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Emirates Hiring Direct Entry A380 Captains

An Emirates A380 departs from Sydney (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Hisham Qadri)

Middle Eastern airline giant Emirates is the latest company to put out a call for direct entry captains. The company is looking for pilots to command its Airbus A380 aircraft. Emirates is the largest operator of the A380 in the world, with roughly 120 of the type.

Emirates has placed significant minimums on the position; the ideal candidate has at least 7,000 hours flying multi-crew, multi-engine aircraft. Having 3,000 hours in command of Airbus widebody aircraft, such as the A330, A340, A350, and A380, is an additional requirement.

In addition to the Direct Entry Captain program, Emirates is also offering an Accelerated Command Program: current Airbus captains who have 1,500 hours in Airbus fly-by-wire aircraft can join Emirates as A380 officers and upgrade to captain after 700 flight hours and two successful recurrent checks.

Filling Captain Gaps

Emirates already has 1,515 A380 pilots. However, as with many other airlines around the world, Emirates has been forced to grapple with a travel rebound years ahead of expected initial forecasts after the COVID-19 pandemic hit.

Many airlines around the world offered early retirement to pilots in 2020 and 2021 to cut costs with the expectation that air travel would not rebound until 2023 or 2024. However, when passengers took to the skies en masse in 2021, companies were found with a shortage of pilots that eventually manifested as a shortage of captains. Regional airline captains upgraded to mainline carriers faster than regional first officers could upgrade to replace them. However, the massive retirement packages offered to senior captains also meant that there are not enough captains to fill the sudden return to flying, let alone massive aircraft orders, airlines have implemented in the past couple of years.

Airlines have offered massive signing bonuses to direct entry captains to try to fill the gap they need to continue operating their flights. In its press release announcing the direct entry captain program, Emirates is highlighting that pilots will enjoy a tax-free salary, spacious living quarters, and generous insurance coverage if they join the Dubai-based carrier. Additional benefits include chauffeur services to and from work, laundry services, confirmed business class tickets for annual leave, and travel benefits for friends and family, according to the airline.

Especially notable is Emirates’ focus on the potential for upgrades to management pilots, recruitment pilots, training captains, examiners, instructors, and more.

Emirates has brought on 172 new pilots over the past five months through its Direct Entry Captain, Accelerated Command, and First Officer programs. The company says that 40% of its pilots have been at the airline for over 10 years.

An Emirates 777-300ER lines up on the runway for a test flight at Paine Field. (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Katie Bailey)

Emirates has expressed firm confidence in the Airbus A380 even as it has expanded its fleet to include the A350, which it will receive in mid-2024, and Boeing 777X in 2025. Having pilots with a wide range of Airbus experience will prove useful for the company long-term, as it will be easier for the company to assign pilots across similar fleets more easily.

Emirates has an in-house pilot training program with 10 full-flight simulators. A new $135 million training facility is set to open in the Spring, increasing pilot training capacity by 54% and adding six new simulators, including for the A350 and Boeing 777.

Editor’s note: this article has been updated to correct an error regarding Emirates’ A380 fleet size

John McDermott


  • John McDermott

    John McDermott is a student at Northwestern University. He is also a student pilot with hopes of flying for the airlines. A self-proclaimed "avgeek," John will rave about aviation at length to whoever will listen, and he is keen to call out any airplane he sees, whether or not anyone around him cares about flying at all. John previously worked as a Journalist and Editor-In-Chief at Aeronautics Online Aviation News and Media. In his spare time, John enjoys running, photography, and watching planes approach Chicago O'Hare from over Lake Michigan.

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