Qatar Airways, which warned it would be making “substantial” job cuts earlier in the month, has now landed in hot water on how, allegedly, the layoffs program is being handled. Following a now-viral letter from a former pilot, the Qatari national carrier is now, once again, accused of ageist policies against its cabin crew.
At the end of March 2020, Qatar Airways warned it was running out of cash and would seek support from the Qatari government. In early May 2020, the airline revealed it could not keep the current amount of jobs and needed “to make a substantial number of jobs redundant.”
The airline did not reveal how many jobs were at stake but said redundant employees would still be paid their contractual dues and any unpaid overtime. For employees, who were unable to return to their home countries due to travel restrictions, the airline would provide housing and a living allowance until the restrictions are lifted.
However, it appears that resentment towards layoffs is growing and Qatar Airways might have to navigate some tough waters in the public eye. Two separate stories questioning the Qatari carrier’s firing policies have emerged over the last few days.
On May 7, 2020, a social media user posted a picture of a letter, in which Qatar Airways allegedly informs a pilot about employment contract termination. The detail that caused outrage was that a soon-to-be-jobless pilot was (allegedly) asked to pay the company $162,354 (QAR 591,091) compensation for a training program.
@TameemAlthani @KBKAlthani @qatarairwaysar أنا مواطنة قطرية، موظفة في شركة الخطوط الجوية القطرية، حدث اليوم الخميس الموافق 7/5/2020 إجراء إنهاء خدماتي بدون ذكر أسباب تأديبية أو ماشابه، أرجو من سيادتكم التحقق في الموضوع pic.twitter.com/aOpDRg6kPn
— Jawaher Al-Hail (@AlhailJ) May 7, 2020
While the carrier’s side of the story remains unknown, some media reports indicated that a request to pay back training costs might not be as outrageous as it sounds. “The other side of the story here is that the pilot has spent the past six years completing a two-year training course, and still hasn’t passed any of the tests necessary to become a pilot. The airline became fed up, and since they’re firing pilots anyway and trying to cut costs, they also decided to terminate their contract with her at this point,” wrote One Mile at a Time.
Qatar Airways Grandma’s Scandal Vol.2?
While the exact numbers on how many employees would be fired are not yet known, even less so the exact numbers of employees in specific positions, some suspect that around 5000 flight attendants could be made redundant.
The airline is reportedly firing flight attendants based on several criteria. Put under the axe are new hirees who have not yet completed training, are working for the airline for less than six months, and foreigners who are stuck outside Qatar due to entry restrictions, reported Paddle Your Own Kanoo on May 11, 2020.
However, the publication mentions one more category of cabin crew who are, allegedly, receiving employment termination letters by Qatar Airways ‒ those, who have worked for the airline for more than 15 years.
While none of the criteria, including the last one, are officially confirmed, firing experienced (thus, older) flight attendants sounds eerie familiar to a previous scandal Qatar Airways once landed.
Back in July 2017, Qatar Airways CEO, the notoriously outspoken Akbar Al Baker, boasted about the average age of the airline’s cabin crew being “only” 26 years, in addition to describing the U.S. flight attendants as “grandmothers”.
“By the way, the average age of my cabin crew is only 26 years, so there is no need for you to travel on these crap American carriers. […] You know, you are always being served by grandmothers on American airlines,” Al Baker said to the audience’s amusement at a gala event in Dublin, Ireland on July 5, 2017.
AeroTime has reached out to Qatar Airways for comment.