Traveling the world for free while getting a good salary?
Waking up in different cities every week just to go shopping/sightseeing?
Living in Dubai with free accommodations provided and tons of days off just to party all night?
…Your Instagram is filled with travel pictures and stories. Everyone envies your lifestyle.
.…You walk in the airports glamorously; people even take photos of you as if you were a celebrity.
Definitely not a typical 9-5 type of job. Stress-free from the boss and office life, no bringing job home.
I was fooled by those, but then I quit. Does it make you wonder?
I admit that I had issues regarding leaving. I had a lot of fears and uncertainties. I doubt myself that what if I could not make it post-cabin crew life? What else could I do apart from being a flight attendant? Am I going to miss my amazing salary? What if I regretted and wanted to come back?
Humans are rational creatures who put the pros and cons on the scale and choose what is best for us. However, the hardest part is to take a risk, take action, and accept the consequence of your decision. Things are going to be alright. There will not be perfect timing. Adjust and adapt yourself in time and always have a backup plan.
This article I wrote for those who are still wondering whether or not they should resign. It is all my personal opinions. I added some insights. You can analyze and raise questions to find your own conclusion.
Here are the reasons why being an Emirates Cabin Crew and living in Dubai was not as glamorous as I thought it was:
1. Long working hours in the air and exposure to health risks
Ultra-long haul flights to South/North America, Australia, and New Zealand continue to be an absolute challenge. Spending at least 14 hours flying is not a pleasant experience. Direct flights to Auckland from Dubai take approximately 16 to 17 hours to arrive; plus getting up to work, the time occupied in the airport and commute time to the hotels. You do the math.
We are most exposed to radiation on long-haul flights at more northerly latitudes, as the earth’s atmosphere is thicker over the equator and thinnest over the poles.
The rate of developing cancers among cabin crews is significantly high. I did at least; one extra long haul flight every month. Jet lag was persistent. Plus probable carcinogens (a substance that can cause you to suffer from cancer) and poor air quality in the cabin just ruin our immune system faster.
2. Unhealthy airplane food
Emirates Flight Catering Centre prepares at least 170.000 meals a day. Taste changes when the airplane is airborne. Industrial kitchens add up more salt and sugar to preserve the flavor. Meals are kept chilled for five days beforehand.
In Economy Class, casseroles are preserved in plastic containers. All were placed into in-flight ovens for at least 30 minutes at the minimal heat of 150ºC, before serving. It causes a chemical change.
Crews love munching these meals on particular flights. Bringing their own food was occasional, not consistent. Most flight attendants have digestive problems. I cook quality food more often now and stop ruining my health because of the desalinated liquid in Dubai.
3. Sleep deprivation affects mental health
Cabin crews periodically visit doctors. We get ill pretty often. Scientific proves: “Circadian rhythm interruptions lead to depression and fatigue induced by jet lag and frequent travel schedules lead to chronic anxiety and other complications.”
Quit flying makes the schedule is less messy. You will be able to enjoy holidays and off weekends. Sleeplessness and fatigue drain you emotionally. Sleep deprivation could affect every particular system in your body. It causes depression, a lack of motivation, and weakens the abilities of the brain that handles reasoning. This leads to the abnormal processing of emotions.
4. Lack of self-investment
Everyone wants to be a better version of themselves. It was hard to stick to my goals because of hectic and back to back flights. I am very grounded and seek stability, I feel more self-connected having plans every day to be on track.
Cabin crew job is repetitive. It does not challenge you that much to grow as an intellectual. You have to deal with rosters and slept debt; leaving little space for personal developments.
All the clutters from the job are gone since I quit. I can focus on my life more consciously.
5. The Comfort Zone
The company provided attractive benefits. Free accommodations, the good salary that comes monthly in the 26th, free transportation, decent layover allowance. You only need to pay for your personal expenses.
Many labor workers come from South Asia and the Philippines who don’t mind doing unpleasant duties. Everything is door-delivered. It makes us very idle and dependant. We barely exercise our brains to handle easy tasks. We procrastinate personal goals or projects because of fatigue or tiredness.
6. Living in a bubble
There are many daily expenses to worry about: Tax, rent, electricity, petrol, clothes, membership fees, food, transportation, healthcare, insurance, etc. Cabin crew in Dubai normally spend for night outs, leisure, or impulsive purchases. It is care-free.
The reality of life starts slipping away. You are in a comfort zone; it becomes a bubble that is hard to walk away from. Flying is good to see the world a bit (more like seeing different fancy hotels). It never brings the best out of you.
7. Losing track
Once you sign the contract, your life is basically under control. They assign you what to do, where to go, and when to work. You wait for a new roster monthly. It comes with heartache. Reserve month is even worse if you’re on standby. It’s impossible to plan rests or do stuff.
Flying and countless sleepless nights drain your energy; leaving little room for self-motivation. You compromise with whatever plan that appears. It takes discipline not to procrastinate your personal tasks. I was trying many times to start a blog, but I kept on making excuses. It took a massive determination to do things differently.
8. Instant friendships
“I am here for a great time, not for a long time.” – A typical fast-culture mindset. It is rare to have a great friendship with people in Dubai. You fly with new colleagues every time. We befriend so quickly. They reveal all of their secrets just a few hours knowing you on the flight. We barely keep in touch afterward. Both have to make an effort. We might see each other again (I mean if).
Unmatched rosters, excuses, tiredness, private plans, me-time; Our “friendships” just slip away as fast as how they appear. I felt like we were just layover friends. Perhaps we need a company. Someone to take our photos or to hang out with.
9. Distant from your family
If you are family-oriented, you will miss out on most of the family get-togethers, holidays and anniversaries. People think they can fly home easily, but tight rosters, overbooked flights, standby tickets that are hard to get on. The system was created to maximize company profits and efficiency. It does not necessarily benefit the employees.
If you are adventurous, you tend to spend your holidays to discover places. Chances to go home are even slimmer. Skype and other popular video call apps are blocked in the UAE. It is hard to get in touch daily with your family. Every decision that you make, it needs to base on your monthly rosters. It is not always possible to plan ahead.
10. Solitary life
A flight attendant is an occupation that has a 50.5% divorce rate. It is hard to make your partner understand your bizarre lifestyle unless he or she has the same occupation. Short-distance is tricky, long-distance is a no-no, making time for someone becomes a challenge.
Dubai is an artificial city with many man-made islands, almost too hot to go out and do anything. Since summer lasts for half a year, you spend days in malls swiping cards. August is the hottest with an average temperature of 96°F (36°C).
If you are a nature lover or an outdoor person, you will suffer. It is the city made for cars, surrounded by vehicles, concrete buildings, and sketchy constructions. Soulfulness, culture, and authenticity among subjectivities are hard to find.
People who could not earn a decent living back in their home country (including me) are attracted to Dubai. Showing off is a part of the culture: “all about the biggest, the richest, the tallest, the shiniest.” Elegance is somehow defined by simplicity and minimalism, but here, superficial people worship money. It is about driving fancy cars, making purchases, and looking badass.
12. When you spend, you SPEND
It is a city with a high cost of living. Cabin crews are only get paid when the aircraft door is closed as well as a minimal per diem while on layovers. The introduction of the new 5% VAT tax implemented last year in the UAE also had an impact. Organic and fresh products are costly. Most of the stuff is imported.
Many people live up to a standard that they cannot afford back home but too scared to walk away. Hardly anyone would want to live and build the rest of their life in Dubai. It is among the world’s most expensive cities to live for ex-pats.
Websites that publish content deemed to be contrary to morals and public decency or values of the country are blocked in the UAE. I used to click on a dating advising sort of website and it was blocked for no reason. You need to obtain a license to drink alcohol (though people still drink without getting caught).
Emirates is a government-own company with huge and complex departments. It is mandatory for you to strictly follow the rules. However, rules had been changed constantly. Consistency is an issue. It was hard to follow up.
The worst thing was some seniors on the flight and cabin crew managers. They abuse their power with zero leadership skills. Do not act smart because they will get intimidated. If you are at the bottom of the food chain, be quiet, and do your job. Do not speak up.
14. Toxic working environment
Trade unions, collective associations, and workers’ councils are illegal in the United Arab Emirates. Any industrial action (such as conducting a strike) is viewed as a public disorder offense. To report each other is also a norm within the company. You will be called off to the cabin crew manager’s office in your days off to solve issues, which happen in the cabin like weeks or months before.
A lot of double standards and back-stabbings are going on. Seniors and managers from higher hierarchy overuse their power. They see you as a number, not an employee. Your opinion will not matter as you are just a “dumb foreigner”.
15. Passengers from hell
Customer service is tough, everyone knows it. Working in the airplane means you will get stuck with people in a metal tube. Once passengers step into the aircraft, they suddenly turn kids.
Everyone wants a piece of you. They break rules, act like they know everything. You are nothing but a dumb airline waiter. They blame you for everything: flight delays, crying infants, smelly feet from the last row, ex-boyfriend break-up stories, guys that snore, vegetarian meals, rude ground staff, I want my “vater” (water)… You name it.
The worse part is the airline itself spoils them. At the end of the day; it is all about business and profits. Who cares about what cabin crews feel?
16. Life after flying
Life post-crew experience is not going to be easy. The longer you work as a crew, the harder it is to get back to your feet after the resignation unless you have a specific plan, a business idea, a new job, a skill that earns you money or some save-ups. Otherwise, it would be hellish. Experience working as a crew in Dubai, in reality, is not valued. Sometimes it is considered an employment gap.
The current job’s climate changes quickly on the ground and the competition is extremely tough. Life was smooth and easy as a crew in Dubai. In order to walk away from it. There is a price to pay, to face reality. You might need to start all over again, from scratch.
It is not the job for everybody.
Cabin crew is a great job, especially for young people. You get to see so many places in such a short time, live in a unique city like Dubai. High income and attractive benefits. You encounter different types of people and exposure to diverse cultures. Your perspectives change while traveling.
However, any job has its own pros and cons. I am grateful to take that path as a cabin crew. In my humble opinion, three to five years is best to work as a cabin crew in Dubai – a job that requires you to be mentally and physically healthy.
For those who plan to quit.
Think properly and have a back-up plan before you make a decision. Have at least a decent save-up, a property, a start-up business, a diploma/degree, a practical skill, a technical certificate – anything that lands you a job or helps you sustain. It is going to be a bit ugly for a few months, even years after you quit. Then you should be able to get back to your feet.
I heard many stories that ex-crews want to rejoin because they cannot find a job or lost after resignation. Do you want to put yourself in this situation? Think about the worst-case scenario: If you are going to be unemployed for a year, what would you do? Find out all the possibilities before making this crucial decision.
This blog post “7 Questions to ask yourself before you quit your flight attendant job” is really helpful for those who plan to submit the resignation or still considering.
Words from the insiders:
I made a little survey within the crew community on some of the top reasons that made them quit or want to quit the job:
“Feeling completely disrespected, disregarded and undervalued by the company in every aspect of the job. This feeling of being treated like I was nothing more than a staff number and less than human really impacted my well being and made me feel really angry at times.” – Inès Guendouz
“I live too far away, and my parents are getting older. I’m the one in charge of their finances in case something happens, and if something happens, I can’t fly out on a whim. If there’s a seat. Oh and by if something happens, if they die and not get injured or something else.” – Laura Elizabeth
“Perks fading away: no salary increase, no upgrade, no bonus; medical, travel and leisure benefits change. Discounted tickets difficult to use or (no leave, not enough days off or no chance because of full flights).” – Jemalin Grace Czerwonka
“I had something else that I wanted to pursue and felt like I couldn’t dedicate my time to it as I was either flying or trying to sleep for a flight or passed out sleeping after a flight and so on.” – Thais Duarte
“Night flights and public holidays with no extra pay especially when going for a flight at 3 am is seriously so much worse than an 8 am flight.” – Stef Steigner
“I am an outdoor person who prefers to walk over driving, sit on the grass rather than on the sofa. I can’t go out to Dubai from March to October. I hate living in this place and miss green rain snow, seasons, running through the forest, jumping in a lake, a good snowball fight, open a bottle of wine on the blanket in the park …. “ – Fabian Paul
“By the way, if you don’t feel like you can’t do it anymore. Quit! There are lots of things in the world you can do. Don’t waste your time with something you don’t enjoy. Right now my passion is makeup and pursuing to be professional MUA.” – Mintmintmint Anya
“I have a degree, diploma, speak multiple languages and have tons of work experience. But I can’t get back to my field (non-profit/NGO) because they consider EK experience an employment gap, so it seems like I shot myself in the leg.” – Ghazal Ka
“The main issue for me is the toxic atmosphere that’s leeched in over the last few years. The way the top brass view the bread and butter of the company with disregard and contempt is quite frankly disgusting and I don’t wish to be a part of that a day longer than necessary.” – Stevie Leonard
“I have done 15 years and 5 months, Purser, resigned at 38 yo, no other plans yet, my goal is to take care of my health, recover from all the flying, spend time with my husband and son, and hopefully conceive another little human.” – Maeva Brondel
There are advantages and disadvantages in every job. There is no perfect one. Things that you look at sometimes is not as the way as they seem. The grass is greener on the other side. I’m actually grateful for having an opportunity that has changed me forever.
“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change”Albert Einstein
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