Let’s hear it for the girls! Royal Brunei’s first all-female flight crew [Photo: Instagram/royalbruneiair]
Touching down on the dusty tarmac, Captain Sharifah Czarena Surainy and senior first officers, Sariana Nordin and Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem, couldn’t help but smile. They had just made history after becoming Royal Brunei’s first female flight crew, piloting a Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
But despite being deemed capable of landing the largest plane in the airline’s fleet, the trailblazing women weren’t able to drive themselves from the airport. That’s because they landed in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, a country where it is actually illegal for women to drive.
There’s no doubt the milestone to mark Brunei’s National Day, celebrating the country’s independence, was an achievement to be celebrated, but it does throw up the absurdity that the crew, once grounded would have risked arrest if they attempted to drive themselves.
Although there is no official law in Saudi Arabia banning women from driving, women cannot apply for driving licences and they could be arrested if found behind the wheel.
The crew landed in Saudi where it is forbidden for women to drive a car [Photo: Instagram/royalbruneiair]
The landmark flight comes three years after Captain Sharifa Czarena Surainy became the first female captain of a flag carrier in Southeast Asia.
Speaking to the Brunei Times at the time, she said of her appointment: “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”
While driving remains forbidden for women in Saudi Arabia, it’s female population are making strides towards equality in other areas. Last year, women were allowed to stand in elections for the first time ever, and they were able to vote.
So who knows one day the all-female crew who just bossed an entire plane might have the option of taking something other than an Uber home from the airport. Baby steps and all that.
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