By Andy Sambidge
Saudi Arabian Airlines chief says more competition will lead to improved services, efficiency
The boss of Saudi Arabia's national airline has called for more carriers to enter the kingdom's aviation market to bring great competition and improve efficiency.
Khaled Al-Molhem, director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines, said more competition was needed to raise industry standards amid complaints of deteriorating services at the airline.
“We need more airlines to create competition and improve efficiency. Right now, people in the Kingdom are depending mainly on a single airline,” Al-Molhem said in comments published by Saudi daily Arab News on Tuesday.
The Saudia chief blamed the kingdom’s substandard airport facilities for his airline’s poor services, saying they are inter-related, the paper added.
Plans to renovate airports in Jeddah and Riyadh would change the situation in the near future, Al-Molhem said.
He added that Saudi Airlines had incurred heavy losses as a result of low-ticket fares for domestic flights, which he claimed had not increased for 16 years.
The paper said Saudia passengers are increasingly critical of the airline’s services and Al-Molhem acknowledged that a lack of efficient and customer friendly staff was one of the airline’s main challenges.
Speaking at the Jeddah Economic Forum, he predicted that the number of pilgrims visiting the holy cities of Makkah and Madinah would increase to 30 million within a few years.
Saudi Arabian Airlines currently carries nearly 20 million passengers annually to about 100 destinations.
It has a fleet of 137 aircraft and is awaiting delivery of 12 more by the end of the year, according to its website.
Saudia CEO is very right and courageous to admit that his airlines' main challenge is lack of efficient and customer friendly staff. This goes without saying that the only reason for this is Saudization of management positions who get those positions not because they are the right men in right place, but because of their nationality. Unless Saudia and (incidentally Kuwait Airways) are prepared to make efficient expatriate managers run the airlines, situation will not improve. Saudis and Kuwaitees must be geared to learn through on the job training along with their efficient and friendly expatriate colleagues, and not be made to only boss over the expats. Examples abound like Emirates, Qatar Airways, Ethihad who are so successful by following this business model.
Blaming is his habit. Earlier, a few months back, he blamed Saudia passengers for the inefficiency of his team.
Very few non-Saudis will fly on Saudi Airlines. It is has become an airline for Saudis, not by choice but by design.
Old fleet, poor inflight service, terrible in-flight entertainment and yes; the lack of alcohol is also a huge factor.
Because of this many Saudis will not even travel on their national carrier, preferring instead to go via Dubai with Emirates.
Mr. Mumeen Chowdhury wrote " ... Unless Saudia and (incidentally Kuwait Airways) are prepared to make efficient expatriate managers run the airlines, situation will not improve."
I believe you meant ".. are prepared to make efficient managers run the airlines, .." Unless you are saying that Saudies are not efficient.
Efficiency here is the requirement, not the nationality.
Mr. Al Sadoon, the status of your carrier will validate Mr. Chowdhury's statement as currently your carrier is flying in a sad state affairs per other statements made here that you fly an old fleet, with poor inflight service, and terrible in-flight entertainment. As stated, this is the same situation facing Kuwait Airways. As Mr. Chowdhury suggested, it is proven that with an experienced Western manager an airline can turn it's falling profits around and Saudi Arabian Airways, together with it's cousin carrier, Kuwait Airways needs to privatise and hire better management.
Mr. Mullins, I agree that the status of Saudia Airlines is sad. But I disagree with that experience and efficient management is a virtue of westerns exclusively. We have many Arab-led mega companies now in Saudi Arabia which set examples of success.
I'm not an expert in airlines, but from the article above, I conclude that Sadudia is facing problems with revenue for its domestic flights, which other airlines do not have. As there are no domestic flights in UAE or Qatar.
Also, Saudies still think that Saudia Airlines is part of government's facilities and prices shouldn't be increased for domestic flights. Airports/Visas/Tourism aren't helping either into making Saudi Airports travel hubs.
Its a chain of changes with roots down deep to the government's and country's laws. A western manager would be facing brand new challenges, rendering his experience with liberal countries obsolete. Who would want to go through Riyadh in transit to their destination, new fleet or no new fleet?