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Saudia Plans 50 Percent Cut in Domestic Flights

 

Thursday, 13, September, 2007 (01, Ramadhan, 1428)

 P.K. Abdul Ghafour, Arab News

JEDDAH, 13 September 2007 Saudi Arabian Airlines plans to cut its domestic flights by 50 percent by the end of next month. The reduction is being made in order to allow the two private airlines SAMA and NAS to operate flights to new routes, it was announced yesterday.

The move comes in accordance with a plan set out by the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), the Kingdoms air transport regulator.

According to the plan, Saudia will stop operations in 14 domestic sectors on March 30, 2008.

These include Dammam-Hail, Dammam-Bisha, Dammam-Riyadh, Abha-Taif, Abha-Jizan, Abha-Sharourah, Riyadh-Hail, Riyadh-Hofouf, Riyadh-Qassim, Riyadh-Refha, Riyadh-Qaisuma, Riyadh-Wajh, Riyadh-Dawadmi, and Riyadh-Wadi Al-Dawasser, the source said.

An official at Saudia emphasized the importance of good coordination between air carriers under the umbrella of GACA saying it would ensure their smooth operations.

Every company has to follow the mandatory routes set by GACA, the source said.

Under the new plan, NAS will operate flights from Riyadh to Qassim, Hail, Hofouf, Refha, Wajh, Qaisuma and Dawadmi, while Sama will have flights from Dammam to Hail, Bisha, and Riyadh. NAS will also operate flights between Abha, Taif, Jizan and Sharourah.

The source said Saudia would continue to operate its regular flights from Jeddah to all other domestic destinations.

Taher Aqeel, executive president of NAS, said the GACA had specified mandatory routes for the three airlines operating domestic flights in the Kingdom. We intend to operate flights on all 23 mandatory routes by the end of this year, he said.

Faisal Al-Daheem, marketing manager of SAMA, said the new destinations the airlines network will be Hail, Qurayat, Tabuk, Al-Jouf, Arar and Refha. We have already started accepting reservations for flights on these routes, he said.

SAMA will operate flights in these sectors from Oct. 28, he said, adding that fares on these routes would go down. At present SAMA operates 30 flights daily to Dammam, Jeddah, Riyadh, Abha, Jizan and Madinah.

Speaking about competition in the domestic market, Daheem said it would improve services and products and provide consumers a variety of choices at reduced rates.

In April, Saudia announced its plan to launch a low-cost airline as part of a strategic plan to strengthen the carrier in the face of domestic and foreign competition.

Khaled Al-Mulhim, director general of the airline, did not say when the the low-cost service would begin, but travel industry analysts welcomed the plan, saying it would strengthen the airline and help meet competition posed by the budget carriers.

 

 

 

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