Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) plans to launch a new airline - Al-Maha Airways - in July as part of its big expansion strategy, reported The Saudi Gazette, citing a GACA official.
Al Maha Airways (a Qatar Airways venture in Saudi Arabia), along with fellow fledgling airline Saudi Gulf (a spinoff of Bahrain-based Gulf Air), were awarded the right to operate within the Kingdom in December 2012, as part of a plan to meet rising domestic aviation demand there. In 2014, a GACA official said there was a shortage of two million seats in the domestic market.
The carriers were due to start operations in September 2014, with initial routes to include Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Madinah, Abha and Qassim, but hit licensing problems.
Earlier this year, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said the airline may not be up and running until summer 2016, adding: “We expect to have a six-to-18-month waiting period before the operation starts.”
Al Maha - which means “Oryx” in Arabic - will sport the Qatar Airways Oryx logo, but it will be in green instead of maroon, to match Saudi Arabia’s national colors.
Bloomberg has previously reported that the airline will launch with a fleet of 10 Airbus aircraft, although the airline has not yet disclosed its plans for staffing of the new airline.
GACA also aims to convert all regional airports in the Kingdom into International Airports and link small cities together without the need for passengers to travel by Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam to reach their destinations under this ambitious plan, The Saudi Gazette added.
Captain Abdul Hakim Al Badr, GAGA Vice President for Air Transport, Security and Safety said the plan to license a new Saudi airline company was to ensure fair competition among operating airlines.
“It will also help reduce air ticket prices and improve quality of service. We want to open ticket fares without putting any cap in order to promote fair competition,” he stated.
“We’ll also license a new ground service company,” he added.
Hinting at GACA’s plan to privatize airports, Al-Badr said: “We intend to discard ownership of airports in the near future. Our role will be limited to supervision.”
“Airports that receive flights from outside the Kingdom will be named International Airports. Consequently the standards and licenses of International Airports would be applied on them,” he noted.
We have also approved a model for Regional Airports to link smaller cities without passing by Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam,” he added.