Recruitment: How to work in the aviation industry

It’s the ultimate high-flying career, in one sense at least.

Working in aviation – particularly roles actually up in the air, like pilots and cabin crew – is often perceived as a glamourous calling.

Travelling the world to sometimes exotic and sophisticated destinations – and actually getting paid for it – certainly appeals to some.

And the pay in some roles also supports the ‘glam’ perceptions: Pilots can earn more than Dh42,000 a month at captain level. While cabin crew get paid much less, they often get perks such as concessionary travel and free accommodation.

But like all professions there are pros and cons, says aviation expert Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research.

“It really depends on what your interpretation of ‘glam’ is,” said Mr Ahmad.

“The working hours, as we know, aren’t your usual 9 to 5, so that from the outset may put people off.

“But having said that, the remuneration, long term job security, the ability to work in many eclectic cities and with different cultures is exactly what some people seek – and there’s no better industry to do that all in other than in aviation.

“But, it’s not an easy ride and a lot of hard work and commitment is needed.”

The Arabian Gulf’s airlines are looking for more and more people to make that commitment to support their bold expansion plans.

Read the Aviation edition of Benchmark Middle East online here

The UAE airlines Emirates and Etihad, for example, each embarked on a cabin crew recruitment drive last month. Emirates airline already employs 56,725 staff, as per its 2014-2015 annual report, with many more thousands working in the wider Emirates Group. It is recruiting additional staff for the 37 aircraft expected to be delivered this year.

Here Benchmark asked Alison Ward, Emirates’ vice president of recruitment, for her view on what the airline is looking for in new employees.

Q&A with Alison Ward, Emirates’ Vice President of Recruitment

aero boss

In which areas of the business is Emirates recruiting most heavily?

To complement our fleet and network growth with 37 aircraft to be delivered this year, we are mostly recruiting cabin crew and pilots, as well as other ground roles for operational areas and corporate services.

What qualities do you look for in candidates and what are the top tips for applying for a job at Emirates?

As our employee diversity is made up of over 160 nationalities, Emirates values talents who can embrace cultural diversity and use that uniqueness to share new ideas, innovations and thinking styles that lead to business success. Regardless of nationality, we ultimately look for employees with a positive attitude, confidence, flexibility, maturity, a friendly disposition, and importantly a genuine passion to help others, providing quality service to both internal and external stakeholders. As a global brand that connects people to places and their passions, we are also drawn to candidates who have a keen interest in travel and learning about the world. We want our employees to be ‘globalistas’.  Ultimately, Emirates seek for employees who are passionate in seeing the company maintain its position as a leader in aviation, driving it forward in growth and innovation.

Emirates said in April that it is conducting assessment days in several global cities, looking for new cabin crew given the large number of aircraft it has on order. How many crew is it looking for in total?

We are recruiting in more than 58 cities globally for new cabin crew, pilots and staff for airport operations… Emirates currently employs about 23,000 crew members and we plan to hire 5,500 this financial year.

What qualities are required of cabin crew in particular?

Cabin crew candidates must have a genuine desire to help others and a meticulous approach to service excellence. They must be confident communicators who are able to speak and write English well. Knowing other languages is an added advantage. Since we have a multicultural team and as we fly to over 150 destinations around the globe, cultural awareness and sensitivity are key traits. They should be comfortable in many different places, cultures and situations and able to thrive in new experiences.

FINANCES UP IN THE AIR: What do airline staff earn?


Captains are paid a basic monthly salary of Dh42,015, based on 85 block hours

First officers are paid a basic monthly salary of Dh29,700, based on 85 block hours

An hourly flying pay, and additional ‘productivity pay’ paid for every block hour above the 88-hour threshold

Perks include a profit share scheme, company accommodation or allowance to live in Dubai, utilities support allowance, education support allowance, end-of-service gratuity, 42 days’ annual leave, annual flight tickets, personal chauffeur service and travel concessions

There’s also life, accident, medical and dental insurance


Basic salaries depend on position

Perks include: Shared accommodation (with own bedroom), transport to and from the airport, profit share scheme, 30+ days’ leave, end-of-service gratuity, annual flight tickets, education support allowance

There’s also life, accident, medical and dental insurance