Middle East

Saudi Arabia: All female Brunei crew in historic flight

The pilots of the Royal Brunei Airlines Dreamliner Image copyright RoyalBruneiAirlines/Instagram
Image caption Captain Sharifah Czarena (left) has described the development of female pilots as a great achievement

Three Royal Brunei Airlines pilots have made history by being the company's first all-female flight crew, making their first journey to Saudi Arabia, where women are not allowed to drive.

The women flew the Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Brunei to Jeddah.

The milestone coincided with Brunei's National Day to celebrate independence.

Last year women in Saudi Arabia cast their votes for the first time in municipal elections. A total of 978 women also registered as candidates.

They were alongside 5,938 men and had to speak behind a partition while campaigning, or be represented by a man.

The decision to allow women to take part was taken by the late King Abdullah and is seen as a key part of his legacy.

'Great achievement'

The flight Captain was Sharifah Czarena, assisted by Senior First Officers Sariana Nordin and Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Women in Saudi Arabia are not allowed behind the wheel of a car

Captain Czarena trained in the UK and in December 2013 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."

Saudi Arabia is the world's only country to forbid women from driving.

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

Saudi women have launched a series of campaigns - including on social media - to demand an easing of the restrictions.

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