It could mark a sign of relief for budget-crunched Mideast travellers if Qatar Airways goes ahead with its plans to launch an airline registered in Saudi Arabia.
CEO of the Doha-based carrier, Akbar Al Baker, recently held talks with His Highness Prince Fahad bin Abdullah Al Saud to discuss opportunities arising from the Kingdom’s newly-launched aviation liberalisation policy.
With a market that is underserved and keen for greater domestic air services, Al Baker said the Kingdom represented a key growth area.
However, during the meeting, he expressed particular concern over excessive fuel charges in the Kingdom and the government’s policy of controlling domestic airfares, which, he said, were not in the interests of the travelling public nor airline operators.
Al Baker said such factors were detrimental to airlines as fuel represented a major cost of operations.
Capping airfares, he said will never allow any airline to operate commercially in the Kingdom, citing the demise of domestic carrier Sama Airlines due to such measures.
He stressed that other airlines operating domestic flights within Saudi Arabia were facing the same problem of rising costs, pointing out these needed to be seriously addressed.
Al Baker said Qatar Airways was keen to invest in the Saudi domestic aviation market, but this was dependent on a fundamental rethink by the government of certain factors, which needed to be tackled.
Qatar Airways currently operates 109 aircraft to 117 destinations.
Over the next few months, Qatar Airways plans to expand its network to launch services to Kilimanjaro, Tanzania (July 25); Mombasa, Kenya (August 15); Yangon, Myanmar (October 3); Maputo, Mozambique (October 31); and a date yet-to-be-announced to the Serbian capital Belgrade.
The airline has orders worth over $50billion for more than 250 aircraft, including Boeing 787s, 777s, Airbus A350s, A380s and A320s.