Saudi Arabia’s national carrier has terminated its contract with Portuguese airline Hi Fly after it flew an empty jet to Israel without permission.
A Saudi news agency tweeted that Hi Fly took one of Saudia’s off-duty aircraft – branded with the Saudi airline’s logo – to Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv for repairs.
According to local media reports, footage of the aircraft landing in Israel was posted on social networking sites, causing a stir and prompting an investigation by authorities.
Arab News reported that Saudia – also known as Saudi Arabian Airlines – issued a statement saying the plane did not belong to its fleet and was owned by Hi Fly, which is contracted by Saudia to provide aircraft and crews when required.
“The plane was off duty and under the management of the holding company at the time it left Saudi Arabia on Sunday, May 3 for Brussels, Belgium, for routine maintenance,” the statement reportedly said.
It explained that the company had violated its contract, which stipulates that Hi Fly must obtain written permission from Saudia on where it plans to land to conduct routine maintenance.
“Such landing or operation process should take place in a country that shares diplomatic relations with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to enable Saudia staff and the Civil Aviation Authority to conduct inspection and follow up on the maintenance operation at any time,” the statement said.
The statement was not published on Saudia’s website at the time this article went live, but Saudia has been contacted for comment.
The plane in question – flying without passengers – reportedly arrived in Tel Aviv for routine repair work with the Bedek Aviation Company, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI).
An unnamed European client that works with Bedek told the Jerusalem Post: “IAI confirmed that the Airbus came to IAI facilities in order to have maintenance work done due to an agreement that IAI has with a European company that leases the plane to Saudi Arabia.”
It is understood such routine maintenance usually takes a few weeks.
Hi Fly has been contacted for comment.
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