By Daniel Shane
Lawmaker claims Gulf kingdom's national carrier Saudia is running huge losses
Saudi Arabian Airlines, the national carrier of the Gulf kingdom, lost more than $530m in its last financial year, a lawmaker in the country claimed.
The airline, known as Saudia, is currently owned by the Saudi government but is in the process of being privatised. It does not currently issue any statements outlining its financial position.
During a session in the legislative Shoura Council discussing the airline’s reliance on foreign pilots, member Said Mariq said that Saudi’s annual revenues of SR19bn ($5.1bn) were outweighed by yearly costs of SR21bn, without giving further details.
The airline carried about 25m passengers in 2013, an increase of 1m compared to the year prior, with the majority of these travelling on domestic flights.
The Saudi government announced in 2000 it would privatise the airline, unit by unit. So far, units including catering, cargo, ground services and aerospace engineering have gone through the privatisation process. More units are set to be sold off later this year, while the airline’s fleet is being modernised in preparation for privatisation, with the process not expected to begin until next year.
Saudi’s domestic aviation sector is currently one of the most underserved in the region, with just Saudia and budget carrier flyNas operating. This year they will be joined by Qatar Airways-backed Al Maha Airways and Saudi Gulf Airlines, which this year won licences to operate domestic services.
The county is in the process of expanding and upgrading a number of its airports in order to accommodate the new carriers.