Last updated: 01:00 AM ET, Tue August 25 2015

Is Emirates the Best Airline to Work for as a Flight Attendant?

Airlines & Airports | Josh Lew | August 25, 2015

Is Emirates the Best Airline to Work for as a Flight Attendant?

Photo via Flickr/Brussels Airport

Emirates offers a lot of perks to its cabin staff. Some of these extras are things that other airlines would not even dream of giving their most senior flight attendants. At the same time, the carrier, which is the largest in the Middle East, demands more of its in-flight employees than almost any other carrier in the world. 

Year after year, Emirates is ranked as one of the world’s best airlines. It’s not a surprise that people want to work for such a highly regarded company. According to Gulf News, last year the Dubai-based carrier hired more than 5,000 new flight attendants. That seems like quite a lot, but getting a cabin staff job with Emirates is not easy. The airline claims to get about 500 new applications every day. That is more than 180,000 per year. 

International Talent

Very few of these flight attendants are from Dubai. The most common nationality for Emirates cabin staff is British.

So what draws people to the airline? Maybe some want to work for a brand that is known for its upscale, glamorous image. Many, however, are probably in it, at least partially, for the perks.

A Jet-Set Life

Emirates seems quite generous when it comes to giving extras to its employees. Even the newest flight attendants get a deal that would make the most senior cabin staff at a U.S. legacy carrier envious. Emirates attendants have their accommodations paid for. They are whisked to and from work in private cars. Their base salary is tax free and they get 30 days of annual leave (and free tickets to go wherever they choose during their break).

This “pampering” is not a new phenomenon. Way back in 2008, the Wall Street Journal did a story on the charmed life of Emirates flight attendants. The paper highlighted perks like totally free living arrangements, 50 percent discounts at local restaurants and health clubs, and generous housing allowances for crew members who had families. Of course, all these extras came at a slight cost: Emirates employees’ salaries were (and still are) lower overall than those of U.S.-based legacy carriers.

Judging by the number of applicants who are still trying to get into an Emirates uniform, it seems that many think it is worth trading the extra income for a glamorous jet-set lifestyle that would not be possible at other airlines.

Photo via Flickr/Bill Holler

A Tough Job to Get

The airline is looking for a very specific type of flight attendant. Image is very important to Emirates. Part of the application process involves submitting photographs, and an entire day of orientation for new hires is dedicated to makeup, grooming and uniform appearance.

Two Emirates attendants, in an interview with the Huffington Post, said there is actually a manual with rules that cover lipstick shades, makeup application and even nail styles and nail polish colors. 

While they don’t have to fret over finding the correct shade of lipstick to match their hat, male flight attendants are also held to rigorous image standards. They have to undergo the same training in skincare, uniform appearance and hair care as their female counterparts.

Trouble in Flight Attendant Paradise?

Earlier this year, there were rumblings amongst flight attendants about shortened layovers and longer-than-acceptable flight hours. Some insiders told the WSJ that Emirates was holding employee roundtables where cabin crew could air their grievances to management. One of the biggest concerns: having annual leaves shortened last year. Also, crewmembers that had been promoted to the premium classes were forced to cover for shortages by returning to economy class. They saw this as a demotion.

Emirates is hiring a lot of new flight attendants. Is the airline really expanding that fast? It is hard to tell, and Emirates has never released turnover numbers, so no one knows how many crewmembers have quit in the last year.

Compared to other airlines, Emirates offers an amazing number of perks. However, there is a tradeoff with more stringent rules about appearance and conduct. In a way, Emirates attendants are still paying for their jet set lifestyle, but with effort, not with money.


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