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Tue 2 Oct 2007 12:00 AM

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KSA trade slow to book Sama

Low cost carrier (LCC) Sama claims Saudi Arabia-based travel agents have been slow to book tickets with the airline, particularly online.

Low cost carrier (LCC) Sama claims Saudi Arabia-based travel agents have been slow to book tickets with the airline, particularly online.

"In truth we are disappointed with the travel agent community. We feel we have worked hard to provide them with a product and make it easy to book with us and I am a bit concerned that they don't seem to have responded in kind," explained Sama CEO Andrew Cowen.

"They are not prepared to embrace new ways of working and that's a pity."

Cowen was referring primarily to agents being reluctant to make online bookings and charge customers a service fee.

"They need to learn from the rest of the world; elsewhere agents have been marginalised because customers have shown they are happy to book on the internet. The travel agents need to adapt to this new world," he said.

"Our philosophy is to let the client choose which channel they want to book with. We would like to see more agencies involved. They can book through the GDS or on the internet."

Cowen revealed that surprisingly, Sama's bookings were "way ahead of budget" and that it was the Dammam-based carrier's "biggest channel by far".

"This dispels the myth that the Saudi Arabian market is not ready to book online. If you look at the demographic of the region, there are many young people out there that have been using the internet for years," he said.

Cowen was speaking as Sama prepared to introduce six new destinations on October 28. The airline - one of the kingdom's two new LCCs (the other is Nas Air) that currently operate domestic flights only - will fly from Dammam to Hail and from Hail to the following destinations in KSA's northern provinces: Ar'ar, Tabuk, Rafha, Al Qurayyat and Al Jawf.

At the same time, Sama has announced the arrival of two new aircraft taking its total to six. This growth marks further progress in Sama's strategic plan to grow its fleet to 35 aircraft by 2010. The airline currently operates 30 daily flights between six main cities: Dammam, Jeddah, Riyadh, Abha, Gizan and Madinah.

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