THE General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) intends 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.
Capt. Abdul Hakim Al-Badr, GACA vice president for air transport and security and safety, also disclosed his organization’s plan to license a new Saudi airline in July this year. “We’ll also license a new ground service company,” he said while speaking to reporters in Riyadh.
He said Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman has allocated more than SR380 million annually to support GACA. The king has agreed to host the office of the Regional Civil Aviation Organization, an affiliate of the Arab Civil Aviation Commission, which will be based in the Eastern Province.
Referring to Al-Maha Airways’ withdrawal from service, he said it was that airline company’s decision. “Al-Maha decided to withdraw and it did not contact GACA after its withdrawal.”
Al-Badr hinted at GACA’s plan to privatize airports. “We intend to discard ownership of airports in the near future. Our role will be limited to supervision,” he said, adding that the move was to improve services.
“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 added.
Until March 2016 the Kingdom did not have its own aviation safety system and was following FAA system. “Now we have our own safety system. We have also approved a model for regional airports to link smaller cities without passing by Riyadh, Jeddah and Dammam,” he explained.
GACA has contracted an Australian company to manage slots at airports, without showing any partiality to airlines operating in the Kingdom.
He said the plan to license a new Saudi airline company was to ensure fair competition among operating airlines. “It will also 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.”
However, he pointed out that when an airline offered cheapest prices for all class seats to beat a new operator, GACA intervened to stop that unfair practice.
Saudi Arabia has won a seat on the executive council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) from 36 countries, which are leading players in the industry. GACA’s board of directors has approved the bylaw for customer protection after making some changes.
“At present the maximum fine imposed on an airline for violations is SR50,000. We know that it’s not enough and we’ll change it shortly to make it more deterrent,” he stated. Saudi Arabia has been among countries that impose strict rules to ensure airline safety, he said.
Referring to a ban on A380 flights’ landing at King Abdulaziz Airport, he said the measure was taken to ensure safety as the airport’s tarmac is incapable to receive such huge aircraft.
“We have introduced an electronic system for approval of flights, issuing licenses and paying fees. We have licensed 60 airlines during the last Haj season to transport 1.2 million foreign pilgrims,” Al-Badr said.