Saudi Arabia delays domestic carrier decision

Third licence to be issued in February, new entrant will join Saudia and nasair
Saudi Arabia delays domestic carrier decision
Seven foreign airlines have been shortlisted from a total of fourteen carriers that applied for the licence.
By Ed Attwood
Sun 16 Sep 2012 10:59 AM

Saudi Arabia has postponed a decision on the kingdom’s newest domestic airline, which was scheduled to be announced this month.

According to Arab News, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) will award the country’s third domestic licence in February. The launch of full services will take place in April.

Seven foreign airlines have been shortlisted from a total of fourteen carriers that applied for the licence. The winner will join flag-carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines and low-cost airline nasair.

“Steps are being taken to brief the remaining bidders and advise them on submitting their completed files for final processing,” said GACA spokesman Khaled Al Khaibary, according to the newspaper.

 “Licensed carriers will have four to six months to set up their operations and abide by GACA qualifications and technical procedures. We will then give them 16 days to start services on domestic and international flights, so this is expected by April,” Al Khaibary said.

Qatar Airways is one of the carriers that has expressed an interest in the licence. However, the airline’s CEO, Akbar Al Baker, has expressed concern over two key areas that have bedeviled the domestic aviation scene in the kingdom: high fuel charges and the government’s policy of subsidising airfares.

Both those issues have contributed to Saudia and nasair sustaining heavy losses in recent years, while a third player, SAMA, was forced out of the market two years ago.

However, in August, the Eqtisadiah newspaper reported that the country’s third carrier would be able to buy aviation fuel for the same discounted price that is offered to Saudia.

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