JEDDAH: JASSIM ABUZAID | ARAB NEWS STAFF
Published — Saturday 29 December 2012
Last update 29 December 2012 12:12 am
Qatar Airways, Gulf Air and its associates have been selected as the new airline companies to operate domestic and international services from and to Saudi Arabia.
The General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) announced the decision yesterday.
Both the winning companies will complete the final procedures to get the licenses that will take three to six months depending on their preparedness to launch services.
GACA has evaluated the bids in three phases with the help of a technical consultancy company from the United States to identify the best companies that could adhere to the best and safest international standards of air passenger transport.
Qatar Airways and the Gulf Air consortium were found to be in agreement with the demands of GACA to protect the interests of Saudi travelers with their capability to bear long-term operation costs, possession of a sufficiently strong fleet needed for domestic and international flight operations, Saudi Press Agency reported. After inviting the bids in January, GACA short-listed seven companies out of 14 companies that eyed the Saudi skies for operations. According to an earlier statement, the new entrants to the Saudi airlines business would have the freedom to choose any Saudi airport as their hub to operate domestic and international flights.
During the selection process, the technical consultancy company helped GACA look into the bidder companies’ profiles, including their technical capabilities, experience in air transport and financial capabilities to viably establish and operate an aviation company.
During the second stage of the selection process, GACA met with representatives of the seven short-listed bidders and gave them a visual presentation of the stages of the time schedule, capacity of airports and volume of air traffic in the Kingdom.
During the third stage in early October, Gulf Airlines consortium and Qatar Airlines were declared the two top-ranking bidders.
Gulf Airlines’ documents showed that it had excellent operating plans for the Saudi domestic and international flights in business and guest classes, said GACA.
The Qatari company’s files also displayed its capability to offer quality service to passengers. With a population of more than 27 million, including 8 million expatriate workers, apart from millions of pilgrims traveling to and from the Kingdom, Saudi Arabia offers a lucrative market for airline companies.