Only 3% Of Emirates’ Workforce Is Emirati

If you have ever flown on Dubai’s Emirates Airline you will have noticed a distinct lack of locals working as cabin crew. Unfortunately, just like other Gulf carriers, Emirates as a whole only have a small percentage of UAE staff.

Despite being the region’s largest airline with around 100,000 employees, Emirates only has around 3% of locals who work for them, most of whom are in management positions.

Emirates Airline A380 Rhino
Only 3% of Emirates staff comes from the UAE. Photo: Emirates

It would appear that, despite the many jobs available at the airline, locals see them as being below them in stature and rank with cabin crew staff perceived as being nothing more than waiters and waitresses.


In fact, of Emirates more than 23,000 cabin crew, only 50 of them are Emiratis, something the oil-rich state would like to see changed.


Emirates want more locals in its cabin crew

With an expected 3,000 cabin crew vacancies in the coming year, executive vice-president of Human Resources at Emirates, Abdul Aziz Ali told announced at a media round table attended by Gulf News that his goal is to hire more Emiratis.

Emirates Airline non-UAE cabin crew
Emirates want to hire 3,000 local cabin crew. Photo: Emirates

Along with the 3,000 cabin crew jobs the airline has 120 ground crew jobs in Dubai exclusively reserved for locals. When speaking about the vacancies, set aside for locals Ali said:


“Emiratis do not want to do jobs in the low-ranking grades. That is why we are inviting them to do jobs like cabin crew and also ground staff, with attractive packages and benefits.

“Cabin crew role provides the opportunity for Emirati men and women to act as ambassadors of the distinct Emirati culture abroad. More than just a role focused on service and ensuring safety onboard, cabin crew members are primed for long and fruitful careers within the group. The diversity [of the job profile] helps us. This is why I want to encourage Emiratisation of the cabin crew.”

To encourage more Emiratis to apply for jobs the airline has decided to hold promotional events at schools that highlight the perks of the job while also giving the school children a better understanding of what the job entails.

Emirates is offering great pay and perks to attract Emiratis

Cabin crew salaries for Emiratis start at Dh18,000 ($4,900) per month plus a retention fee of between Dh4000 to Dh5000 ($1,090 to $1,360). On top of this, Emirati cabin crew will receive free accommodation, meals, and transportation.

Emirates Airline Cabin crew
There is no limit on spending to attract locals to join Emirates. Photo: Emirates

In a bid to retain UAE nationals, the airline offers programs for career advancement, scholarships, and partnerships with government entities. Emirates also offers training with key partners such as Airbus, General Electric, DHL, and Rolls Royce.

Ali said that the airlines CEO and Chairman Shaikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum has offered an open budget for attracting Emiratis to join Emirates Airline.

“This is a tremendous support from our chairman,” he said.

Will Emirates be successful in their quest to hire local staff?

While a salary of over $6,000 per month along with free accommodation, meals and transport may seem attractive to young people looking for a job that allows them to travel the world, how Emiratis will see it is a different matter.

Long-held beliefs about the social status of people who serve other people may put many young Emiratis off from applying. Some may also find that family members will try and discourage them or even forbid them from working in what could be considered, in their eyes, a menial job.

Add to this their Muslim culture and the need to serve alcohol and work during Ramadan and you have yet more reasons for a local not to take the job.

Oman Air flight crew
One-third of Oman Air cabin crew are locals. Photo: Oman Air

Oman Air has been successful in their drive to recruit Omani cabin crew with nearly a third of their flight attendants made up of locals. Of the 500 Omani cabin crew, only 50 are female, a hurdle Emirates will face during their recruitment drive.

What do you think will Emirates be successful in recruiting locals or will the airline need to backtrack and hire foreigners to fill the vacant positions?

Please tell us what you think in the comments section.


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It may not be just religion and perceived status. Several of my friends who have worked in the UAE..but not in Emirates… unanimously say the locals are inherently lazy.


Many countries in that area have a very generous welfare state. Free housing, healthcare and education plus a monthly income. Bribing the populace to keep them content. Under those circumstances many of the locals decide not to consider working. They also may have more children to get more income. Local companies wouldn’t hire them (unless there was a mandate) because foreign labor is cheaper and the local didn’t need the job. A lot of the qualified locals who want a career often take jobs in other countries When I worked in Bahrain there were a bunch of “no show jobs”… Read more »


This will create jealousy between the expats cabin crew and the Emirati cabin crew.
Why … because if your colleague does the same work as you, he or she gets double paid.
Very unfair

Joan Krizman

I would NOT want to get on an Emirates plane with a local pilot.


The conversation is about Cabin Crew, not cockpit crew.


Emirates should definitely hire more Emiratis, but do so on the basis of merit and not just nationality. Service oriented people capable of doing a good job with customer care come in all nationalities but a chance in mindset is also needed.