By Courtney Trenwith
General Authority of Civil Aviation says Qatar Airways-backed Al Maha, SaudiGulf Airlines have failed to meet regulatory requirements
Saudi Arabia’s civil aviation authority has denied it is responsible for the delay of two foreign airlines’ launching domestic services in the kingdom.
The new president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Sulaiman Al Hamdan, said Qatar Airways-backed Al Maha Airways and privately owned SaudiGulf Airlines had failed to meet the kingdom’s regulatory guidelines to begin services.
“There are regulations that they have to follow to get the license. We are transparent and we provide the same facilities to all airlines,” Al Hamdan was quoted as saying by local media.
He said SaudiGulf Airline would begin operating in the fourth quarter of this year. It had been due to begin services earlier this year.
Al Maha Airways had previously said it would launch in November, 2014, but there has been no comment on why it failed to do so.
The awarding of domestic licences to the foreign airlines last year was an unprecedented move to help the kingdom cope with surging demand for domestic travel.
There are presently only two Saudi airlines operating within the kingdom and both are struggling to withstand government-set ticket costs that have barely been increased for decades.
Government-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) is in the middle of privatising its various divisions.
The new airlines would not be allowed to operate international services.
It has not yet been confirmed if they would be subject to the same ticket pricing limits and benefit from the same fuel subsidies as the local carriers, which could make a significant difference to their abilities to operate profitably.