JEDDAH: P.K. ABDUL GHAFOUR
Published — Tuesday 26 February 2013
Last update 26 February 2013 3:01 am
Saudi Arabian Airlines will be transformed into a holding company within five years, said Khaled Al-Molhem, its director general.
He also disclosed plans to privatize five new companies affiliated to the organization.
Al-Molhem said the airline would continue to provide discounted tickets to students and military officers.
Saudia will privatize the Saudi Aerospace Engineering Industries, Prince Sultan Aviation Academy and the Real Estate Development Company.
Al-Molhem noted Saudia flights did not register any accidents since 1996.
He welcomed new operators in the Kingdom’s domestic sector, saying it would improve competition and benefit travelers. “Domestic flights account for 67 percent of Saudia’s total flights,” he said.
He said Saudia has already privatized its catering, cargo and ground service divisions. The catering company has sold 30 percent of its shares in an initial public offering.
“The catering company supplied 28 million meals to 59 airline companies last year,” Al-Molhem said.
Saudia’s Cargo company has 12 wide-bodied aircraft, offering its services to countries around the world.
The Ground Services company handles more than 56 million passengers annually. There are more than 5,000 employees in the Saudi Aerospace Engineering Industries and 90 percent of them are Saudis.
“We are planning to invest SR 3.5 billion in the maintenance sector and we’ll become the largest aircraft maintenance center in the region once the new project is completed,” Al-Molhem said, adding that the company would employ 5,000 more workers in the coming years.
He said Saudia purchased 84 new aircraft from Airbus and Boeing in recent years to modernize its domestic and international fleet network.
Al-Molhem highlighted the airline’s efforts to train Saudi graduates to become pilots and air crew, providing them with training at Prince Sultan Aviation Academy and sending them for higher studies abroad on King Abdullah Scholarship.
“There is no study or decision on canceling the 50 percent discount provided on tickets of students, military officers and other special groups of travelers. We have been following this pricing system during the last 17 years and there is no plan to cancel it in the near future,” the director general said.
He said the total number of passengers carried by Saudia increased to more than 24 million in 2012 against 16 million in 2006.