Saudi Arabia: Is There A Possibility for Saudi Female Flight Attendants?

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Nas Air is a subsidiary of National Air Services and a domestic low cost air carrier operating in Saudi Arabia.  It is headquartered in Riyadh and presently flies to 23 destinations within and outside of the Kingdom.

Nas Air’s CEO, Sulaiman Al-Hamdam, spoke to Arab News recently expressing his desire that he would like to see the airlines include Saudi women as part of its cabin crew.

That is a significant statement to come from a Saudi businessman operating a business which is contradictory to Saudi Arabia’s culture of gender segregation and many Saudi women require their mahrem (male guardian) approval to travel or work outside of the home.

Even Saudi Arabia’s medical sector maintains a degree of segregation with separate areas or floors for male and female patients.  In spite of having women-only areas, because of required interaction among medical staff, there remain stigmas associated with Saudi women who choose a career in nursing.

A position as a flight attendant where a woman would be expected to routinely interact and serve both unrelated men and women creates even more controversy.

There are no female Saudi flight attendants on Saudi Arabia’s national carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines.  The women who have been employed as flight attendants on Saudi Arabian Airlines are generally from Morocco and Great Britian, as well as other countries.  However, most Saudi families do not want nor would support their female relatives exposed to work in such a public position.

Al-Hamdan stated that he would only hire female Saudi flight attendants with an official government approval in place.  Given the deep cultural and tribal roots of minimizing the exposure of Saudi women, I do not foresee Saudi society’s acceptance or governmental approval for Saudi women to work as flight attendants anytime in Saudi Arabia’s near to mid-term future.

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50 Responses

  1. @All
    At present in this world there is voice freedom, freedom of speech, freedom of women, freedom of Gay marriages, freedom of Women Bishops, freedom of abortion, freedm of religionfreedom of cheating , robery, injustice, you name it.
    Why the Saudi Women can not be a part of Sulaiman’s CAbin Crew whats the harm in it. Why the cabin crew should not enjoy games with faminine. Segregation is not allowed when they are on the ground but they can be in the AIR.
    Who cares for the religion. Who does not enjoy women in KSA. Some enjoy women in the name of MUTTA, some in the name of KISYAAR, others as prost— and many behind the curtain of marriage, and manymore in the name of girlfriends.
    NOTHING IS BAD UNLESS IT ENDS BAD.

  2. Hmmm. Are Saudi women waitresses/servers at local restaurants right now?

  3. Not that I am personally aware, Jean.

    On Thu, Jan 17, 2013 at 9:26 PM, American Bedu

  4. I don’t think we will see any Saudi females working as flight attendants soon. I have a very good idea of what a flight attendant’s job involves because I did a course 12 years ago and let me tell you something – the job of a flight attendant is very, very hard. This is not just about wearing an elegant uniform and looking like the epitome of glamour as you serve drinks with a beautiful smile – beyond the façade, these women are supposed to clean the airplane’s toilets and put up with all kinds of tantrums from rude passengers who feel entitled to drive them crazy.

    IN REALITY flight attendants are glamourized flying maids. The Saudi women are having no idea what lies ahead of them in this field. What if a passenger loses consciousness and one of them has to go into lifesaving action and give him the kiss of life? Yes, that is one of the flight attendants’ responsibilities, too, but how is that compatible with the strict Muslim morality? Or maybe the said CEO will come to realize this and will continue to employ foreign women for the hard jobs while the first Saudi flight attendants ever will be given only light tasks?

  5. How on earth could they do their job properly in an abaya, and niqab? Not possible! They could in theory learn to do the job but not under the current conditions for women in KSA.

  6. @Wendy
    Wendy you are very simple. That is the idea to take off their Hijab and other long clothes by offering the jobs of Air Assistance

  7. @sami,

    I think you are mixing issues. There are many airlines that have Hijab uniforms for their flight attendants. Saudi airlines has it as a standard uniform, while others have adopted Hijab for hajj flights. See link for plenty of pictures Hijab uniforms.

    http://malaysiaflyingherald.wordpress.com/2012/11/14/stewardess-in-hijab-egypt-air-female-cabin-crews-are-following-suit/

    There is no reason to limit women job opportunities based on the hijab rule.

    Obviously, I prefer it if a woman doing this job is given a choice to either wear a comfortable uniform or wear hijab if she wants to comply with her religious believes.

  8. Moq I’ve just checked out the link you posted and I love the Iranian uniform best,looks so elegant and dignified.

  9. Sami, clearly you have no sense of humour!

  10. Clearly a woman who wears hijab can do any job she wants while still maintaining her religious duties if she desires. The sky(and beyond) is the limit. You can see doctors,surgeons, engineers,waitresses, pilots, politicians, even Olympic athletes wearing hijabs and giving their best in what they do. So I don’t see the problem with Saudi women being flight attendants with hijabs on.

  11. @mrsB,

    I like your enthusiasm. Just one thing, please do not miss up beach volleyball for us men by introducing a hijab uniform 🙂

  12. Haha you’re bad,Moq !!!

  13. Moq do you know Amina El Sergany?

  14. Mrs. B AND Sami …
    Clearly I said nothing about a hijab … only the niqab and the abaya. 🙂

  15. I just googled her name. Now I am concerned. First they start as a referee and next thing you know we will have a hijabi invasion at the beach 😦

  16. Hehe Moq, no need to be concerned. I doubt there is anything to worry about. Gasp, are you telling me you watch women’s sport solely for the part I think you know what Im thinking B-)

  17. Wendy I didn’t misunderstand your comment and I agree that when working in the customer service sector, a niqab would be kinda odd but then again I’m not about to support any law that will prohibit anyone from making an honest living for themselves.

  18. I looked at the link showing the stewardesses in hijabs. I think the Iran Air stewardess is the most beautiful of all. For some reason the others’ uniforms are less sophisticated than hers.

    My all-time favourites, however, are the women of Bahrain’s Gulf Air. In my life I have never seen anything more beautiful than the uniform they wear. It doesn’t feature a hijab but a small round dark-blue cap with a light blue veil wound around the shoulders and the neck. I used to admire them a lot as they walked through the lobby of Sheraton Doha 12 years ago. They all looked like princesses to me. Here is a link:

    http://www.google.com/search?q=gulf+air+uniform&hl=en&tbo=u&tbm=isch&source=univ&sa=X&ei=w2T6UPylCcSRswaM5oHACw&sqi=2&ved=0CCwQsAQ&biw=1366&bih=667

  19. I like Air France uniforms, designed by Christian Lacroix

  20. And I like the new KLM uniforms with trousers, elegant and far more practical

  21. Reality Check, those ladies looked so smart and chic with their uniform and small hat. Love love love it!

  22. I’ve always liked the look of the uniforms for Emirates Air flight attendants.

    On Sat, Jan 19, 2013 at 7:06 AM, American Bedu

  23. @MoQ
    I do not understand why people are arguing about Hijab or Niqab. This is not Sulaiman’s desire, his desire is that sausi women should be in his cabin as air attendant. He wants to see women attendants, he does not care with or without Hjab . People discuss about the Uniform, that is not the TOPIC
    The Topic is wether women should be used as Air Attendant?

  24. @sami, Yes they should be allowed to do any job they want. It is that simple.

    p.s. Except beach volleyball in hijab.

  25. sami, women are already flight attendants are they not? Or do they have only male flight attendants in Saudi planes?

  26. Actually I think men enjoy flight attendants on flights in and out of KSA because they are NOT Saudi women and are NOT covered from head to toe except eyes. I doubt Saudi men will enjoy flying so much when they have flight attendants covered in black including their face. Will be interesting to see how they avoid tripping while carrying trays and avoid touching the male passengers when they start to lose their balance and let’s hope they don’t dip their niqab into a drink or food.

  27. Being a flight attendant is a very serious job, there’s much more to it than merely handing out drinks. There’s also less nice stuff like cleaning the loos. And very responsible actions they need to take in cases of emergencies.
    A woman in niqaab and abaya and gloves is too restricted to be an adequate flight attendant.

  28. Aafke, not only does this job entail far more serious responsibilities than just handing drinks, but one of the things that flight attendants are supposed to do is help pregnant women passengers give birth. I don’t know how educated young Saudi women are about the human body and what happens during childbirth. Given how much secrecy and shame comes along with this in the Arabian world, I would be surprised if the flight attendant’s job would not be ruled out as totally inappropriate for Muslims.

  29. Aafke, to answer your previous question, there have been women working as flight attendants for Saudi Air before and I used to know one of them in Doha. Her name was Maria and she was Filipino woman in her early forties. Without exaggeration, she was the most beautiful Filipina I have ever seen – stunning face and as exquisite as a porcelain doll. She had quitted her career with Saudi Air and was working as a waitress for one of the Starbucks outlets in Doha, Qatar. I have no idea what has become of her ever since but she was a sight to behold!

  30. Yes; Saudi does have female flight attendants but they are not Saudi women. There has been much controversy surrounding Saudi Airlines and its female flight attendants as many of these women became 2nd wives of Saudis.

    I’m sure if/when Saudi women can be flight attendants, their uniform will be tasteful and the women will be professionals. However there are many social and cultural traditions that first must be overcome before we see Saudi women as flight attendants.

    On Sat, Jan 19, 2013 at 1:57 PM, American Bedu

  31. American Bedu, how did these stories end? I mean, the flight attendants who became second wives of Saudi men – did they become legal second wives or were they kept a secret by their husbands until it became impossible to carry on?

  32. @Reality,

    Most of the ones I know about the first wife was a foreign wife. The Saudi husband traveled and ended up marrying a flight attendant. In most cases the marriage to the first wife ended in divorce. I know of a few cases where a foreign Western wife was a flight attendant and that’s how she met and married her Saudi husband – as a first wife – and remain happily married with no other wives in the picture.

    Some of the foreign flight attendants from Morocco or Phillipines hope to meet and marry a Saudi man while working in spite of whether he already has a wife or not. Sad.

    On Sat, Jan 19, 2013 at 3:41 PM, American Bedu

  33. @ Aafke-Art
    I dont blame if you cant understand. Women can be Flight attendats if men are parished from this world.
    Please study the reasons of Unemployment?
    Enjoy women every where but leave the AIR pure.

  34. Sami, with that comment let us all hope and pray that you stay on the ground and leave the airways to kinder, gentler, more reasonable and sane men and women.

  35. Sami:

    “Enjoy women every where but leave the AIR pure.”

    Say what? How can you enjoy women and keep the air pure? Seriously, this kind of statement is why people think you are out there mentally. There is no logic, no reason, and no sense to your implications/statements. It is just tripe.

  36. Sami, you think women make the AIR impure? What about all the women flight attendants who are already up in the air? What about the female pilots? What about women passengers???
    What makes the air less pure? A woman breathing in and out?
    Bizarre…

  37. Aafke-Art.
    Women passengers are not Attendants. Women pilots are not attendants. You are not attendant otherwise you must have understood what I have said.

  38. You may be right because you have a “BIGSTICK”. Send yours——–to be an attendant , then you will know what are the duties of a women attendant.

  39. Sami, so what’s the problem with impure AIR? What are you talking about? What do you mean?

  40. OMG … I think he might be implying that flight attendants are prostitutes! Is that what you’re going on about, Sami? If so you have a sick mind.

  41. Aafke – i like the sir france uniforms too, however i shudder when i think of those red bows on the waist !!!! not for me.

  42. I am undecided about the red bows. They don’t look efficient.

  43. Wendy, Sami is very unclear… I am not sure if he thinks female pilots make the AIR impure, or stewardesses make the AIR impure.

    Or does he think that only Saudi women make the AIR impure?
    What’s wrong with Saudi women Sami? Why do you think Saudi women are so impure that they pollute the airways? I think you are very insulting and unfair to your fellow Saudis.

    I think Saudi women are just as pure as Western women, or Asian women. There is no need to go all berserk when Saudi flight attendants are up in the AIR.
    I would have no problems being served by a Saudi flight attendant.

    Saudi women are no less pure than other women, there will be no impurification of the AIR when there are Saudi women stewardesses.

  44. Wendy, you may well be right because when I lived in Qatar, flight attendants were regarded as something like the country’s escort service. It didn’t matter if the girls agreed with this view or not – even if you had no intention to be the girlfriend of a local man, you would still be the victim of prejudice.

    Some of the flight attendants did not want to have a boyfriend at all and even vowed they wouldn’t let anybody touch them for the duration of their contracts because they were shocked by the mental simplicity of the Gulf men – mental simplicity combined with arrogance and the confidence that they can have any foreign woman in sight. Of course, almost nobody would believe in the dignity of these girls because sexual modesty was not believed to be a virtue of foreign women.

    However, there also those who had applied for a flying job in the Arabian Gulf because they had heard that Arabs can be very generous boyfriends in return for sex. They gave the rest of the flight attendants a bad name. They collected their considerable salaries in addition to the free restaurant dinners and gifts offered by their Arab “boyfriends” and could save much more than those who respected themselves. If you are the kind of woman who respects herself, the Gulf is not for you because you will constantly see how women with far less morals live far better than you – and that hurts more than you can imagine.

    So this “Sami” (whatever his muddled comments mean) must have caught the local mentality which dictates that flight attendants are somewhat impure. Well, if that is the case (and if I understood well), perhaps “Sami” could serve himself alone throughout his next flight. That would be fun to see!

  45. That still doesn’t explain why this Sami is denigrating his own country women by considering the AIR to become impure when there are Saudi flight attendants instead of other nationalities flight attendants.

    I for one do not consider Saudi women less pure than other women.

  46. Sami:

    Jealously will not help you on your inadequate stick.

  47. I have an Arab female friend who is a flight attendant in Gulf Air. And honestly, after she told me about the countless sexual harassments (mostly verbal, sometimes physical) she endures from first and business-class passengers, sometimes offering her extremely large amounts of money for one night stands, I don’t think any woman would wanna become a flight attendant by choice. Unless of course strict laws are implemented to protect her rights and penalize such perversion.

  48. @Aafke, Bigstick, and others
    Just please see Yasser’s Comment,may be u understand what I have been saying.

  49. @Sami, I think it’s it’s important to put things in perspective though because sexual harassment is taken very seriously in developed countries, hence, they don’t see becoming a flight attendant to be risking any degradation or humiliation.

  50. So Sami, you and Yasser tell us that Arabic men behave like pigs to flight attendants.

    I still don’t see why that makes Saudi women pollute the AIR.
    Or any women for that case. (you still haven’t explained why Saudi women are less pure and more AIR-polluting than other women)

    But anyway, even if Saudi women are not pure it’s not really them who are polluting the AIR, it’s the Arab men who behave like pigs.
    So to according to you and Yasser to keep the AIR pure you should keep Arab men out of planes.

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