If 2022 was about bringing on board new pilot hires, UAE and Gulf airlines have been fast tracking recruitment of cabin crew in recent times. Image Credit: Shutterstock

Dubai: More pilots, cabin crew, and ground staff needed. And it’s turning out to be another year of strong hiring by UAE airlines as they head into another busy travel season.

The salaries and other perks that go with an airline job too are rising. Industry consultants say that salaries, especially those for cabin crew, have risen an average 5-10 per cent compared to last year. “There is a possibility of pay scales going up by 20 per cent per cent this year itself as and when airlines receive their new aircraft," said a recruitment expert specializing in the aviation sector.

Full-service carriers now offer cabin crew salaries that range from Dh9,500 to Dh11,500 on average, while those with low-cost carriers get up to Dh8,500. In the UAE, a first officer's basic wage is Dh31,341 per month, and an ‘enhanced package’ for pilots starts from Dh35,000 and over.

Get exclusive content with Gulf News WhatsApp channel

The second-half of this year and early next could see further boosts to industry-wide packages as Saudi Arabia’s Riyadh Air prepares for launch of services. Other carriers in the Gulf, meanwhile, keep hiring as demand for travel into and out of the Gulf shows no signs of slowing down any time soon.

“Given that Air Arabia’s business is growing at 11 per cent, we aim to boost the airline’s workforce by an additional 10 to 12 per cent,” said Air Arabia CEO Adel Abdulla Ali in a recent interview.

We aim to boost the airline’s workforce by an additional 10 to 12%

- Adel Abdulla Ali

The Air Arabia Group employs a 5,000 strong workforce across its hubs. The CEO confirmed the carrier would be growing its fleet to 90 aircraft (with leased jets) to meet travel demand.

More passengers, new aircraft

All this while airlines continue to grapple with deliveries of new aircraft, which is why some of them have supplemented their fleets with leased aircraft.

Emirates announced in January its plan to recruit 5,000 cabin crew members this year for its upcoming A350s. By end April, the Dubai airline confirmed it would continue increasing pilot hires and their salaries.

read more

With 65 new aircraft scheduled for delivery starting mid-next year, Emirates also launched a recruitment drive for cabin crew positions, specifically targeting UAE residents.

"The new recruits will be a part of the world’s largest international airline and one of the most iconic brands, plus they will learn hospitality and life skills from the best trainers in the business," Emirates said in a statement.

‘People make a difference’

Meanwhile, UAE’s flag carrier Etihad Airways recruits an average of 200 pilots every year.

The airline’s CEO, Antonoaldo Neves, said: “Over the past two to three years, we hired 2,000 flight attendants. People can really make a difference, and our people are doing a phenomenal job.”

We went from 10 million to 14 million in a year. If we didn't have good people, we wouldn't have been able to do that. Our people are doing a phenomenal job.

- Antonoaldo Neves

The airline’s passenger load factor averaged 84 per cent throughout April. He added, “In April, we experienced 39 per cent year-on-year growth in customers, further underlining our positive growth trajectory and contributing to a 4 per cent boost in load factor, despite a considerable increase in capacity against the same period in 2023.”

The air services provider dnata also said it plans to ‘firm up’ its employee numbers. “We have about 48,000 employees globally, of whom 13,000 are in Dubai,” said Steve Allen, dnata’s CEO. “We have planned a single-digit growth in the employee numbers this year.

We have planned a single-digit growth in the employee numbers this year (2024).

- Steve Allen

“There is growth that is happening in the Dubai aviation market, so we will continue to recruit in Dubai,”

How are regional carriers doing on hiring?

Riyadh Air CEO Tony Douglas says recruitment has been ‘one of the big success stories’. The Saudi airline will launch its first commercial flight in 2025. Riyadh Air launched its recruitment drive early last year.

We are up to 1.1 million applicants now from 146 different nationalities.

- Tony Douglas

“We are up to 1.1 million applicants now from 146 different nationalities,” said Douglas. “We will be around 700 employees by year-end, and we will be at about 15,000 within the first two years.”

The Gulf’s other major airline, Qatar Airways, has also been organizing multiple road shows in Vietnam, Ecuador, the Philippines, Zimbabwe, Malaysia, Fiji, and the Netherlands. The airline employs over 15,000 cabin crew and offers an average salary of QR10,136 (Dh10,199).