Royal Brunei Airlines’ first all-female flight crew lands in Saudi Arabia

By Kitty Knowles 18 March 2016
Royal Brunei Airlines' first all-female flight crew lands in Saudi Arabia

Female empowerment at 32,000 feet.

In need of some good news? This week, three female pilots have inspired the world.

A plane steered by Royal Brunei Airlines’ first all-female pilot crew has made its maiden journey. What’s more, the incredible trio landed in Saudi Arabia – where women are still not permitted to drive.

The pilots flew a state of the art Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Brunei to Jeddah on Brunei’s National Day of independence in February, but the news only emerged this week after an image posted by the airline on Instagram went viral.

The image, below, is captioned with a powerful message:

“We are the Nation’s “Generation with a Vision”; we are the tomorrow.”

Meet the crew

The flight crew (pictured from left to right) include Captain Sharifah Czarena, and Senior First Officers Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Sariana Nordin.

But this is not the only time Czarena has brought about a world-first: In December 2013, she became the first Royal Brunei pilot to fly out of London Heathrow in its flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

She told The Brunei Times in 2012: “Being a pilot, people normally see it as being a male-dominant occupation.

“As a woman, a Bruneian woman, it is such a great achievement. It’s really showing the younger generation or the girls especially that whatever they dream of, they can achieve it.”

Inspiring the world

Many have been quick to applaud the pilots for bringing female empowerment to dizzying new heights.

“Congratulations to this crew,” commented one Instagram user. “All of you give a big lesson to the world and you deserve all my respect.”

Others praised the airline for demonstrating progression:

Well done @royalbruneiair for helping the advancement of women (human) rights! ?” 

Some were also, however, quick to point out the contradiction that lies in an all-female team landing a plane in a country where women are not allowed to drive.

“It’s just a pity that these three amazing pilots have flown one of the world’s most advanced aircraft to a destination where they are then forbidden to drive a car,” one person commented. 

While it is not technically illegal for women to drive in Saudi Arabia, only men are awarded driving licences – and women who drive in public risk being fined and arrested by the police.

Women are fighting for gender equality in the state, but progress is slow. Saudi women have launched a series of campaigns to demand an ease on driving restrictions, while last year was the first time women in Saudi Arabia were able to vote.

A total of 978 women registered as candidates in the 2015 election (alongside 5,938 men), but had to either speak behind a partition while campaigning, or be represented by a man.

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