True or False: The Cabin Crew Recruitment Rumours that Won't Go Away. Are you too old?

True or False? The Cabin Crew Recruitment Rumours that Won’t Go Away

What are the most common Cabin Crew recruitment rumours?

The cabin crew recruitment process is seemingly full of rumour and myth.  And one of the worst airlines for this mystery is Emirates.  Take a look online and it won’t be long before you find a rumour about the Emirates Cabin Crew recruitment process.

And for that matter, rumours surrounding the recruiting processes of Etihad and Qatar Airways are just as bad – if not worse in some cases.

The problem is partly the fault of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar.  These three airlines have recruitment processes that seem opaque.  Final decisions are made respectively in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Doha so it’s difficult to know what criteria the airlines are using for the final cut.

As Emirates moves to an online application and video interview process the rumours just seem to get worse.  The selection criteria are meant to be based on competency and behavioural evaluation but can this be trusted?

Here are some of the biggest myths that surround cabin crew recruitment for the top Middle East airlines.  We’ve picked apart the rumour to find the fact behind them.

Am I too old to become cabin crew? Do Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways discriminate against older, more mature candidates

I’m Too Old to Become Cabin Crew with Emirates, Etihad Airways or Qatar Airways

Here’s an age-old question: Does Emirates, Etihad or Qatar Airways have a maximum age limit for Cabin Crew?  Now pick a number – 25? 28? 30? Maybe even 35?  There are lots of ideas out there for what age Emirates and the other Gulf airlines don’t recruit after.

You might hear stories about new joiners never seeing anyone over the age of 30 in training school.  But then you see a social media post about a friend of a friend who got accepted by Emirates at the age of 38.

Okay, so let’s start with what we do know.  The minimum age for Cabin Crew in the Middle East is 21.

All three airlines – Emirates, Etihad and Qatar – don’t advertise any maximum age for their Cabin Crew.  The question has been raised at multiple Open Day’s and recruiters from all three airlines have categorically stated that there is no a maximum age for new Cabin Crew.

That being said, the vast majority of new joiners are in their early to mid-twenties.  And despite what you may have heard, it is relatively uncommon for anyone over the age of 30 to be selected.  However, just because it’s not common doesn’t mean that Emirates, Etihad and Qatar are systematically discriminating against older candidates.

It is absolutely possible to be selected at the age of 35 or even older.  But there are good reasons why your age could get in the way of success – so you need to counter these reasons at every opportunity.

Why older candidates aren’t chosen:

Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways have their way of doing things – their approach to customer service, the onboard experience, safety, teamwork, etc – it all requires new Cabin Crew to 100% absorb and conform to the airline’s way of doing things.  The fear is that older candidates will be resistant to change and more likely to question the airline’s rules.

Secondly, the Gulf airlines fly some of the longest and most arduous routes in the world.  Recruiters are looking for candidates that are fit, healthy and able to deal with the rigours of constant long-haul travel.

You also have to remember that with a very clearly defined rank structure your supervisor or even Purser may be 10 years younger than you.

How to appeal to the recruiter as an older candidate:

  • Use your age to your advantage – Highlight the experiences you’ve had and skills you’ve gained.  Your level headed and mature.
  • Mention your love of staying fit and the fact that you are in good health.
  • Explain how you are open to new ways of doing things and fully embrace the airline’s approach to customer service.

Do Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways Only Hire Good Looking Cabin Crew?Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways Only Hire Good Looking Cabin Crew

As one airline recruiter said to me “We hire cabin crew of all shapes and sizes.  There is no one look we are after.”

But even with that reassurance, it’s easy to see why you might think that becoming a flight attendant is more like a modelling competition.  All the Gulf carriers use glamorous publicity shots of attractive (mainly female) Cabin Crew frequently in their advertising and promotional material.

And then there’s the fact that they require candidates to submit photos of themselves.  With Emirates even asking for prescriptive ‘casual’ shots as well.  A practice that is outlawed in many countries for fear of discrimination.

Unfortunately, there is a level of unfairness in Cabin Crew selection based on looks but this is mainly about personal grooming standards.

How to appeal to the recruiter:

  • Dress like a flight attendant looks – wear a business suit in a conservative colour such as black or grey.  Make sure its clean, pressed and your accessories are in immaculate condition.
  • Ensure your hair and makeup (for the ladies) are to the standard you would expect for a flight attendant.  Look at social media photos of serving Cabin Crew and emulate the look.
  • Despite what the recruiter said, airlines don’t hire candidates of all shapes and sizes.  There are specific rules about weight and height that are needed to comply with safety rules.  Keep this in mind before you submit your application.

Are men less likely to be chosen as cabin crew? Are men discriminated against in the cabin crew recruitment process?As a Man, My Chances of Becoming Cabin Crew are a Lot Slimmer

The average ratio of female to male Cabin Crew is 10-1.  Its a fact that more women are currently serving as flight attendants with Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways than men.

In the defence of the airlines, there are a lot more female applicants.  So are men being discriminated against?  The truth is that it’s difficult to know how far this apparent prejudice goes.

What we do know is that male candidates of Arab origin – Egyptian, Tunisian and Lebanese are the most represented in the Middle East airlines.  There are clearly good reasons for this.  The shared language and knowledge of Arab culture are advantages that are very important to the airlines.

How to appeal to the recruiter as a male candidate:

  • Highlight skills that will bring immediate value to the airline – fluency in foreign languages, etc.
  • Gain experience in dealing with different cultures.  A knowledge and experience in Arabic culture are a bonus.
  • Demonstrate your respect for women and other cultures.

Airlines don't hire cabin crew from my country? Does Emirates, Etihad and Qatar have a preference for cabin crew nationalitiesEmirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways Don’t Hire Cabin Crew of My Nationality

There was a recent furore over an allegation that Emirates only had ten Nigerian Cabin Crew.  For an airline that prides itself on having a diverse, multi-cultural workforce, the issue of whether Emirates hires certain nationalities is a common question.

Emirates have over 120 nationalities working for them.  Etihad and Qatar Airways have a similar representation.  In fact, the way in which the UAE and Qatar welcome’s workers from around the world is a lot more forward thinking than many other global airlines.

However, there are some factors at play that does mean certain nationalities are chosen more often than others.  Cabin Crew are selected to represent the route network of each airline.  They are able to understand the culture of the country they fly from.  They have a shared language and can better understand the specific needs of passengers.

That’s the reason why, for example, there are so many British Cabin Crew at Emirates – because the UK is such a popular destination.  The same goes for India.

Arabic nationalities from countries like Egypt and Tunisia are also popular because of the language skills and cultural awareness that these Cabin Crew bring with them.

Other factors include:

  • The location of Assessment Days – Recruiters can’t visit every country around the World.
  • How powerful your passport is – Take the passport of Afghanistan as an example.  Only 25 countries can be visited visa free with an Afghan passport.  Just imagine the logistical nightmare for someone of this nationality becoming Cabin Crew with an international airline like Emirates.

Will my medical history stop me from becoming cabin crew?The Airline Won’t Hire Me Because of My Previous Medical History

There are plenty of horror stories of candidates who were told they were successful, only to then be rejected because of a problem with their medical test results.  Although there are standard medical requirements for Cabin Crew, the reason for rejection isn’t always clear by the airline.

Take the story of Megan Cox, for example, who was rejected by Emirates because she once suffered from depression.  This is just one of many medical issues – that although not a mandatory reason to preclude you from becoming a flight attendant – might still mean a rejection from one of the Gulf airlines.

Lower back problems, musculoskeletal disorders and a previous history of invasive surgery can all lead to rejection.

You’ll also need to bear in mind that to obtain a visa to live and work in the UAE or Qatar you also need to comply with the following requirements:

  • Be HIV and AIDS free.
  • No history of pulmonary tuberculosis.
  • Negative for Hepatitis B and Syphilis.
  • Prove you do not have leprosy.

Recruiters are normally happy to discuss individual circumstances at the Assessment stage.

Mateusz Maszczynski

Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.

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