Emirates needs to boost flight attendant numbers by a third to 16,000 during the year through March as it adds five double- deck, 517-seat A380s, for a total of 20. Ads on Facebook, the No. 1 social website, may follow as the Dubai-based company seeks English-speaking, tech-savvy recruits aged from 21 to 30.
With Qatar Airways and Abu Dhabi’s Etihad also adding staff, Emirates aims to leverage its status as long-haul market leader to become employer of choice among would-be cabin crew, akin to Apple in computing and Nike in sporting goods, advertising manager Sardar Khan said in an interview.
“We’ve growing rapidly and that presents a massive hiring challenge,” Khan said. “Apple and Nike are aspirational brands and we like to think of ourselves as in that league. Your friends are going to think, wow, you’re working for them?”
Apple rose three places to 17th in last year’s 100-company Best Global Brands ranking from Interbrand, posting the biggest gain in recognition, while Nike advanced one spot to 25th.
The maker of the iPhone also came 18th in a 2010 ranking of the 50 most attractive employers from recruitment-branding consultant Universum. Coca-Cola and Google were placed top of the two surveys, while airlines were absent from both.
Like other Gulf sheikdoms, Dubai is heavily reliant on foreign workers, who make up 90 percent of the 1.97 million- strong population.
“I certainly don’t think you’d have much in the way of UAE nationals,” said John Strickland, an aviation analyst at JLS Consulting Ltd. in London. “A flight I went on to Dubai in 2010 had British, Malaysians and Brazilians in the crew. Emirates offers a reasonable package. In terms of salary it’s always said levels are lower than in Europe, but then there’s less tax.”
Emirates flight attendants start on a basic annual salary of about AED47,000 ($12,800), plus hourly flying pay, a fixed monthly cash sum based on their role and competencies, free housing and transport, and an annual payment from a profit- sharing plan. At British Airways the starting salary is about £15,000 ($25,000) a year, before supplementary sums.
The 30-second Emirates ad on Spotify prompts listeners to think of the best reasons to move to Dubai, before listing key attractions including its “cosmopolitan” nature, sunny climate and “superb restaurants and sports and leisure facilities.”
Founded in Sweden and based in London, Spotify offers access to 15 million songs and claims 10 million users in seven countries in Europe, where it’s the No. 2 digital-music platform after Apple’s iTunes, according to the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry. It debuted in the US last month.
“Spotify has the x-factor in that it’s perceived as a dynamic brand with a product that’s regarded as best of breed,” said Mark Mulligan, an independent new media and music analyst in London, adding that the company is luring major advertisers after establishing the validity of a model that, while online, initially “looked and felt pretty much like radio.”
Emirates hasn’t given up more traditional hiring methods and will hold 77 recruitment fairs through Nov. 5, almost two per day, in countries as far apart as the Armenia, Paraguay, New Zealand and the U.K. English is the only linguistic prerequisite, though the carrier employs 130 nationalities speaking 80 languages.
Crew must also be educated to at least high-school level, be able to stretch 2.12 meters on tiptoe to reach emergency gear, and have “a positive attitude with the natural ability to provide excellent service working within a team environment, dealing with people from all cultures.”
Online ad budgets are forecast to total $132.1bn by 2015, almost double last year’s $68.1bn, and to comprise 22 percent of total media spending, according to eMarketer, a New York-based digital media and marketing research firm.
“For Emirates, as a public-facing brand, being seen to experiment with these platforms is an intelligent move because it shows that they are willing to understand and connect with people on the topics they’re interested in and in the places where they spend time,” said Tim Callington, head of digital and social media at public relations firm Edelman.
Emirates has orders for 90 superjumbos with 45,000 seats and a list price of $34bn. Each A380 needs 26 staff: four pilots, 20 flight attendants and two washroom workers who tend to premium shower cubicles. Its Boeing Co. 777s require 16 crew.
The Arab carrier is building the fleet to establish Dubai as an inter-continental hub and win passengers from Air France- KLM Group, British Airways and Deutsche Lufthansa while fending off Qatar Air and Etihad. It will resist cutting flights as oil prices threaten the profitability of some destinations and instead aims to stir up demand with cheaper tickets, President Tim Clark said in an interview on June 20.
Qatar Air, the second-biggest Middle Eastern airline, has 91 jetliners in its fleet, 56 of them widebodies, with 172 on order, of which 160 are twin-aisle. Including retirements, it may operate 190 planes by 2020, 60 more than previously envisaged, CEO Akbar al Baker said in a June interview.
Etihad, the regional No. 3, is pursuing a less expansive growth plan, according to CEO James Hogan. The carrier has 57 wide-body planes, with 103 jets due for delivery in the coming decade, including 10 A380s, 25 Airbus A350s and 35 Boeing 787s.
Foster the most positive public image, though, and Emirates will succeed in fending off rivals to recruit the cream of the cabin-crew crop, according to advertising chief Khan.
“You want to be the brand that’s on tip of people’s tongues, that your neighbours are going to recommend,” he said.