Saudi Arabian Airlines has reduced its workforce by over 5,000 staff, as part of its ongoing privatisation programme, Gulf News has reported. The redundancies were made through a golden handshake programme, Abdullah Al Ajhar, assistant director general of public relations at the airline, said. "We take such steps only after protecting full rights of the staffers," he said. Al Ajhar also denied reports that the airline had refused to employ Saudi pilots who had completed courses at their own expense. "They are not pilots but only trainees. "They may have submitted their applications just like others. We employed some of them, and turned down some applicants who received their flying certificates from unrecognised aviation institutes," he said.