The risks of the ExPat Lifestyle.

Reuters reported a while ago the arrest of two Emirates Cabin Crew in Dubai for the exchange of illicit text messages. There’s more depth to this story, as it comes on the back of divorce proceedings (a year earlier) and insinuations that the two texters had been in a relationship while the junior cabin crew member was still married, etc, etc. Pretty standard stuff really in the hot house of an Airline expatriate community.

The story is told in the context of similar incidents in Dubai, touching briefly on a British Couple who face jail in Dubai for kissing in public, and several other incidents of public lewd behavior by British tourists in Dubai (Ed: What is it about the British on tour – how come they get all the fun?)

Living and Working Expatriate.

There are two aspects of this that interest me. It again raises that old chestnut of the trade off’s of leaving your home country for a career – particularly an aviation career – which involves faster promotion, more money, affluent lifestyle, faster planes, faster women …

My partner and I got married, pregnant, had a baby and moved to Hong Kong – all in a year. With the aviation market in Australia stagnating in the years after the 89 Pilot’s dispute, coupled with the issues I was having seeking employment as the son of a dispute pilot, a position with Cathay Pacific on B747-400’s seemed like a dream come true. In a few ways it was, but as much research as you may choose to do (and we didn’t do much) – nothing prepares you for life overseas. The stories we could tell – we moved to Hong Kong just as the first paramedic trained ambulance driver had saved his first life (in 1992!) and went from community service advertisements in Australia against drink ‘n drive to Honk Kong government service announcements recommending against the discard of used large white goods (Washers, Dryers, Refrigerators) out the upper story windows of large apartment blocks. You think some of our TAC ads are too explicit …

Four years later when we moved to Dubai for me to take up a position with Emirates, we felt we were far wiser and more aware of what we were getting ourselves into. We had no idea. In the the 13 years in Dubai, we saw first hand events and experiences (to ourselves and others) that would curl your ears and probably keep you in your un-rewarding, career stagnating 60K a year airline job. Another time …

This article is an indication of just one of the intangibles that are sacrificed to the altar of career and income when you go expatriate. Civil Liberties in countries such as the UAE are regularly sacrificed on the altar of political and religious expediency. And I’m not talking about fornicating on the front lawn of the Dubai Courts, but often momentary lapses of judgement that would incur no penalty at all in most parts of the world, but can be life and career changing in the Middle East (and elsewhere).

And … Context.

To finish, another fascinating aspect of this article for me is the context. If you note carefully, it’s filed under “Oddly Enough” where you’ll also find articles on a Female Porn Movie Director who is running for Parliament in the UK and a NZ woman who ran over her husband … Twice. This trivialisation of a jail sentence of two expats who were in a relationship and sent themselves explicit text messages is an interesting feature of Expatriate life.

Your friends and to some extent your family will abandon you while you are overseas. You are living the high life, benefiting from immoral regimes and spurning the country of your birth – you deserve what you get. That’s not something they tell you at the airline interview …

To Go or Not To Go.

Your career is stagnating, and between the meager salary and taxation, you’re struggling to make ends meet. Positions with Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, Korean, Asiana, Vietname – all are beckoning. All promise high salaries and low taxation, some promise of career progression and excellent lifestyles as well. How can you resist? Well …

Is Ek leading the way?

As a pilot who spent the most significant portion his career in Emirates, I still tend to keep my ear to the ground as to what’s happening in the Sandpit. While rumors abound and scuttlebutt is ever present, I’m hearing from a couple of sources both inside and outside Ek of developments in the pilot recruitment market.

– Emirates recently wrote to it’s pilots seeking feedback on any friends or compatriots back in the home countries who might be willing to fill slots in the airline in the coming months. In thirteen years I don’t recall this ever happening and this unusual event is probably the progenitor for the recent series of YouTube videos ( 1 2 3 4 5 6 ) on recruitment into a un-mentioned Dubai based international carrier. I don’t know if you found them funny but as someone who caught all the references, I was wetting myself. Except “The BBQ” – boys, what’s the reference to the BBQ?

If you haven’t seen these movies then I suggest you pop over now, as there have been at least two such occasions in the past where such videos have not lasted long on the net. I don’t know who put these together, but this pilot is either ex-Ek or has more front the Myers.

– As a result of a couple of well publicized incidents, and several non public ones, Ek raised it’s recruitment hour minimums as well as the minimum requirements for Command. This left not a few FO’s dis-advantaged and seriously un-happy. I’m now hearing that these minimums are being re-evaluated. Reportedly the recruitment target for this year has gone from something approaching 30 pilots to something well short of ten times that number, necessitating a goal post shifting in hitherto unusual direction. Additionally it depends on who you talk to, but it would seem the monthly flying hours of a good portion of the crew, particularly the 777 fleet, would justify the reported lack of manpower at the moment.

All this is every interesting for those FO’s in Ek approaching upgrade, or pilots outside the company seeking employment, but what about the rest of us? Is this indicating a more substantial recovery across the industry at large in the wings? The US market still seems soft, and similar noises aren’t coming from Europe. However recruitment does seems to have begun in Asia once more, with this pilot having received two e-mail contracts in the last couple of weeks, although with salary packages below what was being offered three years ago. If the industry is turning, it will be signaled by recovering markets in the Middle East and Asia …

Such trends take a long time to manifest themselves back here in the land of Oz, but perhaps with the Middle East Airline Monsters recruiting more heavily as this year wears on, we might see a softening in airline management attitude in Australia as more and more Australian airline pilots look back overseas again for greener pastures in the … desert.