How Etihad Airways is recruiting and training cabin crew amid a hiring frenzy

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Cabin crew recruits gaze intently at the scene unfolding before them at a mock Boeing 787 airplane door as a colleague yells, “Unseat belts, leave everything behind!”

“Come this way, jump and slide!” she repeats, urgently waving imaginary passengers to the door.

This is just one of many hands-on sessions Etihad Airways cabin crew undergoes during a six-week program at the airline’s training center in Abu Dhabi to prepare them for in-flight work.

This group of young flight attendants learn how to operate a Dreamliner’s doors during an emergency evacuation and under normal circumstances.

In an adjacent area, male and female pilots take turns to slide down a giant inflated evacuation device from a replica A320 aircraft as part of a safety refresher course.

The National visited Etihad Airways’ training center as the airline expands its workforce to meet the recovery in travel demand.

The airline is hiring 1,000 employees, mostly cabin crew and pilots, in a process that began in October 2021 to expand operations.

Capt Jihad Matta, head of crew recruitment, performance and support at Etihad Airways, said the airline is optimistic about the post-pandemic recovery.

“We were more optimistic about seeing a recovery and we wanted to make sure we didn’t lose a chance for the recovery to come and we weren’t ready,” he said The National.

“Even though we started small, every new person we brought in meant we could do more flights.”

The recovery was stronger than Etihad’s original forecasts.

The airline rehired hundreds of pilots it had either furloughed or fired during the Covid-19 pandemic, Capt Matta said.

“The industry has lost many employees who said: ‘We don’t want to do this anymore’. They found other jobs or settled at home, so flying was no longer on their agenda.”

Having recruited early and tapped into the pool of its experienced ex-pilots, the airline is adequately staffed to handle the surge in travel demand during the peak summer season, despite a global aviation staff shortage.

Related: Etihad Airways ‘well staffed’ for summer travel peaks despite global labor shortages

Etihad’s cabin crew recruitment campaign will continue “until further notice” depending on how the recovery progresses, Capt Matta added. It must hire crew two to three months before scheduled flights to complete their training.

Who is eligible to apply?

Applicants interested in a full-time entry-level cabin crew position must be at least 161 centimeters tall to access emergency equipment on all aircraft types.

Applicants must be high school graduates, but a higher qualification is an added benefit.

You should be fluent in spoken and written English. Those who are multilingual will rank highly in the application process. Applicants must be able to communicate effectively and clearly, particularly during shipboard emergencies.

Recruiters also look for the right personality and an energetic approach when screening applicants.

“For aviation you need someone who is passionate about their job,” said Capt Matta. “We look at that in the final interview: does this person have a passion for the job? Is she just there to get from A to B, or does she want to do something else?”

Applicants must meet Etihad’s ‘Style and Image’ guidelines on uniform, make-up, hairdo and fitness.

Maturity is key as the crew must also take responsibility for saving the lives of passengers in the event of a cabin problem or medical emergency on board that requires a quick response.

“We are looking for someone who can speak well, who is presentable, who is mature, who can fill these roles,” said Capt Matta.

Finally, crew applicants should have the potential to advance from the entry-level position of flight attendant in economy class to other roles.

Etihad is now focused on promoting its existing cabin crew who have been working during the pandemic.

“We’re going through this growth phase where we’re having one of the highest percentages of the population moving up the ranks this year, which is a tremendous morale boost for someone who’s come close to this opportunity to upgrade but has been stuck for two years.” of the pandemic in their position,” said Capt Matta.

How does the recruitment process work?

In the coming weeks Etihad will be running recruitment campaigns in Lebanon, Jordan, UK, Italy, Germany, Turkey and Thailand.

Here’s what to expect during the selection stages of applying for a cabin crew role with Etihad Airways:

Candidates must complete the application form on Etihad’s website.

  • First, fill out the application form on the Etihad website
  • The recruitment team reviews applications and shortlists candidates
  • The airline holds evaluation days in various countries to which shortlisted applicants are invited
  • During interviews, recruiters test their communication skills in English, conduct group exercises, and assess the candidate’s style and image
  • When candidates are selected for the final phase of the selection process, they are invited to a final interview
  • Candidates’ paperwork is then sent to Abu Dhabi for final approval, which begins the onboarding process, which can take up to 35 days.

What kind of benefits does the cabin crew receive?

Benefits for pilots include a base salary, health and life insurance, housing allowances, tuition – if they have children – relocation allowance and hotel stay for the first month until they find permanent housing.

Once they start flying, they receive an additional airfare allowance for each hour of flight and a lodging allowance to cover their meals and expenses during their stay abroad.

Pilots and cabin crew receive discounted tickets for themselves, family and friends. Successful flight attendants receive free accommodation in Abu Dhabi, free transportation to and from work, and discounted travel benefits.

Six-week training: from safety to service

Once hired, cabin crew undergo six weeks of training at the Etihad Aviation Training Center in Khalifa City.

There is also an induction team that looks after recruits when they arrive and settle in Abu Dhabi, introducing them to the city, teaching them about local culture and traditions and helping with accommodation.

Initial cabin crew training covers a wide range of skills from safety procedures to meal service to first aid and firefighting – in the event of an onboard emergency. Recruits also learn how to react in the event of an evacuation, such as opening aircraft doors, using evacuation slides and life rafts.

At the academy, new recruits practice these skills with their instructors in simulated setups of wide and narrow body cabins, in a pool equipped with rafts, giant inflated evacuation slides, and replica airplane doors.

Pilots hone their skills in the Boeing 787 and Airbus A350 flight simulators.

In a training room at the training center, cabin crew recruits answer questions from their trainer, Natalija Jagmasevic.

“You’re joining one of the best cabin crew in Etihad history,” Capt Matta says to the masked students. “We are all family, we are here to guide you.”

While some crowd around Thales and Panasonic in-flight entertainment systems with their trainer, another makes fun of coffee pots during service training.

In another room, lined with mirrors and mannequins in Etihad uniforms, recruits learn about the airline’s “style and image rules”. As a precaution during the pandemic, they must obtain their own makeup kits but are advised of airline-specific color palettes.

In an all-day training course, they learn practical tips and standards for hairstyles and make-up.

Lipstick colors must be “pink, nude or purple,” said Seloua Touli, Etihad’s style and image performance officer.

The Italian-designed uniform evokes the classic 1950s look, she said.

Recruits can also get advice on exercise and nutrition from a specialist nutritionist at the airline’s medical center, she added.

“We are in a period of growth which means excitement like the excitement we have in the training academy right now,” said Capt Matta.

“The opportunity to join an airline that is growing with the most sustainable aircraft is definitely an advantage. This growth will continue for the next few years and it is just an exciting time to be back.”

Updated June 30, 2022 6:24 am

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