Galley Gossip: Interview With A Saudi Airline Flight Attendant

Where are you from, Ahmed? Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I’m Jeddah based.

What are the requirements to become a flight attendant for Saudi Airlines? High school minimum, English language (reading writing and spoken fluent), minimum age is 19, maximum age is 35, flight attendant diploma or courses has a priority.

How long was your flight attendant training? 3 months. But the new procedure is 6 months.

What’s the best thing about being a flight attendant for Saudi Airlines? Benefits. We receive 14 salary per year in addition housing and transportation allowances, many free tickets, 24 hour insurance for accidents, and social position.

What is the average time on the job as a flight attendant for Saudi Airlines? Retirement age 60 years or 40 years flying. Male flight attendants don’t have contracts. We are government employees. Female have an open contract. 25 years maximum.

Are female flight attendants recruited from other countries? Yes. We recruit from Morocco, Tunis , Egypt , Sudan , Ethiopia , Algiers , Albania , Bosnia , Turkey , Lebanon , Jordan , Syria, Pakistan , India , Philippines , Malaysia , Indonesia and Bangladesh. We don’t have any flight attendants from Saudi Arabia or The Gulf Countries.

How do you think being a flight attendant in the United States differs from being one in Saudi Arabia? Being a flight attendant in Saudi airlines is more secure then USA because we belong to the government and Ministry of Aviation and Defense. Nobody can fire you due to bankruptcy of the company. We receive a salary and benefits no matter what happens to the company.

Favorite airplane? If it’s not Boeing, I’m not going – hehehe

Longest flight? Washington and New York is our longest flight. 14 hours of flying.

Favorite route? Flights to the US so I can reach my required flying time in three flights only.

Least favorite route & why? London. Some of the passengers cannot ask for anything without mentioning their British passport.What are your top three favorite layover cities? Paris, Casablanca and New York.

How long are your layovers? Between 26 to 100 hours for some flights. Washington is either 52 or 100 hours. New York is either 35 or 60 hours. We used to stay in Manhattan but now we stay in Long Island City. We have a layover in Milan, Italy for 126 hours.

Where is your favorite place to work on the plane? Galley. To be away from the headaches of passengers.

If you could work for any airline in the world, which one would it be? I think I rather stay with my airline but Singapore, Emirates or Etihad is my second choice.

If you could be anywhere in the world, where would it be? USA Or Morocco

With your culture, how do you handle the treatment of female passengers? Like everybody else. No special treatment these days.

During the Ramadan, how do you deal with not eating and drinking during sunlight with a very tiring job like yours? It’s allowed in our religion (Islam) during Ramadan to eat and drink while traveling, but some of us prefer to be fasting.

Is it true that female cabin crew can’t serve men during their “time of the month?Nooo! Of course it’s just rumors without source.

Can you marry and/or have kids and keep working? Yes. With the new rules females can marry and have kids. They have maternity leave for maximum one year.

Is there a call to prayer in the air? No, but if someone asks we’ll let them know.

During prayer onboard the aircraft when passengers need to get up and face the east, how do you accommodate for that? All the new fleet (wide bodied) is equipped with a worship place in the aft of the aircraft (A330 , B777 , B747)

Do you have a union? Sky Team Alliance.

Do you have to share hotel rooms with other flight attendants? Yes, but only on domestic layovers. We get our own rooms when we work international flights.

What is the strangest customer request & how did you handle it? For me the strangest request came from a teenage girl. She wanted to kiss me. I had to take her number just to escape from her because she insisted on kissing me in flight. One of my friends had a passenger ask him if he could try and open the door during flight just to see how a decompression will occur.

What will you do once your flying career is over? Move to Morocco, my wife’s country. I might sign a contract with any aviation agents flying on small planes and exercising aviation sports like sky diving and paragliding. I live for flying.

[Photo Credit: Ahmed Mousa]