Qatar Airways Marriage & Pregnancy Policies Changed For Crews

Qatar Airways has long been criticized for the treatment of their staff. While the Middle East offers some amazing career opportunities for foreigners, many people living in the “modern world” would argue that some of Qatar Airways’ policies are egregious.

For example, historically Qatar Airways has had policies against their cabin crew getting married and/or pregnant, has given their employees curfews when at home, and has forbidden opposite sex guests at their accommodations.

Doha-Qatar
Doha, Qatar

In the past I’ve raised the question of the ethics of flying Qatar Airways. Specifically, should you not support a company/country when you disagree with their policies? And if so, where do you draw the line? Most of us probably don’t agree with all the policies of most countries, so how egregious do policies have to be for us to vote with our wallets/feet?

In many ways I think our horizons are widened by experiencing different cultures, even if we disagree with them. And I think that’s largely true of the Middle East. At the same time, do you want to be supporting a company and country with policies like that?

Anyway, the good news is that Qatar Airways is apparently starting to improve some of their policies for cabin crew.

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This all started back in February, when Qatar Airways’ CEO, Akbar Al Baker, appeared on Richard Quest’s program. Quest brought up the point of how Qatar’s staff are treated. Here’s the video:

In case you don’t want to watch the video, here’s the relevant transcript:

Quest: “The question of the contracts that your female flight attendants sign where they have to ask permission to get married and to get pregnant. First of all, let’s scotch this once and for all, is this true?”

Al Baker: “That is not true, that is a load of bullshit. This is people creating issues because just we don’t have unions and this is what they don’t like. They say that our work practices are very progressive, people have all the rights that they require and what the rumors are being circulated is absolutely untrue. And we have already the ILO inspectors in my country that are looking into this and have already found that all these rumors are unsubstantiated and just created to paint a bad picture on the Gulf carriers.”

Al Baker claimed that the ILO has already found all these rumors to be unsubstantiated, and created to simply paint a bad picture of the airline.

Only that wasn’t the case, because in June the ILO came out with their findings, which were less than complimentary. They found several aspects of Qatar Airways’ employment contracts to be huge human rights violations. Qatar Airways’ CEO dismissed the findings of the ILO, as covered in Al Arabiya News:

Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of Qatar Airways, said the ILO was pursuing a “vendetta” against both the airline and Qatar as a whole, Reuters reported.

“I don’t give a damn about the ILO – I am there to run a successful airline,” Al Baker reportedly said at the Paris Air Show.

“This is evidence of a vendetta they have against Qatar Airways and my country. My country has responded to the ILO accusations in a very robust way. We clarified the clauses in our contract.”

So what is Qatar Airways doing to improve their policies for cabin crew? Via Doha News:

Qatar Airways cabin crew will now be allowed to continue to work for the airline while pregnant, the company has said.

The change of contract terms means that instead of automatically losing their jobs, crew will now be offered temporary roles on the ground.

The move, which comes amid staff retention concerns, follows another amendment to contracts made last December that allow cabin crew to marry in the first five years of service without having to ask permission from the company.

Previously, crew who married without permission were fired.

The airline claims these changes aren’t due to the ILO’s findings, but rather so that they can retain staff long term, which has been an issue up until now, and will continue to be a bigger issue as they grow:

“As the airline matures, the workforce matures. You can’t turn to someone who is 35 years old and say ‘No, you can’t have a family, wait.’ We want to retain people,” he said.

According to Dimitrov, Qatar Airways needs to recruit at least 6,000 more cabin crew in the next two years, as its forges ahead with its plans for rapid expansion, with new jets being delivered on a regular basis.

Unfortunately some of the other archaic policies remain in place:

It is understood that other restrictions governing the lives of the airline’s cabin crew, like a ban on being driven around by male friends and a night-time curfew remain in place.

Bottom line

Perhaps I’m more tolerant of these policies than I should be. Am I appalled by them? Absolutely. But at the same time I know that most countries in the Middle East won’t adopt more modern policies overnight. It’ll take time, and this is certainly a step in the right direction.

Qatar-Airways-A380-First-Class-113

What do you make of Qatar Airways’ change in policies? Do you think they changed them to retain cabin crew, or due to pressure from the ILO?

(Tip of the hat to Peter)

Comments

  1. While the rules certainly seem unethical to (a middle-class American like) me, if there’s a contract in place, these flight attendants are signing it.

  2. Agreed with @Chris S. on this one.

    It is their responsibility to research potential employer before entering into a contract with them. They are the ones who are seeking employment with the airline and they are the one who sign the said contract. And, yet, somehow, it is the airline’s fault? No one have forced these stewardesses into their current position. And let’s not forget about this either: http://onemileatatime.boardingarea.com/2015/01/24/japanese-flight-attendants-sleeping-pilots-money/

  3. @Chris S.: 200 years ago, people signed contracts for indentured servitude. Whether someone is willing to sign a contract has nothing to do with whether the contract is ethical, or whether it should be allowed under the law.

  4. @Kalboz: Let’s say you need to feed your family and someone offers you a job cleaning toilets for $5 per hour, well under the minimum wage. You can’t find another job, so you accept. No one “forced you into your current position.” Is anyone at fault here?

    You know, there is a reason why all advanced nations have worker protection laws. Less advanced nations don’t always have them yet, but they should, and they should be encouraged to adopt them.

  5. These idiot policies in the Middle East are crazy like you can’t live with your gf/bf… Why does it bother them? The answer is obvious, because they want to have sex freely like the Western people but they’re afraid to confess this. Personally I know a lots of UAE and Saudi people (both rich and poor) and they hate their own country because of these idiot rules. The new generation moves to Europe as soon as they can because they don’t want to live in a country where they can’t kiss their love without going to jail.

    If they would like and respect their own rules then the DXB-LHR route wouldn’t be full of Emiratis who are going to London to have sex.

    I wonder when they’re going to give up these idiot rules. I think it might take decades from now. The time is working against them for sure because the more money they make and the more they travel the less they can accept these strict non-human rules.

  6. snic,

    I don’t disagree, but I’d tend to agree more with you if these Qatar employees weren’t largely expats seeking the glamor associated with traveling the world. This doesn’t really equate, in my mind, to the human rights issues (and actual indentured servitude, it seems) affecting the throngs of foreign construction workers along the Gulf.

  7. As you say, I don’t agree with the laws and cultures of loss of countries but rightly or wrongly make my purchasing decisions based on the quality and price of a particular product or service. If I boycott Qatar Airlines for their archaic employments laws, should I stop buying things made in China? Stop visiting the States because of their nonsensical gun laws?

  8. So the fact that you have a glamorous job is sufficient excuse for your employer to deny you rights and workplace protections? I’m sorry, but that is ridiculous. Rights are rights, and they apply to everyone.

  9. The problem is not only amongst women. A close friend was recently hired for a manager position at Qatar in Doha, but as soon as they found out he was HIV positive, he was rejected.

  10. To buy mileages from airlines are not cheap as they usually add a big fee of $75.00 + taxes on top of buying the points.

    It all depends what you want to do.

  11. The fact that QR had these disgusting policies in the first place in this day and age, and the fact that they still have some appallingly repressive policies, are just a couple of the reasons that I will never fly that garbage airline.

  12. Guess this shows the power of globalisation to reform cultural irregularities. Clearly, what’s shifted these out of step norms, is not condemnation nor ILO reports or anything like that, but simply that Qatar couldn’t recruit and retain enough staff suitable, and needed, for it’s operations without modernising some of it’s attitudes and cultural norms. They don’t have a population base to meet their human resources needs, and in order to pull people in, have been pushed into making changes (demand was greater than supply, so conditions had to change).

    And even if they have been compelled to change in this regard, over the longer term this will lead to acceptance of these ideas.

  13. I think we need to remember and respect that unlike democratic-ruled nations of the free world, the Middle East countries are governed by their religion. What may seem barbaric or unlawful to us “Westerners” are rules and restrictions that these employees have been living under their entire lives. Having spent a lot of time in the Middle East in various countries, some are more strict when it comes to women and some aren’t. They don’t have things like the Department of Labor or Equal Opportunity protections.

    As long as there aren’t any human rights violations (again remembering they aren’t governed by Western laws) and they are willing accepting employment under these terms, then I don’t think there’s much else to say. It is, however, nice to see that they are loosening some of their restrictions to be inline with some of the other ME airlines and airlines of the world. I hope the trend continues.

  14. @SFOFlyGuy – “I think we need to remember and respect that unlike democratic-ruled nations of the free world, the Middle East countries are governed by their religion. What may seem barbaric or unlawful to us “Westerners” are rules and restrictions that these employees have been living under their entire lives.”

    I don’t give a damn how they are governed, nor do I give a damn how long they’ve been living under that system. I find it to be repulsive and disgusting, and will refuse to fly that airline (or any other ailinr that has similar policies) until they change. And I don’t see why I should respect any system that oppresses it’s people with policies such as this.

  15. @Brian L. > I don’t give a damn how they are governed, nor do I give a damn how long they’ve been living under that system. I find it to be repulsive and disgusting, and will refuse to fly that airline (or any other ailinr that has similar policies) until they change. And I don’t see why I should respect any system that oppresses it’s people with policies such as this.

    I think you missed the point where I said “as long as there aren’t any human right violations”…! Nobody is forcing these workers into these contracts. They are well aware of what they are signing up for before they accept the offers of employment. Talk to any ME airline crew and they will tell you. As “Westerners”, we may not like the policies and they may not be in line with our beliefs but the mere fact that the ME3 let woman work at all is in and of itself a departure from norm. I’M GLAD THEY ARE GETTING BETTER TREATMENT WITH NEW POLICIES SUCH AS THIS AT QATAR. Hopefully it’s a trendsetting move although I would wager to guess that Emirates already treats its crews better, at least by outward appearance and things I’ve read and heard. Still, it is your choice not to fly these carriers but if you look deeply at many of the world’s airlines, I’m sure you’d find something that you don’t agree with.

    For the record, and I don’t know where you reside, but many USA airlines vagrantly abuse their crews, working them to the bone, chewing them up and spitting them out with very little to show for it. Most starting out working at or below the national poverty level for years before gaining enough seniority to hold routes paying more, they routinely work 14+ hour days and are often only paid for 1/2 or less of those hours (they aren’t paid for being at the airport for sign in, boarding, deplaning, delays, etc. and we wonder why they seem tired and grumpy??), crew rest minimums are often violated especially at airlines without union representation…so how is any of that any better? Sure they can have opposite sex people in their homes and hotel rooms and such, get pregnant and married without permission but this wasn’t always so. Back in the day at good ol’ Pan Am, woman were held to strict weight standards (beyond staying fit…bordering on fear to eat!), they were forced to retire very early because the airline only wanted young, attractive women in the cabin (often at 30 years old and no men workers allowed), and if they got pregnant it was grounds for termination. Sexism and gender bias at its finest!

    I’m not saying that ANY of this is right, on the contrary. It’s just going to take time to get there especially in the ME where they are governed by an entirely different set of laws and values that don’t exactly lift women up. Who are we, again as “Westerners” to step in and say they are wrong when the women themselves actually respect and support these values because it’s their law…their religion in many cases? No wonder the world hates the USA. We try to “police” the world trying to make everyone be like us often for our own gain and are we really that superior? Think about it…

  16. This ia not true at all i know a crew who ask a permission to get merried and then they told her to force resign after that ….

    How do i know …shes my wife

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