New Saudi airlines could be delayed

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Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council has urged the kingdom’s civil aviation authority to speed up licensing approval for two foreign airlines to operate much needed domestic services.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) in November approved the launch of two new airlines – Al Maha Airways, a subsidiary of Qatar Airways, and privately owned Saudi Gulf Airlines – in a bid to help meet the burgeoning demand for air services in the geographically large country.

Al Maha Airways had said it would begin services in the first half of 2014, although this has recently been revised to November, while Saudi Gulf Airlines was due to take-off later this year.

However, according to state media outlet Saudi Press Agency, GACA is yet to issue licences to either airline, potentially delaying flights.

Chairman of the Shoura Council's transport, telecommunications and information technology committee, Sadoun Al Sadoun, said the airlines were needed as part of the kingdom’s plans to liberalise the country's airline industry.

The government also is gradually privatising state-owned airline Saudi Arabian Airlines.

The council also stressed that the foreign airlines would have to employ Saudis at all offices as a condition of operating in the country.

Saudi Arabia also is upgrading, extending and building 25 airports across the country.

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