Royal Brunei Airlines Takes Empowerment Sky High With It’s First All-Female Flight Crew


It’s always a good time to celebrate women breaking barriers and forging new paths in the name of female empowerment! Recently, Royal Brunei airlines made history of its own by sending its first all-female flight crew to Saudi Arabia. Granted, the women were not allowed to drive themselves anywhere once they landed (due to the Saudi Kingdom’s present restrictions on women driving), but the accomplishment of the crew still matters a great deal.

The pilots flew a Boeing 787 Dreamliner from Brunei to Jeddah and it actually took place on Brunei’s National Day of independence back in February, however news about the event didn’t emerge until more recently when the airline posted about the historical flight on social media.


Part of the caption in the Instagram image above reads: “We are the nation’s ‘Generation with a Vision’; we are the tomorrow.” Indeed they are! The women pictured from left to right are Captain Sharifah Czarena, and Senior First Officers Dk Nadiah Pg Khashiem and Sariana Nordin.

According to, Captain Czarena is used to being a barrier breaker, being the first Royal Brunei pilot to fly out of London’s Heathrow Airport in December 2013 on the maiden voyage of the flagship Boeing 787 Dreamliner. She told local media in Brunei of the significance of this for women in her country.

“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,” she told the Brunei Times.

At the time, Royal Brunei had just 6 female pilots in its fleet. Captain Czarena’s comments regarding the commercial pilot profession being seen as a mostly-male one is definitely accurate. According to a Gender Gap Grader report on the number of female pilots around the world, the numbers are still fairly low. Women account for just over 5% of airline pilots globally according to the Airman Database.


There have been a number of airlines who are recognizing the need to break a major gender barrier and have embarked on an all-female flight, generating publicity in the hopes that it will inspire more women to aspire to become pilots.

Ethiopian Airlines, a United Arab Emirates private airline, and Air Zimbabwe are a few companies which have made news for their all-female journeys, and what makes these stories all the more compelling are when they take place in traditionally conservative societies where women working in the public sector is a big deal, let along breaking a major gender barrier in a male-dominated industry.

Away from civilian life, there are women in the military who are breaking barriers in the skies also. China, Pakistan and Afghanistan are just a handful of countries who are making news for enlisting female pilots for the first time, also with a view to encourage more women in the military and air force in general.

The Royal Brunei airline pilots may not have been able to drive in Saudi Arabia when they landed, but there is certainly no stopping their forward momentum in the airline industry. We hope to see, as well as write about, many more stories like this!



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