Saudi's Shoura Council demands national airline repay $3.5bn debt

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Members of Saudi Arabia’s influential Shoura Council have demanded the national airline Saudi Arabian Airlines repay SAR13bn ($3.5bn) it owes the civil aviation authority.

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) also is owed SAR3bn by private businesses and another SAR1bn from the government, it was revealed, according to Arab News.

Shoura Council member Khalid Al Aqeil said the authority needed to get on top of the growing volume of unpaid annual returns.

He did not detail why the money was owed but companies such as Saudia pay GACA annual levies.

Saudia has long benefited from government subsidies, especially on oil, and support but it is now being gradually privatised, with some subsidiaries already sold off.

In a wide-ranging report, the Council’s transport, communication and information technology committee also urged contracts for new airport buildings to be more quickly awarded to help keep up with growing passenger demand.

Saudi Arabia is building or extending 25 airports across the country.

The Shoura Council also this week called on GACA to speed up the issuing of licences to two foreign airlines that will operate domestic services to help the kingdom cope with its burgeoning demand.

GACA approved Al Maha Airways – a subsidiary of Qatar Airways – and the privately owned Saudi Gulf Airlines, in November last year.

They are due to begin passenger services this year but risk being delayed without GACA licences.

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