Emirati Etihad Airways captain Luay Alhashmi is adamant his landing in Chicago was better than his brother Lutfi's.
Lutfi, who is now a captain, was a first officer at the time. The two of them challenged each other to see who was best.
“He did the first sector and did a really great landing,” Luay admits. “He was teasing me, saying: ‘Let’s see how you could beat that.’ So, on the way back to Abu Dhabi, I did a way better landing than him and he did not speak for the entire day.”
“He is lying,” says Lutfi with a laugh.
The siblings are not the only Alhashmis working for the UAE’s national carrier, which this month is celebrating its 20th anniversary as the first commercial flight took off on November 12, 2003. A third brother, Mansoor, is a senior first officer – and all three of them have been at the Abu Dhabi airline for more than a decade.
“I followed in my father’s footsteps in becoming a pilot,” says Luay, 43, who has been with Etihad for 17 years. “It was my dream ever since he took me flying when I was still in high school.”
Lutfi, 36, who has been with Etihad since 2008, says he was also inspired by his father, who worked for the presidential flight. “My dad used to fly a lot of places and he used to bring us toys,” he says. “Most of our toys were aircrafts and aeroplanes.”
Mansoor, 34, says his father is his favourite pilot, but he wasn’t exactly trying to keep it in the family when he found himself working in the aviation industry. “I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in finance management and I worked in that for a couple of months but I didn’t like it,” he says. “My brother said I should join them. I thought about it for a long period. Then I had my interview and now I’m here.”
He loves the fact he gets to be spontaneous in his job now, though. He adds: “I don’t like routine. I like to be very random. If I had to get up in the morning, go to work every day, I couldn’t do that job.”
Luay likes that aspect of it, too. “I really enjoy travelling, learning about different cultures, meeting other people. It’s really something special.”
Lutfi says he loves travelling the world and meeting new people as well. “And most probably the shopping,” he says with a laugh. Los Angeles is his favourite city to shop in.
On working for Etihad specifically, all three say they love the community and camaraderie within the team. “The people are very friendly,” says Luay. “You can talk about life, your job, work and business, they will open up and they will help you.”
Mansoor agrees. “It’s like a family, to be honest. You can get help from anybody. They’re easy to talk with. Even within different departments.”
Lutfi, who arrives a little late to our interview and so doesn’t hear his brother’s comments, immediately answers the same. “The environment here is honestly like a family,” he says, echoing Mansoor. “If you want to ask someone anything, even your managers, they’re easygoing and they’re so helpful.”
It can still be challenging, however. Both Luay and Lutfi say becoming a captain was one of the hardest things they’ve had to do.
Luay became a captain in 2012. At that time, he needed 5,500 hours flying as a first officer, followed by assessments, an interview and then training. “It was a great opportunity and it took a lot of work to get here," he adds.
He still remembers his first flight after getting promoted. “I was very excited, but a bit stressed since now you’re a captain, all eyes are on you,” he says.
Today, he is a captain on the Boeing fleet and flew the airline’s inaugural flight to Copenhagen in September, something he says was an honour. He also works with the recruitment team.
Lutfi, who became a captain a year ago, says he hopes to continue building on his flying experience and eventually move towards Etihad’s training department. His big dream right now, however, is to captain a flight with both of his brothers.
Lutfi and Mansoor have never flown together, but Luay has had his youngest brother in the cockpit with him before on a flight to Bangkok. Luay has also taken a second trip with Lutfi, to Munich, which also happens to be Lutfi’s favourite city to fly to.
Luay says he was impressed by his brothers’ professionalism. “I was really happy and proud of them," he adds.
“Plus, I remember I did a better landing than him,” Lutfi interjects, the three of them laughing.
“I would love to fly with Luay and Mansoor at the same time. Whatever the destination, it doesn’t matter.”