Sky's the limit: Saudi airline opens cockpit doors to women co-pilots
Riyadh-based airline Flynas has announced plans to recruit Saudi women for co-pilot positions, as the Gulf kingdom embarks on a campaign to reduce unemployment among nationals.
The decision comes few months after Saudi Arabia started to issue driving licences to female motorists after a decades-long ban.
Flynas chief executive Bandar al-Mehanna said in a statement that the move seeks to empower Saudi women to play a larger role in supporting the Saudi economy.
On Wednesday, the company announced the start of a recruitment process for Saudi women and men to its “Pilots of the Future” programme, which seeks to support the government’s efforts to replace foreign workers with Saudi nationals as part of a "Saudisation" scheme.
Translation: It was a dream... It has come true!... Welcome to the Future Pilots program from Flynas... #flywithyourdreams, with your ambition... and passion
Although women have not been legally banned from working in the aviation sector, cabin crew jobs have traditionally been held by foreign nationals.
Last month, the Saudi Civil Aviation Authority issued licenses for five Saudi female pilots, according to the Saudi Gazette.
According to the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya channel, Flynas would become the first Saudi airline to recruit Saudi women for senior positions.
Since the job advert, nearly 1,000 Saudi women have applied for co-pilot positions, according to company spokesperson Ahmed al-Meseinad. Another 3,000 men and women applied for flight attendant vacancies, he told AFP.
The company listed a number of qualifications required for female applicants, including being a Saudi citizen with at least a high school degree, aged between 19-35 years, and to be at least 1.65m tall.
The company noted that female applicants should be aware that there will be “a special dress code” that “adheres to Saudi customs and traditions”, and that they would not be permitted to sleep outside the designated residence for the cabin crew.
Flynas is a budget airline established in 2007, with a fleet of 30 aircraft that fly to 17 domestic and 53 international destinations.
Another budget airliner, Flyadeal, said on Tuesday it was recruiting Saudi women for air hostess jobs, a first in the kingdom's history.
However, the move comes amid a continued crackdown on activists who campaigned for women’s right to drive in a country still governed by a strict male guardianship system whereby women still require permission from their male relatives to travel.
On Wednesday, the capital city of Saudi's Eastern Province Dammam saw the inauguration of the Oxford Aviation Academy, which officials say would help to prepare Saudi men and women, along with foreigners, for careers in the aviation sector.
A Saudisation program that came into effect earlier this week aims to provide 60,000 jobs for Saudi nationals within the next few months, according to the Ministry of Labour.
The plan aims at reducing unemployment among Saudis, currently standing at 12.8 percent, and reduce the public sector wage bill by bolstering private sector employment.
Saudisation, however, will also lead to the departure of nearly 3.5 million foreign workers by next year, according to Saudi economic analysts.
But the lack of skilled Saudi labour will present the biggest challenge for the government.