Gasp! Emirates first class passengers on flights in and out of the UK will no longer have shower attendants. UK authorities have deemed the shower attendants non-crew as they do not possess flying licenses and are therefore not eligible for special crew visas that facilitate entry into the UK.
Our friends at One Mile At A Time are reporting on some interesting background behind the move. And it opens a can of worms about exploitation. It’s not confined to Emirates, or first class. It’s symptomatic of the widespread issue of the first world using people from elsewhere to make their first world lives easier.
Would you like the job?
Flying first class, whether you’ve paid in cash or points or scored an upgrade, is an opportunity for the privileged few. The Emirates shower is considered a gold plated deluxe travel experience. Good luck, I guess, to the people who get to experience it. But have you ever thought about the person employed to maintain the showers inflight?
Emirates employs a shower attendant on flights with showers in the first class cabins. Cleaning up other people’s watery mess, picking up their soggy towels, and generally facilitating a five star experience for other people isn’t my idea of fun. But on the flip side, you’d get to travel, you’d get some nice all expenses paid layovers, and the pay should be keen. Or at least I’d have thought so.
Turns out it isn’t the case.
Emirates shower attendants aren’t flight attendants. They are basically cleaners. They don’t get the same training as flight attendants and they get paid a lot less. When they aren’t wiping down the showers they are cleaning toilets elsewhere on the aircraft.
Because they aren’t trained crew, they don’t have a flying license and are therefore not eligible for the special visa privileges the rest of the aircraft’s crew have to go in and out of the UK.
After a decade of not realizing, or not caring, UK authorities have woken up to this and effectively banned Emirates from bringing shower attendants on board UK bound flights.
Passengers won’t have to pick up their own towels
Passengers probably won’t even notice the difference. Emirates is employing an extra fully paid flight attendant to look after the showers. The remainder of the flight attendants will be responsible for maintaining the toilets in their own section of the aircraft.
And I guess when you are dropping ten grand or two hundred thousand points for a first class flight, you might think it’s reasonable for someone to clean the showers and toilets. Fair enough.
But there is something slightly unseemly about treating the cleaners on a plane as second class citizens. Just as the purser has an important job – pouring drinks and keeping people safe – so too do the cleaners. Shouldn’t they be on an equal footing when it comes to employment conditions and visas?
It isn’t an issue that’s confined to Emirates and this isn’t the forum for making arguments about exploitation and wage inequity. While Emirates probably hates having to put an extra flight attendant onto UK flights to service the showers, it is vaguely gratifying to know that at least this person is being properly paid and is considered crew.
Simple Flying has reached out to Emirates for a comment but has not heard back prior to publication.
And always remember to thank the shower attendant.