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Qatar Airways and Emirates Airlines have both defended their policies on pregnancy and marriage after the Qatar carrier came under fire over poor working conditions for female cabin crew employees.
Last year a Swedish newspaper published an article, The truth about the luxury of Qatar Airways, which described restrictions faced by female cabin crew.
There has also been a campaign from the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) who are urging people to protest to the airlines over their “unacceptable attitudes” towards female employees.
Qatar Airways employee contracts state that no member of the cabin crew is allowed to marry during the first five years of employment. Emirates also has a policy whereby a cabin crew member who falls pregnant in their first three years of employment will have to leave, if there are no ground jobs available.
Qatar Airlines CEO Akbar Al Baker told reporters at the ITB trade show in Berlin, in statements carried by Reuters, this was a “sensational” attempt to target Qatar because of it controversially winning the right to host the 2022 World Cup.
He said Qatar Airways was recruiting 250 to 300 cabin crew every month and each time they look to find new recruits it attracts around 800 potential candidates.
“If you come to seek employment with Qatar Airways we give you a document that these are the rules and regulations, if you as a mature individual accept those conditions, then you shouldn’t complain.
“We are not in the business where we can guarantee ground jobs or let people stay away and don’t do anything for the airline.
“You know they have come there to do a job and we make sure that they are doing a job that they give us a good return on our investment,” Al Baker said.
Most airlines will not allow cabin crew to board flights once pregnant due to health concerns, although some countries allow them to work for up to three months into the pregnancy.
Emirates’ chief commercial officer, Thierry Antinori, said employees who have been employed for more than three years have the option of taking paid maternity leave.
"If you are hired by Emirates as a cabin crew, during the first three years we expect from you to fly.
"Last year, we had 129,000 applications for cabin crew at Emirates. I do not think these are conditions that are making people reluctant to work for us," Antinori added.
ITF’s president Paddy Crumlin said there’s a “climate of fear” developing at Qatar Airways. “To work for Qatar Airways is to always be looking over your shoulder – and that’s particularly true for women workers. The airline’s unwholesome reputation is more than deserved,” he said.