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.