Emirates Cabin crew
UAE airlines benefitted from starting the hiring process, whether for pilots or cabin crew, early enough. Most other global carriers are still playing at catch up. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: UAE’s airlines are in full recruitment mode, and they are attracting top aviation talent from India and the wider South Asia region. The aviation industry, which was facing a pilot shortage even before 2020, had to put recruitment plans on hold due to the pandemic.

According to the consultancy Oliver Wyman, there will be a global gap of 34,000 pilots by 2025 - this could be as high as 50,000 in the most extreme scenarios. “The Gulf has actually attracted a lot of engineers and pilots from India, Pakistan, and Bangladesh,” said Mark Martin, CEO of Martin Consulting. “This not just for airlines, but also MRO operators and helicopter companies – this exodus is now being felt in India.”

Several Indian airlines and companies have continued salary cuts into 2022, a move that has antagonized aviation staff, who are already dealing with long work hours. Meanwhile, major Gulf-based carriers were early to restore salaries and benefits for their employees, while offering pay packages that are on the higher end of industry standards.

“It’s as simple as this – if you don’t treat your people well, they will find a job and move on,” said Martin. “There’s no doubt that the Gulf as a market is very lucrative and viable for freshers as well as experienced employees.”

After conducting massive layoffs in the last two years, airlines in UK and Europe are facing a severe staffing deficit. This has resulted in flight cancellations running into the thousands, stranded passengers and now London Heathrow – Britain’s busiest airport – has taken the drastic decision of limiting passenger capacity on outbound flights.

“The aviation training academies did not really churn out as many pilots and engineers because of the lockdown,” said Martin. “We started the pandemic with a pilot shortage, so there were a lot of things not planned and that’s really shocking.”

Emirates’ hires

Dubai’s Emirates, which has been recruiting pilots and cabin crew since 2021, is looking to take on more First Officers amid a surge in travel demand. “Successful candidates can look forward to climbing new career heights with Emirates’ all wide-body fleet and ever-expanding global route network, and enjoy an excellent lifestyle in dynamic Dubai,” said the airline, in a statement.

Stock - Emirates pilot / First officers
Emirates is out to hire more pilots as airline targets full operational and network use in the near future.

According to the airline’s website, a First officer will have a basic pay of Dh30,826 per month and will be entitled to an accommodation allowance of up to Dh15,500. Emirates will also offer an education allowance of up to Dh42,750 for primary school goers and Dh65,250 for secondary.

Etihad too

Last October, Etihad said it was looking to hire up to 1,000 new staffers to join as cabin crew. The airline said the recruitment days would take place in 10 countries, including Egypt, Lebanon, Russia, Spain, Italy, and the Netherlands, apart from the UAE.

“Etihad offers a competitive salary and benefits package for cabin crew that not only includes accommodation and travel allowances, but the opportunity to learn and grow, see the world and be part of an internationally recognised and award-winning team,” said an airline spokesperson in June.

Stock Etihad cabin crew
Etihad Airways will be recruiting additional staff to support the airline’s operational growth.

According to Glassdoor, the estimated total pay for a pilot at Etihad is Dh68,000 per year. Pilots can typically earn between Dh16,000-Dh55,000, depending on the airline and experience levels. A flight attendant in UAE can earn around Dh120,000 per annum.

Wizz Air goes on a spree

Wizz Air Abu Dhabi plans to double its workforce by the year-end as it adds more aircraft. The budget airline - a joint venture between Hungary’s Wizz Air and Abu Dhabi’s ADQ - will then have a total workforce of 400 including cabin crew as it hits full recruitment mode.

Wizz Air crew members
Owain Jones of Wizz Air said: “You can reach senior and command positions far quicker than you would do at a traditional low-growth growth airline.”

The airline will add four more aircraft to its fleet this year. “This creates all sorts of opportunities to advance and become senior cabin crew and then trainers, and even for pilots to advance their careers,” said Owain Jones, Development Officer at Wizz Air, in an interview with Gulf News earlier.

Back to 2019

Despite the rising adoption of emerging technologies, the aviation industry will need all its pre-Covid staff to get back to growth mode again.

“Staffing for roles such as those at the airports and on-board an aircraft has to be restored as before,” said an industry source. “Nothing in the last two years has changed as far as these staffing levels are concerned.”

Middle East based airlines are expected to become profitable in 2023 due to the pent-up travel demand. Region-wide losses for these airlines this year will dip to $1.9 billion from $4.7 billion loss in 2021. Air travel demand - measured in revenue passenger kilometres (RPKs) - is expected to reach around 79 per cent of pre-Covid levels.

Recruitment roadshow
Emirates is conducting a recruitment roadshow in the UK at various locations.

“Come and meet the Pilot Recruitment team to find out more about our recruitment process, about being an Emirates pilot and living in Dubai,” said the airline on its website.

Prospective candidates can join an information session at 10am or 1pm at one of the locations below:

August 11 – Double Tree by Hilton, Manchester Airport

August 12 – Hilton Garden Inn, Luton North Airport

August 13 – Crowne Plaza, Gatwick Airport, Crawley