On the 14th March, a long-serving member of Cabin Crew at Dubai-based airline, Emirates tragically fell to her death from the open door of a Boeing 777-300 aircraft at Entebbe International Airport in Uganda. While there’s been no official report yet released about the circumstances leading to the female crew members death, the UAE’s General Civil Aviation Authority has said it won’t be investigating the matter.
However, sources from within the airline have publicly stated they believe the death was a suicide – they claim the crew member had been put under pressure to lose weight or lose her job. As a more mature flight attendant, our sources also claim the victim was at an age where her contract wouldn’t be renewed.
So far, Emirates haven’t acknowledged these rumours and apart from saying it will offer support to the victim’s family, executives haven’t been willing to discuss the worrying concerns – either publicly or internally with their Cabin crew community.
Now, the International Transport Workers Federation – a major London-based trade union federation which represents 252 civil aviation trade unions in over 177 countries has written to Emirates in a bid to understand what occurred and how it might be able to help the airline improve conditions for its cabin crew.
In a letter sent to Emirates’ president, Tim Clark and the airline’s chief operations officer, Adel Al Redha, dated 3rd April 2018, the ITF wrote that it was with “sadness and concern” they heard about the death of the crew member. The letter continues:
“Since then many rumours have indicated that this fellow crew member, Elena Ionctheva, was subjected to weight/appearance management by your airline and she was also worried that the airline would not renew her contract due to her age.”
“The issue of weight management, in particular, has caught our attention in a number of media outlets. According to these reports, cabin crew members are subjected to strict weight controls and are grounded in order to meet the weight limits set by their airline.”
“We do not know if there is any substance in these rumours, and perhaps it is something you would be willing to discuss with us. We would also like to offer our support and the support of our affiliated trade unions with extensive Cabin Crew experience to help Emirates address this and any other issue that may be relevant.”
But despite, the ITF’s extensive aviation experience – especially with cabin crew – we are led to believe that no one from Emirates has so far engaged with the Federation.
At present, trade unions are banned in the United Arab Emirates where the airline is headquartered and cabin crew have limited rights or forms of redress. In the last few months, senior executives have promised a series of improvements, including a reinstatement of medical benefits following a vocal backlash by serving crew.
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