Saudia plans a 50 per cent cut in domestic flights

Saudi Arabian Airlines plans to halve its domestic flights by the end of next month, to allow two new private airlines — Sama and Nas — to operate flights on new routes, it announced on 12 September. Saudia will stop operations in 14 domestic sectors on 30 March 2008, in line with a plan set out by the General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA), the kingdom''s air transport regulator.

The dropped destinatons 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.

A Saudia official emphasised the importance of good coordination between air carriers under the umbrella of GACA, saying it would ensure their smooth operations. 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. GACA has specified mandatory routes for the three airlines operating domestic flights in the kingdom.

Sama will start operating on these sectors from 28 October, and fares on these routes are likely to go down. At present, Sama operates 30 flights daily to Dammam, Jeddah, Riyadh, Abha, Jizan and Madinah. 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.