Saudi Airlines is to recruit women as sales staff, in a bid to combat female unemployment, it was reported at the weekend.
“We will employ women as ticket sales ladies in all parts of the Kingdom from next year,” Saudi Airlines passenger services director, Saad Al Seuleiman, said in a statement to the local Saudi media.
“They will be deployed in places assigned specially for them away from the main terminals…they will work in places confined only to women…the policy of Saudi Airlines is clear in not allowing women to mix with men,” he added.
The announcement is a bid to combat female unemployment but comes after much controversy recently when women were hired as cashiers in supermarkets
Earlier this month, Saudi clerics issued a fatwa ruling that women should not work as cashiers in supermarkets, in a clear challenge to the government’s plans to create more jobs for women.
News agency AFP quoted the Saudi news website Sabq.org as saying the country’s official fatwa issuing body, the Committee on Scholarly Work and Ifta, had reiterated that it is not permissible for a woman to work in a place where they mix with men.
"It is necessary to keep away from places where men congregate. Women should look for decent work that does not make it possible for them to attract men or be attracted by men," the fatwa said.
The ruling was issued in response to a specific question about whether women cashiers could be employed in supermarkets. It was signed by the head of the Senior Scholars Council, and six other members of the fatwa committee.
The Panda retail chain, which is owned by publically listed food giant the Savola Group, had employed 16 Saudi women as cashiers in its Jeddah store as part of a pilot scheme to test the concept of women working in a mixed environment.
The Savola Group has faced a Facebook campaign from a number of Saudis who have threatened to boycott the shop unless it stops employing women.
“The women, compared to men, are really hard workers," Panda spokesman Tarik Ismail told AFP back in August.
"If everything goes okay, then we will expand the programme [in] the kingdom," he said.
In September, Deputy Minister of Labour Abdul Wahid Al Humaid said the ministry would not be put off by Islamist threats to boycott shops employing women.
Al Humaid also pointed out that women had few employment opportunities and urged people to cooperate with the ministries plans.
The Saudi Minister of Labour is Adel Fakieh, the former chairman of the Savola Group, took over the job after the death of Dr Ghazi Al Gosaibi in August.