Dr Nasser Bin Zaid Bin Dawood Image Credit: Okaz

Manama: A Saudi judge and former Shura Council member has suggested hiring Saudi couples as flight attendants on Saudia, the flag carrier of the kingdom, as a first step to enabling Saudi women to become air stewardesses.

“The number of stewardesses with Saudia is around 1,000 and it is possible to recruit 1,000 Saudi couples to work together as flight attendants,” Dr Nasser Bin Zaid Bin Dawood said.

“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.

He said there were at least three reasons for recruiting Saudi women as stewardesses on the Saudi carrier.

“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 Saudis will see Saudi citizens, men and women, as flight attendants modestly wearing the Saudi national attire and offering services graciously,” Bin Dawood said.

The former Shura member added he was confident the success of the experience would prompt more Saudis to join it.

There is no law that bars Saudi women from becoming flight attendants, but the social stigma and the pressure from conservatives have so far foiled any attempt to open the doors for local women to become air stewardesses.

In December 2015, a spokesperson for Saudia said there were no employment openings for Saudi women to work as stewardesses on its flights, but did not elaborate on the reasons.

Abdul Rahman Al Fahad told Okaz that Saudi women were recruited as agents in the customer service in reservation offices throughout the kingdom and in domestic airports.

They could also work in the commercial or financial sectors and in the IT department of the airline.

Established in 1945 with a single DC-3 aircraft, Saudia was the first airline company in the Arab world.