Saudi Arabia General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca) has given up its board representation with Saudi Arabia Airlines (Saudia) marking the start of a full separation between the kingdom’s aviation regulator and the state-backed national carrier.

The Council of Ministers said the decision is in line with transforming Gaca into an independent legislative organisation and cutting off what has been frequently seen as “excessively close” relationship between the two organisations.

The close association between Gaca and Saudi has led a number of aviation executives in the past to brand Gaca as Saudia’s political wing or advocate.

The decision “enhances the role of Gaca to stand on an equal footing between all carriers,” according to a report, citing Saudi Arabia Transport Minister Suleiman al-Hamdan.

The decision is good news, according to Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research. “It will lend a degree of impartiality for Gaca, which in recent years has skewed its policy making around Saudia,” Ahmad tells MEED.

Ahmad, however, says it remains to be seen if the decision will lead to true modernisation and liberalisation in the kingdom’s airline sector.

Saudia is understood to control approximately 90 per cent of Saudi Arabia’s domestic market. The rest is accounted for by low-cost airline Flynas.

The kingdom’s second low-cost carrier, SaudiGulf, is due to commence operations on 22 June.

Two other low-cost carriers – Qatar Airways-backed Al-Maha and Nesma Airlines – are awaiting to receive their air operator certificate (AOC) from Gaca.

Saudia has said it also plans to launch its own low-cost carrier, called Flyadeal, in 2017.