Privately-owned Saudi airline begins domestic flights

01 November 2016

Two carriers serving domestic routes begin commercial operations within days

SaudiGulf Airlines has begun commercial operations, more than four months since it received its air operator’s certificate (AOC) from the General Authority of Civil Aviation (Gaca).

The airline started on 29 October with two daily flights between Dammam, its main hub, and Riyadh. Another two daily flights between Dammam and Jeddah will be added in November, the company said in a statement.

SaudiGulf plans to introduce up to seven daily connecting flights between Riyadh and Jeddah in the first quarter of 2017. The first international flight from Dammam to Dubai is also being planned for the first quarter of 2017.

The launch of the carrier’s scheduled flights took place a day after Nesma Airlines began scheduled flights from Hail to Tabuk and Qaisumah in the kingdom’s northern region.

The two airlines are both privately-owned.

They will be competing against the incumbent Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia), which controls an estimated 90 per cent of the kingdom’s aviation market, and Flynas, the kingdom’s first privately-owned airline.

Saudia maintained a monopoly of the market until 2008, when Flynas and Sama, also privately owned, began to operate. Sama folded operations a few years later, after incurring heavy losses.

Gaca has initiated several reforms to liberalise the kingdom’s aviation sector. Apart from granting a licence to privately owned airlines, it is aiming to privatise all of the kingdom’s airports and their operations by 2020.

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