Despite resuming flights to more than 75 destinations and operating over 500 weekly flights, Qatar Airways finds itself with more cabin crew than it currently needs. And with new and continuing travel restrictions making a recovery for the air travel industry sluggish, to say the least, the Doha-based airline can expect to have a crew surplus for some time to come.
The airline has already taken some immediate steps to reduce its headcount, slashing hundreds of jobs in May and controversially ending the contracts of cabin crew who had been at the airline for over 15-years. Qatar Airways could cut even more jobs but then it might find itself with too few crew if a recovery suddenly takes off.
Luckily, there is one area of the airline’s business where there’s plenty of demand and cabin crew are now being offered the chance to work in Qatar Airways’ overwhelmed call centers. Like many airlines, Qatar is handling an unprecedented number of cancellation and trip changes, and many passengers need to speak to an airline representative over the phone to get their request sorted.
A number of cabin crew at the airline have now been asked to help out at its call center’s on a three-month secondment to reduce the backlog of work and to keep them busy while flight schedules remain limited.
The question is, why didn’t Qatar Airways, or any airline for that matter, think of doing this before? The answer undoubtedly lies in the fact that airline reservation software is more often than not complex and the work entails a significant amount of training. Airlines rely on experienced reservations agents – something that can’t be gained in a quick training course.
Cabin crew will likely be helping out with less complex requests such as new flight bookings with a simple itinerary or flight changes. It will certainly be a change from their usual lifestyle, with call center employees working nine-hour shifts at a desk. And of course, as a 24/7 operation, they’ll be working early morning and night shifts.
Other airlines in the region that employ a lot of foreign expat cabin crew are also grappling with the question of how to deal with what will hopefully be a temporary surplus of crew. Emirates has offered cabin crew short periods of unpaid leave to reduce expenses while keeping crew close at hand should their services be needed at short notice.
The solution from Qatar Airways seems like a win-win. Paid work for cabin crew and shorter waiting time for passengers.