Oh My: Saudia Could Recruit Local Couples As Flight Attendants

Filed Under: Saudia

Saudi Arabia isn’t exactly known for being the most progressive country when it comes to women’s rights, to put it mildly. 😉

This is quite apparent when flying Saudia — all the “local” flight attendants are men, while female flight attendants are exclusively “imported” from other countries. I flew Saudia last year from Colombo to Jeddah to Manchester, and the first flight had the worst service I’ve ever witnessed.

The (foreign) female flight attendants were left to do all the work, while all the “local” men sat down in business class seats and played around on their phones, watched shows, took naps, etc. They also had the female flight attendants serve them meals, and they got their meal choices ahead of paid business class passengers.

Up until now Saudi women haven’t had the opportunity to be flight attendants on their national airline, though a former Saudi judge and council member has a solution that could soon see them taking to the skies. He recommends that Saudia start hiring local couples as flight attendants — that’s right, married men and women could work flights together.

Per Gulf News:

“Couples can start on domestic flights and then gradually move on to international flights. The idea of recruiting couples to work together is not new and we had a similar experience in the past when husbands were recruited as guards in the girls’ schools where their wives worked as principals, administrators, teachers or assistants,” Bin Dawood said, quoted by Saudi daily Okaz on Thursday.

They give three reasons why this could be a good idea:

“There is the principle that no Saudi male or female should be barred from working as flight attendant, especially that foreigners would replace them and take up the vacant positions,” he said.

Another reason is that the position offers a good employment opportunity for Saudi citizens seeking jobs.

“There is also the cultural dimension since guests on Saudia will see Saudi citizens, men and women, as flight attendants modestly wearing the Saudi national attire and offering services graciously,” Bin Dawood said.

While there are no laws presently in place preventing Saudi women from becoming flight attendants, social stigma surrounding this has caused the airline to not recruit women up until now.


  1. Whoa! Please do be careful, this issue may (already) touch borderline sensitives issue like sharia law, islam, etc. Don’t be trapped into sunni, shia, wahabi, ahlusunnah wal jamaah and the likes…. its like venturing into territories not even most muslim understand….

  2. I love being reminded of your Saudia flight, Lucky. It captures the kingdom so well (I’m writing this from Saudi).

    Aren’t women still banned from travelling without their male guardian’s consent? My guess is the suggestion stems from this kind of thinking.

    Incidentally, there’s a fascinating “inside” look into Saudi culture that’s well worth reading called The Bro Code of Saudi Culture. It’s available on Amazon.

  3. Ben do you realize that you sound quite backward yourself, thinking that your own view of what is progressive and “right” is the only obvious choice? For your argument to have any weight you have to give a reason.

    “This is no longer 1802” or “women deserve equal treatment” doesn’t cut it. Dont you find it interesting that you advocate for a certain understanding of equality (for the LGBTQ community) because that’s what you want. How then can certain Muslims or traditional cultures not do the same when it comes to men and women’s roles or understanding gender roles and sexuality.

    If you want to change the world for good (which I’m sure you do want to) then you need to have a stronger narrative. Otherwise you will just sound culturally imperior and like a hypocrite.

    Sadly I have to say that most people who hold a so called “progressive” view tend to not be willing to have open dialogue about whether their worldview is right and can hold water.

  4. Okay so you get around the limitation of not allowing women out without their husbands by recruiting their husbands as well. How do you get around the requirement for them to be wearing the Abaya. Or are we going to get airhostesses in full Abaya serving coffee? That would be one trip report to write!!!

  5. Those men who were sitting and playing instead of working… They should be ashamed for not reading the Quran. I bet every one of them were true Muslims. Shows how they treated women.

    I just Google it : Imam as-Sadiq (as) has said: “The Quran is the trust of Allah (given) to His creations, therefore it is worthwhile for every Muslim to look at this trust and to recite (a minimum of) 50 (verses) of the Qur’an every day.”

  6. You don’t have to create a lie just to start a subject. Your whole subject becomes trash as well as your reputation.
    How do you know those male flight attendants where assigned and not flying back on that flight ?
    In my 27 year career with saudia never seen,heard,or told of such behavior. Such behavior results in terminations in saudia for your own information.
    What a loser.

  7. Many Saudis are living in the Stone Age on the surface but dig a bit deeper……Many Saudi women come to Bahrain every week end by air and land to live it up….i.e. opportunity to wear short skirts and high heel shoes in such places like Trader Vics. Masses of Saudi men come to Bahrain every weekend to drink like fish and whore around. A blind eye is the order of the day.
    It creates cash flow, employment and fills airline seats too.
    If base human activities are banned, that creates a demand and all goes underground.
    Qatar Airlines tries very hard and is one of the best Middle East based Airlines. They wipe the floor with likes of British Airways, AA and KLM meanies in terms of service.

  8. In spite of the fact that it limits the countries I visit, my principles are strong and I refuse to fly airlines or travel to countries that commit human rights violations or restrict women’s rights.

  9. @Mindy I think you’re limiting yourself a bit too much. Read a book called Just Mercy. You’ll realize that the US has to be included on that list.

  10. It appears that inflight services/customs has not changed since 1979 … when I was an L-1011 captain for SV … with the possible exception of smoking, when everyone smoked even in the “non-smoking” section. Ben, do they still serve the small package of dates to premium passengers?

  11. It appears that inflight services/customs has not changed since 1979 … when I was an L-1011 captain for SV … with the possible exception of smoking, when everyone smoked even in the “non-smoking” section. Ben, do they still serve the small package of dates to premium passengers?

  12. @Lucky Here’s my thinking on the subject. And I am a straight, white, middle aged male and born and raised in the US … for whatever that is worth

    1. I will never, ever fly Saudia so long as the House of Saud rules Saudi Arabia. Or Etihad, Emirates, Qatar for that matter.
    2. #1 is because I refuse to be associated with governments and organizations that perpetuate racism or sexism or LGBT hatred. And the middle eastern governments are absolutely racist, anti LGBT, and very very sexist.
    3. I am always shocked by progressive LGBT folks paying money to state owned airlines like Saudi.

    Take this for what it is worth … but I find it hypocritical that you enrich these folks.

    Until now, I’ve appreciated your perspective. However, I find nothing redeeming about your posts regarding Saudia. Including this one. Saudia perpetuates the oppression of women. And you somehow think it is okay to spend money with them.

    You’ve got my email and you can reply any time. Meanwhile … I won’t be reading and I will be transferring my credit card referral loyalty elsewhere.

  13. The Saudi society is changing slowly. But it is changing and that is key. They move at their own pace and it keeps everyone happy.

    Five years ago, you could not find ladies working outside, interacting with the public. Even salespeople at Victoria’s Secret were all males. This has changed and Saudi ladies are employed in the work force more and more.

    Employing ‘couples’ to work as flight attendants would be a first step. Once the conservative element from the society is used to seeing Saudi ladies working in the cabin, they could start employing ‘single’ Saudi ladies. No one will argue by then. This is how this very conservative society moves.

    Some Saudi regions were traditionally less conservative than others, but changes happen at the pace of the more conservative ones.

    I still use Saudia Business Class products when they have a mega sale. They had one in January and I couldn’t pass it up. But they are not my first choice. I prefer Qatar Airways. (Yes, I will have to sort out my forthcoming July travels in view of the recent events).

    Saudia has a very generous baggage allowance, better than most. I guess not having to stock flagons of liquor on board gives them extra capacity… 🙂 It can, however, make long haul trips seem longer. Nothing like a couple of stiff Jack soda, followed by a three-hour kip to shorten a trip !!

  14. I dont know if you know that their are such things called “crew meals” which in the case of saudia is the same as passenger meals. Did you also know that in saudia there is a thing called deadhead crew also known as tvl which simply means that the crew is not operating but has to be in uniform and has a normal seat as a passenger but just in uniform.

    Yes i agree with this statement “The (foreign) female flight attendants were left to do all the work, while all the “local” men sat down in business class seats and played around on their phones, watched shows, took naps, etc. They also had the female flight attendants serve them meals” because it happens but if you see two men doing that its usually the supervisors of the flight. And please do not call me imported because i was not imported like fruit or oil.

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