Qatar Airways Discriminates against Women

Qatar Airways reserves the right to automatically terminate your contract as a flying cabin crew member should you become pregnant. Women are prohibited from being dropped off/picked up at/from company premises by a man other than their father, brother, or husband. Employees of both genders must obtain prior permission from the company in case he or she wishes to change marital status and get married.

Qatar Airways’ Rules

I need to confess Qatar Airways was always associated, at least in my mind, with one of few giant global carriers I could only describe as the best of the best. But the truth is I have always looked at the airline in terms of billions of dollars spent on its long haul airplanes, the number of wide body aircraft, and company’s image projected by flight crew members. Undoubtedly, the airline looks amazingly well with respect to those three variables. I have never bother to go deeper to analyze carrier’s internal life, assuming its in-house existence must as good as it is perceived outside. I could never be more wrong on that.

I was more than surprised to learn last week Qatar Airways discriminated against women cabin crew members by terminating their employment contracts for being pregnant. It is difficult to believe, but those always smiling flight attendants were obligated to sign employment contracts with a clause stating:

The company reserves the right to automatically terminate your contract as a flying cabin crew member should you become pregnant. (Robert Booth)

The above clause might sound like a science fiction for many people who work at equal employment opportunity corporations. Unfortunately, women cabin crew members have to adhere to one more questionable explicitly stated organizational regulation according to which:

Women are prohibited from being dropped off/picked up at/from company premises by a man other than their father, brother, or husband. (Jay Akbar)

I also want to mention the International Labour Organization (ILO) determined that only recently Qatar Airlines removed from employment contracts a clause based on which:

Employees of both genders must obtain prior permission from the company in case he or she wishes to change marital status and get married. (Robert Booth)

Qatar Flight AttendantPicture 1
A flight attendant with Qatar Airways, which demands its crew live under curfew in
monitored accommodation, and restricts their movements, relationships and family life.

Vendetta Against Qatar And Its State Carrier

While it might appear it cannot get more cruel, the fact decision-makers at the airline are not ashamed at all for developing and for supporting such a debilitating HR policy makes me to think there is only little or no hope to change the Doha-based airline corporate culture. Due to the large number of complaints from previous and present employees, the ILO conducted a year-long investigations and found Qatar guilty of allowing its-state-owned airline, Qatar Airways, to violate international and national agreements and to institutionalize discrimination. Despite the fact it is and it should sound as a serious accusation, Mr. Akbar Al -Baker, the Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Airways, angrily stated that the ILO had a “vendetta” against Qatar and its state carrier. In my understanding, the CEO’s reaction to the allegations does not sound promising things will get better. My line of thought seems to be supported by Mr. Akbar Al-Baker response at the aviation show in Paris where he was asked to comment about the ILO report:

I don’t give a dams about the ILO – I am there to run a successful airline. (AAAJ and Agencies)

Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar AirwaysPicture 2
Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways

If we believe in all modern managerial principles and the human resource management field, then it is difficult to believe Qatar Airways has the “WILL” to develop and execute new policy to improve its workers employment standards and well being after hearing what a spokesman for the airline said when commenting about the ILO report:

Candidates applying to work at Qatar Airways are fully aware of the rules and regulations prior to joining, and it is entirely their choice whether to join our five-star airline or not. (Gwyn Topham)

It sounds like a brutal statement without any hope. I think I will not be far from the truth the airline will tweak the policy here and there to make everything look good on the paper but in reality nothing will be changed. This especially is a weird situation when we realize Qatar Airlines relies heavily on international workers to manage its operation of 160 aircraft flying to 147 key business and leisure destinations across six continents.

Airline Alliances

As a person with an airline experience and an extensive aviation educational background, I pause for few seconds and keep wondering about airline alliances. There are three alliances, including oneworld, SkyTeam, and Star Alliance. It is a very logical that airlines join alliances to increase their network reach and to obtain some financial benefits. An airline joining an alliance needs to meet many requirements and adopt various technology to integrate its network with other alliance members. Essentially, airlines need to unify countless of requirements to be on the same page with all other airlines. It might not sound rationally, but it makes me wonder why airlines within a specific alliance do not unify their HR policy and many other regulations. Ultimately, airlines operate in a global market, rely on international workforce, and intend to deliver consistently high quality customer service.

Video 1
Introducing Qatar Airways’ new A380

If we look at an alliance as one big organization, then it might turn out to be a viable idea to begin also integrating internal procedures to cut off expenses and to develop the same employment contracts across an alliance. Qatar Airways is a member of oneworld together with American Airlines (AA) and British Airways (BA). I cannot imagine cabin crew members at AA or BA would agree to work under the same employment contracts as their counterparts at Qatar Airlines. Maybe a next strategic move in the airline industry might focus on unifying HR policy within an alliance. I am aware how difficult and challenging it could be, but it is not something unachievable. Ultimately, Qatar Airways belongs to oneworld alliance. If it is “oneworld”, then why not one policy across the alliance?

Thousands of Discriminated Women

Lastly, I want to point out it takes lot’s of courage to discriminate against a so many women and pretend nothing wrong is happening. Qatar Airways employs 9000 cabin crew, and 80% of those workers are women. it turns out about 7200 cabin crew employees were deliberately discriminated daily at work from day one. Paradoxically, Qatar Airlines was named the World’s Best Airline Alliance 2014 by Skytrax for the second year running. Interestingly, the news about discriminating employees by Qatar Airways was released three days before the airline won airline of the year award.

Question:
In the light of new evidence, would you still be inclined to support financially Qatar Airways by purchasing its ticket and enjoy its lavish on-board service and comfort?

References

AAAJ and Agencies. (2015) Qatar Airways found to have discriminated against women. Retrieved on June 21, 2015 from the World Wide Web: http://www.alaraby.co.uk/english/politics/2015/6/17/qatar-airways-found-to-have-discriminated-against-women

Airbus. (2014). Introducing Qatar Airways’ new A380. Retrieved on June 21, 2015 from the World Wide Web: https://youtu.be/QTpxRjyOUTw

Akbar, J. (2015). Qatar Airways condemned for telling new cabin staff they will be FIRED if they fall pregnant. Retrieved on June 21, 2015 from the World Wide Web: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3128046/Qatar-Airways-condemned-telling-new-cabin-staff-FIRED-fall-pregnant.html

Booth, R. (2015). Qatar Airways urged to scrap policy allowing it to sack pregnant cabin crew. Retrieved on June 21, 2015 from the World Wide Web: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/16/qatar-airways-scrap-policy-sack-pregnant-cabin-crew

International Transport Workers’ Federation.(2015). Press Release. ILO Finds Qatar Guilty. Retrieved on June 21, 2015 from the World Wide Web: http://www.itfglobal.org/en/news-events/press-releases/2015/june/ilo-finds-qatar-guilty/

Topham, G. (2015). Glass Ceiling in the Sky: Qatar Airways’ problem with pregnant cabin crew. Retrieved on June 21, 2015 from the World Wide Web: http://www.theguardian.com/world/2015/jun/19/glass-ceiling-in-the-sky-qatar-airways-pregnant-employees

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I am an aviation professional and a creative opportunity maker with never-ending drive to learn and explore. I have an enjoyable aviation career since 2001 and work presently as a landing gear manager for a leading Canadian maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) aircraft approved organization (AMO). I had an opportunity to work for two airlines where I gained a solid aircraft knowledge and experience working as an aircraft technician. I also had a privilege to earn both, undergraduate and graduate degrees, from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Daytona Beach, FL, USA. I also graduated from an aircraft maintenance program from Centennial College, Scarborough, ON, Canada. I always am ready to have a good conversation and to connect with my former co-workers and new friends. I can easily be found on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and Google Plus.

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