Amiri: The Most Luxurious Airline You’ve Never Heard Of

21_AmiriFlight

My friend Adam was checking into a Mandarin Oriental hotel and an airline crew caught his eye. It was a large, commercial-sized crew, and he “couldn’t not notice them,” decked out as they were in Cartier watches and other eye-catching gear. As he reports it, the captain—standing beside him at the desk—presented a black AmEx card to the staff. After running the card, it was handed back to the captain with some awkward mumbling.

“That’s not possible,” my friend heard the captain say, followed by “…pre-approved for $100,000 in charges.” The problem was quickly resolved and the crew was on its way to their rooms. My friend thought I might know something about this mysterious operation. I didn’t and I was as intrigued as he was.

In the few minutes it took to sort out their problem, he grabbed a brief word with one of the flight attendants. She said their airline was called Amiri—not commercial, but a “VVIP airline” from Qatar. Unsurprisingly, details beyond that are not too easy to come by.  I haven’t even been able to find a picture of them/their uniform—but here’s what I did find.

The airline’s full name is Qatar Amiri Flight (QAF), an airline for both the Royal Family and high ranked government staff of Qatar. Ah-ha. Well, that tells us something. Its fleet, at least according to Wikipedia, is 11 to 13 strong and all Airbus save for a few – what else?! – 747s. It staffs about 100 cabin crew and only hires Captains (First Officers need not apply). Beyond that there are really no official details to be found. However, if you poke around Internet forums, one can glean a bit of Amiri chatter.

Long a unit of Qatar Airways, it has been going through a restructuring over the last five or six years, fully separating it into a separate entity with its own CEO (rather than Qatar’s Akbar Al Baker). Still, most of Amiri’s fleet is painted with Qatar Airways’ livery. The flight attendant my friend spoke to said that cabin staff are exclusively recruited from Qatar Airways, but that may have changed, or it may actually just be few outside applicants will have even heard of the airline. The application is seemingly open to the public, though interviewees are informed that, if accepted, they must first work Qatar Airways mainline First Class for three to six months (sources vary), so this may also contribute to the idea that working for QAF is exclusively a Qatar Airways promotion.

The pay is advertised as “very appropriate.” Multiple online comments put the offer at $7,800 to $8,000 per month (as of 2010) for flight attendants, plus allowances (e.g. accommodation, per diem). While I’m not very familiar with the cost of living in Doha, I’d say that’s pretty attractive! Then again, the top listed “skill” requirement on the application is “a deferential personality.” I’m well suited for my job by Western standards, but I couldn’t apply with a straight face on that one.

They do have a lot of Western crew members, however. An interesting factoid is that speaking Arabic is rumored to be a deal-breaker since they don’t want the crew to be able to understand what’s being said on board. (Clever.)

The scheduling sounds tough, too. Between 42 to 45 days annual leave sounds great, buuuuut you pay for it the rest of the year with only 12 other “hard days” off. Outside of that, you’re on call 24/7. When you do get that text message to report, the notice could be as short as one hour and “will only tell you if you’re going somewhere hot or cold.” Moreover, they may say you’re only going for one night, but crews say to “always pack for a month” as the flight plan may (and will!) change on a whim. Crew members must have understanding families!

And when I say “family” I presume that refers to pilots. Amiri is not known to have ever hired a female pilot, and with Qatar Airlines’ penchant for non-married cabin crew (one has to ask permission first and, reportedly, could be fired for doing so), I would bet Amiri prefers the same in its attendants.

Obviously, there are other VVIP airlines (e.g. Saudi Ogar, Kalair, Ajwaa, Midroc, Al Khayala and Royal Jet—50% owned by Amiri), but for some reason Amiri seems to stand out. Is it simply the largest? Is it a unique cross of family/government/corporate? Is it due to its attachment to Qatar Airways (read: an airline for mortals the public)? Whatever the reason, I can’t help but be intrigued. It’s like hearing about a new country.

It certainly isn’t for everyone, but if you’re up for extreme spontaneity and an itch to save (or splash!) a fast dose of cash–hey, the application is online! You’re welcome. Just promise to tell me some stories when you get back!

Have you ever run across VVIP crews? Could work in an environment like Amiri?

[Photo: iStock]

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Comments (Showing 9 of 9)

  • LoungeBum at 5:15pm July 22, 2014

    If you live in Doha, and know QA Crew hearing about Amiri is most common that what you think…

  • AvidFlyer1990 at 7:07pm July 22, 2014

    Interesting! Never heard of Amiri. I now know what my Saturday research time is going into! Haha…Great find and an interesting read!! Thanks!

  • Doc Savage at 7:36pm July 22, 2014

    Interesting article, thanks!

  • CalFlyer at 8:09pm July 22, 2014

    I know a girl who works there. She does not talk about her job in public, and neither will I. But FAs do not need to be more “deferential” than on any public Arabian airline. Actually, she enjoys her job – except for the lack of normal social life.

  • milesracer at 2:57pm July 23, 2014

    Thanks, interesting.

  • christiang7 at 10:20pm July 24, 2014

    My Dad worked there in the late ’80’s. Thoroughly enjoyed it for 3 years as he was seconded from BA

  • SSteegar at 12:16pm July 25, 2014

    CalFlyer – Interesting – and that’s good to hear. Both that she enjoys it (not that I’m surprised – I can’t imagine there’s anybody there who doesn’t really want to be. It certainly can’t be easy to land the gig!) and that the “deferential” talk lives larger on the page than it does in reality. It’s quite off-putting to see that at top of the skills list. Perhaps it’s just a wise tactic for them to weed out potential “trouble-makers” – haha.

  • SSteegar at 12:22pm July 25, 2014

    And actually – I’d forgotten this until after publication – but years ago I worked with a woman who was once cabin crew for a Saudi prince. After a few years she grew tired of the scheduling uncertainty and felt ready to move on from living in Saudi (hence, she’s now at a US carrier); however, she loved it when she was young and flexible and didn’t have family waiting at home if she ended up flitting about Africa for three weeks on a whim! What an adventure to be sure!

  • Tsun at 10:41am August 13, 2014

    There was a interview with stewardess who worked for VVIP airline some time ago in one of the Polish news sites (exact airline wasn’t explicitly stated, but judging from the content it’s pretty likely it was Amiri):

    http://kobieta.gazeta.pl/kobieta/1,107881,13009897,_Kilkaset_tysiecy_zlotych_napiwku_do_podzialu____stewardesa.html

    (it’s in Polish, but Google translation is quite decent).

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