Qatar Airways Firing Pilots – And Sending Them A Bill

There’s no question that airlines are going to be smaller for awhile than they’ve been in the recent past. While there’s some talk about it taking until 2023 for air travel to fully recover from the coronavirus pandemic, I have to think that 2022 will be largely back to normal – if we don’t make hoped-for progress against the virus, it will have spread enough, with enough retained immunity, that continued spread won’t be nearly so efficient. And by the we should have much better treatments, if not vaccinations.

Nonetheless until then airlines will need fewer planes – and fewer employees. What was an acute worldwide pilot shortage quickly turns into a surplus. While United plans for 30% layoffs, and American Airlines offers generous early retirement packages, Qatar Airways is apparently ahead of the curve.

While the situation surrounding one pilot’s dismissal is unclear, they shared the note they report receiving from their airline. Qatar Airways terminated them effective immediately, and is paying seven days of severance in lieu of notice.

If that was the end of the story it would be unfortunate, but part of the grim reality that aviation and the world are facing today. However that wasn’t the end. Four and a half years ago this pilot entered into an agreement with the airline that amounted to indentured servitude – they’d continue flying in exchange for training, and if they were no longer employed as a pilot by the airline they’d have to make repayment towards their training costs.

Qatar Airways fired this pilot, have them seven days of severance, and presented them with a bill for US$162,343 at current exchange rates. Here’s the letter:

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  1. Point of clarification… This pilot is a woman (or at least the airline addressed this individual as “Ms.”). I wonder if the male pilots “Scholarship Programme” also got a similar letter?

  2. Is this pilot still in Qatar? I know companies there can hold passports of foreign employees. If so I would think that not only means she lost her job but will probably go to prison if unable to pay.

  3. So you published her name (?without her permission) – not a good move (esp for a woman in that country!!!!)

  4. And if this (woman?) pilot is unable to pay, s/he’ll get thrown into debtors prison, be charged huge legal fines and penalties, and then be forced to spend the remainder of his/her life flying (without pay) as an indentured servant… i.e. legalized slavery. At least this slave will get to wear a spiffy pilot’s uniform.

    The only hope s/he has is to get a court to recognize this as an involuntary job loss that was at the discretion of Qatar Airways, and dismiss the obligation by the pilot. Wouldn’t bet on that outcome, however.

  5. If it’s a contractual obligation that she was to re-pay her training costs, she is probably still obligated to do so. Companies in the U.S. sometimes enforce this too, for example when paying employees’ graduate school costs. However, since she joined in 2013, probably a good portion of those costs have already been paid back. Qatar Airways is probably putting this in the letter to remind her of her obligation. QR may waive the payback because of the involuntary layoff, but wanted it in the letter to remind her that they are doing her a favor if they do waive it. If any QR employees can shed light, I’d be interested to know.

  6. I find that Qatar airways is right. The pilot read the contract before so they know all the conditions.

  7. She publicly posted the letter with her name on her twitter account.
    I really doesn’t make sense if Qatar airways wants to be gender balanced. Female pilots are rare to begin with, now think about the Muslim world…What is more surprising is she is Qatari, so usually Qataris get priority for jobs in Qatar…So either Qatar airways management is awfully sexist, or they didn’t communicate the intention clearly. Maybe her performance lagged so badly and she is in the first batch of the firing according to that performance index but QR could have simply explained that in the meeting to avoid any confusions. Either way, QR didn’t do a good job in this case according to her twitter account.

  8. This is what happens when you work for this company in the middle east the think are the best everybody’s is nothing look the ceo how arrogant is ( but is voice sound like a little woman)

  9. She is a commercial pilot so she must have known how to read and review a contract. If this is some obscure thing no one knows about this would be obscene but she must have been aware that she would have to repay her training costs if she signed the contract. It really is the same as a doctor who had med school loans provided by the hospital she went to med school with, did her residency in (If matched) and became an attending. Doctors who make 175-700K a year who have to payback 200-500K in student loans is common practice in the U.S.

  10. Actually there’s more to the story when you check and translate what’s been going on on her Twitter account before.
    First: the pilot in question is a qatar national and is requesting to rather lay off foreign staff.
    Second: in 7 years she’s has not managed to reach her type qualification.
    So she might be a licensed pilot, but she can’t fly!
    Sometimes there’s more to the story than the great headlines of someone being fired in bad terms. Check before posting and contributing to unjustified qatar bashing (in this case).

  11. @Chris, you are mistaken about US companies… If you are terminated for cause THEN one has to pay back training costs.

    If you are involuntary separated, then the company eats the costs.

  12. This story is not quite complete…
    This pilot joined the airline 7 years ago in the cadet program from Zero hours… In 7 years he/she was not able to finish training…. So he/she was terminated as per the contract.
    7 years in training guys….. think about it….

  13. From instagram:

    “Been told by a colleague in the Middle East that the “true” reason they asked to recoup money was that she got married not long after finishing training and her husband refused to allow her to fly and the airline had no choice but to terminate. Allegedly not covid related. I can’t say for sure this version is correct but it came from someone out there.”

  14. For some reasons if it’s a COVID related layout that QR wouldn’t hesitate to put it in the letter.

  15. Quite an irresponsible post from this site and the “pilot”. She is a Qatari local and owes 7 years of cost towards a training program that is supposed to be completed in 2 years. Not sure how Qatar airways is in anyway to blame here. Qatar airways has helped bring more people to their homes whilst all other airlines have cancelled routes. Sorry honey you can’t just take 7 years of training for free and expect to be given a hero’s departure. I suspect that they had invested so much time and effort towards this person that termination was the absolute last resort.

  16. This is all over the internet right now with no backstory. Another Qatari pilot commented that this pilot was a cadet who had a scholarship for training from zero hours to Qatari pilot. Four years ago she was supposed to start her jet training, then got pregnant twice in succession while drawing a large salary and not flying while on LOA. Upon returning from maternity leave and doing her IOE, her husband decided he did not want her flying. She was also said to have had issues with mgmt, “attitude problems”, and was calling sick. So her employment was terminated by *mutual agreement*. After she was let go, she started waging a social media war against Qatar.

  17. There is ALWAYS more to the story. In this case it appears Qatar Airways has been more than patient and lenient than most.

  18. You must do a good journalism, this lettre is fake, and i can assure you that during this crisis, Qatart Airways didnt fire anyone! So be professional instead of criticising a company just because you r jaleaous

  19. Nice and tricky way to escape from paying to the pilot any more of there rights to let them negotiate to clear the balance and accept to terminate there career in a friendly way !!

  20. Your article is so biased just a click bait,what you forget to mention or probably haven’t even researched is the reason she was terminated,the young lady has been under the employment of Qatar airways for 4 years(after the company paied a sum of 160000$ for her pilot training),where she was unable to finish her training as second officer,first due to poor performance,bad attitude,and then she got pregnant…twice.
    Now by all means if you want to have a family that is great news.
    But getting a pilot salary in Qatar and as a Qatary(which is around 10000$ per month) for 4 years and being unable to finish training or even work then there is a big problem here,companies are not obligated to provide such commodities to employees who provide 0 returns,these are hard days for all businesses people will have to be let go,first will be the people who do not contribute to the company

    Check your facts before you publish garbage.

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