Is it acceptable to have your employer grant permission “in case you wish to change your marital status and get married“?
This employee rule made the news, this week, in an article The truth about the luxury of Qatar Airways published last week in a Swedish tabloid: Expressen. The article is blisteringly critical of the airline.
Qatar Airways has been voted world!s best airline for two years in a row. They pick up awards for business class, their service and their lounges. On top of that, the airline had been involved in massive expansion going from four to 120 aircraft to in sixteen years. To do this requires discipline and determination.
The impact of this discipline and determination on the staff, particularly female staff, was clearly outlined in the published article. The information shared was based on the experiences of three anonymous ex employees of the airline – two flight attendants and one pilot. It’s author Johanna Karlsson claimed it also included input from current employees who are unable to speak out about the airline because of a detailed Non Disclosure Agreement they sign which requires them to not discuss the company, share their views on Facebook or show images of them in their uniforms. This confidentiality agreement stays in effect even after they have left the company.
Staff are also not allowed to side with a passenger in any dispute with the airline.
The image painted of a employee is of a virtual slave: “Once employed by Qatar Airways, cabin crew must exclusively dedicate their time towards the fulfillment of their job function“ The airline, it is claimed, controls your leisure time, your relationships, your employment visa, your access to flights home, what you eat and how you think. The aforementioned contract require you to stay single for five years, and if you become pregnant, you must inform the company immediately.
The CEO of the airline Al Baker, it was stated by Expressen, invites female staff to his hotel rooms, give selected women gifts and texts flight attendants from his private phone. Any refusal can result in being sacked. In addition, it is claimed that the airline can fire staff for:
- wanting to change room mates
- posting an inappropriate Facebook status
- getting a tattoo
- returning to their housing even five minutes after curfew
- a woman letting a man that they know who is neither their husband or father give them a lift to work
- smoking a cigarette during their time off.
The result, it is claimed is that staff begin to feel that they are “so stupid I can’t even do this job without getting into trouble.”
The article follows claims made in 2013 by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) which slammed Qatar Airways for their hiring contracts: “The labour relations at Qatar Airways are a running sore on the face of the global aviation industry. Autocratic, overbearing and near-dictatorial, this airline gains control and competitive advantage by ignoring International Labour Organization conventions on worker rights. Its treatment of its employees borders on the appalling.”
Of the allegations, the airline’s public relations company in Sweden said: “Qatar Airways is unable to comment on your specific questions. To do this, we must be able to find out more facts, which is impossible if we do not know which employees or former employees are making these statements,”.
The CEO of Qatar Airways has dismissed the claims: “throwing stones for no reason at all“.
I wonder if some of the rules are linked to Qatar culture? For example, men from Qatar have to get permission from the government to marry a foreigner. Are the Qatar conditions any worse than Ryanair which makes staff by a uniform or some of the US regional carriers that pay staff less than what they could earn driving a bus? Or are they indeed an airline employing people in an “appalling manner:?
Either way, Qatar Airways cannot afford to have a negative image regarding its treatment of staff. If the public get wind of it, they may abandon the carrier. Likewise, while Qatar Airways has a line of people interested in working for them, this that pool may dry up?
- Can the allegations made by Expressen be substantiated?
- Are the conditions extreme or is it the price staff pay to work for the world’s most successful airline?
- If you knew the treatment staff of an airline was “appalling”, would you still fly the airline?