That was Weird: My Experience at an Emirates Cabin Crew Open Day

That was Weird: My Experience at an Open Day for Emirates Cabin Crew

I stumbled out into the cold, January air, trying to make sense of what had just happened.  I was struggling to think straight – the same thought just kept going round and round in my head – “Well that was weird.”  As I left the five-star hotel, located in a major European city, I looked back to see other people in the same position as me.

We were all leaving a Cabin Crew recruitment event being held by Emirates airline.  The day had been billed as an ‘Open Day’ but the instructions I found on the Emirates website suggested that this wasn’t just a chance to find out more about the airline and the glamorous life as a Flight Attendant.

You were to bring copies of your resume and two colour photographs.  One, a passport style shot, the other a full-length picture.  You were to wear business attire and the photos were to show you smiling.  Candidates were to be chosen.  And the lucky few would get to take to the sky.

Unfortunately, despite my best efforts, I hadn’t been successful on that day.  Nor had the hundred or so other people who followed me out of the hotel on that chilly morning.  What followed, was an almost obsessive desire to achieve my dream.

Before I go any further, it would probably be a good idea to rewind a little.  I’ll be honest – I was pursuing a career as Cabin Crew a little later in life.  I had spent years thinking about doing the job but had never done anything about it.

Getting a job with Emirates was easy, right?

But then I met several flight attendants who just so happened to be working for Emirates.  It didn’t take much effort for them to twist my arm and persuade me to go for it.

I was pumped up.  My friends had convinced me that I’d get the job.  It seemed easy, or so they made out: you turn up at an Open Day and get shortlisted through to an Assessment Centre.  Then after a short interview, you’ll be on your way to Dubai.  All you have to do is smile, be yourself and play by the rules.  Easy.

Okay, the rules.  There’s plenty of advice on how to succeed at an Emirates Open Day.  Not that I had a clue.  But then the text messages full of tips and advice started to arrive from my friends:

“Make sure you smile at all times”, “Make friends with as many people as possible”, “Remember to tell the recruiter you already know cabin crew working for Emirates”.

Then curiosity got the better of me and I had Google.  Whoah!  Suddenly it hit me – who I was kidding?  Landing a job with Emirates was most definitely not going to be easy.  200,000 applications are received by Emirates every year but only 20,000 Cabin Crew work for the airline.  Do the math.  The odds were definitely stacked against me.

The first Open Day – Nerve-racking and shortlived

When the day of the event arrived, I was nervous as hell.  I put on my best business dress, spritzed myself with fancy perfume and walked out the door feeling like a million bucks.  Walking towards the hotel, I eyed up everyone around me.

Yep, they were my competition.  And oh man, they were stunning. I plastered a big grin on my face and surveyed the scene.

I thought I had got to the hotel early.  But clearly, I had a different idea of what was early compared to the hundred or so other ‘candidates’ who were already waiting.  I made my move and found a few friendly faces.  Time to make conversation and try to calm down.

I had travelled about 50 miles for this Open Day, which to me seemed bad enough.  But as I got to meet people, it turned out other candidates had come from all across Europe.  There were others who had come from as far afield as South Korea – just to be at this Open Day.

Now let’s be clear – This was an Open Day.  As in, it was open for anyone to attend.  There was literally no guarantee that any of us would be offered a job with Emirates.  These people were super committed.

The moment I had been planning for

And then the recruiter arrived.  A deadly hush fell over the assembled crowd.  We dutifully followed her instructions and filed into the large conference room.  Everyone sat in silence to watch a presentation.  First a video, then a chat from the recruiter.  Bonus points for anyone who could answer her questions – or so it seemed.

After an hour or so the presentation was over.  Now down to business.  Hand over your resume, write your name against a number and then leave the room.  You’ll find out if you’ve been shortlisted in 20 minutes.

I’d been planning this moment for ages.  This is the point where the recruiter asks why you want to work as cabin crew.  Why you want to work for Emirates.  Or so I thought.  I got to the front of the queue and handed over my resume and then…. Nothing.  No questions, no chat, not even a glance up from her paperwork.

A short time later and the results were stuck on a door outside the conference room.  Highlighted names had been shortlisted.  The recruiter had used the highlighter pen very sparingly.

I looked at my name – it wasn’t highlighted.  It was my handwriting and yet I didn’t believe it.  I looked back several times.  Nope, still not highlighted.  And so, there I was – ejected into the cold winter air.  Already planning my next move.

Following Emirates city by city

Every month, Emirates would post a list of dates and cities in which they were to hold these Open Days.  And while it seemed to me that this was a grossly unfair way of recruiting new Cabin Crew I got totally wrapped up in the process.  Plotting where and when I could attend an Open Day and perhaps get lucky.

The second Open Day ended just as abruptly as the first.  So did the third.  Was I going to give up?  No.  I’d read the success stories of Emirates Cabin Crew who had taken 6,7 or even 8 attempts to get the job.  And then, on my fourth attempt, as I looked up at the list of highlighted names, I found myself shortlisted.

I was even more dumbstruck than I was at my first Open Day.  Okay, I had worked hard to get my CV up to scratch but I was still pretty much the same person that had been so quickly ejected on my first attempt.

Success – or so I thought

Everything else seemed so simple.  The shortlisted candidates numbered, maybe 15 in total.  The ‘Assessment Day’ was held straight away.  And well, having gone to so much effort to get to this point this bit actually seemed easy.  A few group exercises, more candidates were cut and then a simple English language test.  After a couple of hours, I was being invited to Final Interview.  This was crazy.

Luckily, I had the night to get my act together.  I had planned for nearly every possible interview question you could think of, although I had a rough idea of what questions would probably be asked.  The recruiter didn’t disappoint.  It was just me and her in the room.  It lasted just 20 minutes and only four questions were asked.

What next?  Well, I had to submit more photos – this time they were to be ‘casual shots’ but the rules were so prescriptive they had to be staged.  A visible scar had to be measured and logged.  That was it.  You’ll find out in 2-3 months said the recruiter.

I must have checked and refreshed my emails every minute of every day.  I nervously checked my phone to see if it had signal.  I didn’t want to miss a call from Dubai.  A month went by and nothing.

The future

Six months had passed since my first ever Open Day.  I was lazing in the sun as I heard my phone ping – an email alert.  Without hesitation, I grabbed my phone and accessed my emails.  My eyes scanned across the email – “unfortunately”, “wish you the very best” “reapply in six months.”  Of course, I re-read the email over carefully.  Over and over again.  It wasn’t going to change the fact that I hadn’t been successful.

The sense of defeat and disappointment was crushing.  Like many other hopefuls, I had spent goodness knows how many hours – and hundreds of Euros – to get to this stage.  But it wasn’t to be.

I actually waited six months and reapplied.  Turning up at that fifth Open Day I genuinely thought that the next recruiter would shortlist me.  I was wrong.

Today, I’m much more philosophical about what happened.  It was a real eye opener, a life experience that I’m glad to have gone through.  I met some genuinely lovely people along the way and while it didn’t end up as I had hoped, I grew as a person.

Of course, I still don’t think Open Days are particularly fair.  And I’m glad that Emirates have put an end to them.  In the future, the Emirates recruitment procedure will look a lot different.  I support that move.

Luckily for me, several other airlines did see my potential.  It is thankfully, a happy ending to a long journey.

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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