Saudi Airline Operates First All-female Crewed Flight

Find out how this Flydeal (F3) flight is a watershed moment for women's emancipation in the conservative nation of Saudi Arabia.



May 22, 2022

DALLAS - Saudi Arabia's General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) announced that Flyadeal (F3) completed the country's first flight with an all-female crew.

The airline, based at King Abdulaziz International Airport (JED), describes the journey as a watershed moment for women's emancipation in the conservative nation.

Saudia's (SV) budget subsidiary flew from the Saudi capital Riyadh to the Red Sea coastal city of Jeddah. According to F3 spokeswoman Emad Iskandarani, the majority of the seven-member crew, including the first officer, were Saudi women. The captain was a woman from another country.

Saudi Arabia is attempting to strengthen its aviation sector and become a worldwide travel hub, following in the footsteps of its Gulf neighbors Qatar and the Emirates, whose flag carriers are global aviation heavyweights. By 2030, the kingdom hopes to treble annual traffic to 330 million people, attract US$100bn in investment, and develop a new national flag carrier and a new "mega airport" in Riyadh.

Aerial View of the New King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia. Photo: Skytrax, CC BY-SA 4.0

Women in Saudi Aviation

Saudi Arabia's civil aviation authority has emphasized growing positions for women in the aviation industry in recent years. In 2019, the authority announced the first flight with a female Saudi co-pilot.

Saudi women's job prospects were formerly confined to teachers and medical workers due to strict gender segregation restrictions. However, thanks to reforms implemented by the de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, female labor participation has nearly doubled to 33% in the last five years.

Other changes included the repeal of a decades-old restriction on women driving and the loosening of so-called "guardianship" rules, which allow men unfettered authority over female relatives.

However, the kingdom's conservative reputation, which has long been associated with restrictions on women's capacity to work and travel, still looms over Saudi Arabia; all the more reason to celebrate the country's first flight with an all-female crew.

Featured image: Flyadeal F-WWDX Airbus A320Neo. Photo: Alberto Cucini/Airways