others are treated. As a consumer, I also care because the way employees are treated often reflects on the product and the way customers are treated. So, yes, I do take these things into consideration. But it’s not the only factor I use and I don’t go strictly on hearsay. I try to get as much good information as I can before making purchasing or investment decisions.

ashwinvjadhav
Member

I don’t think this would have any impact on whether I would fly the airline. However, being in the airline industry, it would definitely affect my aspiration to work at Qatar Airways.

One of my ex-colleagues recently moved to Qatar Airways in a senior technical role and already wishes to move back after 15 months there. It’s just a big paradigm shift when you go from a collaborative decision making work environment to one that is currently prevalent in the Middle East.

Nick Barnard
Member

I’m really curious what prevents people from walking out? Especially in flight crew that leave the country as part of their job. If its common knowledge in the airline industry that Qatar treats these employees in the way they do, leaving that way shouldn’t cause an extra pain.

Rye
Guest

Nothing prevents the FA’s from leaving while on a flight to Europe or similar. This is the normal way to quit if I understand correctly.
However, at least Swedes who work for Qatar are paid very well even as FA’s. Couple that with no tax and it’s quite favorable.

That it sucks to live and work in the middle east as a female is another issue. Emirates and Dubai as a city is much better than Doha.

DL
Guest

When do we hold their partners somewhat accountable? Seems to me that oneWorld and AA should take a close look at who they’re associating with.

wes
Guest

I would still fly ’em if they end up having the best itenerary and/or price.

pddee
Member

What is happening to the employees carries over to the real-time flight experiences for me. I recall vividly the happenings at United prior to the merger with Continental and shortly thereafter with the labor strife; things were not very friendly in the “Friendly Skies” back then and it made a real difference in the tone on a given flight when employees were not on the same “happy page” as ought be in working with the general public. Happily, things appear to be much better with the employees at United from my perspective in Economy Plus.

Sheila E
Guest

Yes, of course. I do not shop at Walmart and I would not fly with such an airline. However, I need specific proven information to make a decision. One drop in the bucket that can become a river if others join me

Pilotaaron1
Guest

This doesn’t really surprise me at all. But I’m not a fan of Akbar Al Baker at all. To say that he is unprofessional is a giant understatement. I consider Ryanair’s O’leary way more professional than him.

robert.rolwing
Member

As a HUMAN BEING and an employee, HOW CAN ANY RESONABLE PERSON , NOT BE HORRIFIED BY THIS
It seems people have no respect for other people and HUMAN RIGHTS
AS USUAL, RELION USED TO CONTROL PEOPLE AND BE HIPPOCRITS ,THAN USED TO RESPECT ,CARE AND LOVE ONE ANOTHER

WISH THE US GOVT WOULD BAN THEM AND OTHER MID-EAST CARRIERS ,WHO DO THIS ,TO THE us and fine if the MIDEAST BANS US CARRIERS/ THEY NEED TO BE TOLD THEY ARE WRONG

MyPrice
Guest

so any similar -detailed- stories from other gulf airlines to be emerged? or what?

Airline Insider
Guest
Etihad and Emirates are NOT like this….although they are a bit more restrictive than Western carriers, for example, but they are certainly not as stuck in the “Big Brother” mentality that QR is. Akbar Al Bakar has asserted himself as the ultimate authority figure, it’s his way or the highway (or Next Flight Out) and he makes that very clear to everyone who he meets – and not just people that work for his airline. For someone who came from a background of having nothing and extremely humble beginnings, this man (despite his vision and success at making QR very… Read more »
Jim
Guest

While this article is shocking, it is unfortunately common in many places. If you buy something from a store in the US, very likely it was made in China or Mexico by someone working in similar conditions. The oil and coal we burn for fuel is extracted by workers under even worse conditions. The majority of chocolate sold in the US is from cocoa farms that are worked by slaves (many children) in Western Africa and other places.

jskyz81
Member
ABSOLUTELY!!!! love this article as a few airlines in the us have also have contracted there ground services to contract employees of some companies that pay at or several cents higher than minimum wage. However; Mostly flight attendants at regional carriers and perhaps a few smaller mainline L.C.C. and U.L.C.C. carriers not going to name them. Being a ramp agent is also very hard work if your working at a hub, or an large focus city or a large spoke city with multiple flights to multiple hub, focus city with some seasonal destinations and non hub and focus city destinations.… Read more »
syeo.engr
Member
As a current Middle East expat, all I can say is that nothing I read about Qatar Airways’ treatment of its employees is no different from those from any other industry. You can easily find similar accounts from teachers, medical professionals, retail and fast-food workers. Many people have long and successful careers here, and the tax advantages allow them to retire early with nice nest eggs. Even the Nepalis, Bangladeshis, etc who work for what we would consider a pittance are able to support their families at home. The two-year contract is a standard throughout the region; no-one has to… Read more »
syeo.engr
Member

“what I read”, not “nothing I read”, sorry :)

Rachel K.
Guest

I seem to hear, now and again, about airline employees’ negative experiences, etc… has there been any news of carriers who have a really loyal/engaged employee base?? Personally, that could make a difference to me if I were booking and had to choose between two carriers.

Andrew mondt
Member

It appears that Southwest has the best employee relations.

Frank
Guest
I absolutely care about the working conditions of airline employees! I want them well paid, rested and reasonably happy to work at the airline. Our safety depends on it. Having said that I used to work for GF in the 90s. While there were rules for the FAs (i.e age, marital status, weight to height restrictions) they were nothing as draconian as this. I also used to live and work in Saudi Arabia and the comments about South and East Asian workers being treated like dirt are spot on. If I’m not mistaken, the practice of giving up one’s passport… Read more »
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