Saudi Arabian Airlines will begin recruiting local female cabin crew for the first time in its 76-year existence, as the Gulf state begins to embrace a more moderate version of Islam under the reformer Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
The airline, which is also known as Saudia, has long used male Saudis as cabin crew members to supervise young female ex-pat flight attendants from the Philippines, Thailand, and Eastern Europe.
However, following social reforms that have granted women additional freedoms, this will be the first time that Saudi-born women can work as flight attendants for the national carrier.
Saudi women were finally allowed to drive cars and leave the house without the presence of a male relative in 2018.
Strict dress regulations have been relaxed, and while women are still expected to dress modestly outside the home, an abaya is no longer required.
Simultaneously, there has been a campaign to get more Saudis – including women – into private jobs.
Women no longer have to access restaurants and cafes through separate entrances, and workplaces are no longer segregated by male and female-only zones.
However, campaigners who battled for the ability to drive, leave home alone, and work in a wider variety of jobs paid a price for the Crown Prince’s social reforms.
Even after the laws were relaxed, Saudi officials jailed dozens of female campaigners.
Many of these activists have already been released from prison, but they still face the possibility of being imprisoned arbitrarily at any time.
Since early 2020, private Saudi carrier flynas have allowed local women to work as flight attendants, but the epidemic has slowed improvements at Saudia, however, the adjustments have now been implemented.
However, there are still considerable obstacles that local women must face.
Only women between the ages of 20 and 30 are eligible for these positions. Women may also experience strong pushback from family members who object to them interacting with so many male strangers.
The work of a flight attendant isn’t always well-regarded among locals in the Gulf region.