Rich Thomaselli | August 26, 2015 4:24 PM ET
Is Qatar Airways' New Policy Sincere Or For Show?
Qatar is not exactly in a good place right now.
The country has been beset by myriad problems, most of it stemming from its selection as the host for soccer’s 2022 World Cup. The choice was criticized almost from the very beginning when it was first announced, starting with the ridiculously hot weather. Earlier this year, Qatar was heavily implicated in the bribing scandal that has engulfed FIFA, soccer’s global governing body.
The country has been heavily criticized for using underpaid migrant workers – some have called it slave labor – to help build the needed soccer stadiums to host such a global event.
Its national airline, Qatar Airways, along with United Arab Emirates carriers Emirates and Etihad, have been embroiled in a bitter dispute with the three major U.S. airlines over whether or not the Middle East Gulf airlines receive government subsidies.
Now Qatar is trying to clean up its image over another longstanding issue – its female flight crew members.
The question is, is it for show or is it sincere?
Qatar has changed its controversial policies in which female cabin crew were discriminated against – fired if they became pregnant or got married within the first five years of employment with Qatar Airways.
According to the Daily Telegraph in London, women who become pregnant will no longer be terminated from employment but instead will be offered temporary positions on the ground. If they are to marry, women must notify the company first. That last part still sounds a little archaic, but OK.
Unfortunately, The Telegraph noted that other airline rules are still in place, including the fact that female crew members can only be picked up from work by a male relative – husband, father or brother.
Disappointing, to say the least.
Qatar, which has more than 6,000 female cabin crew members working for the airline, said its policy change was less about getting heat from the United Nations’ International Labor Organization and instead a direct response to internal review of work practices and an evolution of the airline’s growth.
There’s no question Qatar Airways is an outstanding airline, having won its third Airline of the Year award this year at the annual Skytrax world awards. Yet as the Obama administration considers whether to re-open talks with the Middle East nations over the Open Skies Agreement, this can’t help but feel like a political move.
It has that "why now?" feel to it. Why not last year, or the year before? Why not early this year, before American, Delta and United airlines put together a very detailed 55-page report mapping out the subsidies that were given to Emirates, Etihad and Qatar?
It’s a good thing, of course. Treating its female employees to an even playing field without the threat of losing employment to the everyday life circumstances of getting married or having a baby is always a good thing.
The circumstances and the timing just seem so shaky.
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