Saudi travel firms reject claims of airlines cashing in on returning expatriates

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Updated 26 September 2020

Saudi travel firms reject claims of airlines cashing in on returning expatriates

  • International flights to and from the Kingdom were suspended on March 15 as part of preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19

RIYADH: Saudi travel companies have flown to the defense of airlines over claims they have been trying to cash in on expats looking to return to work in the Kingdom.
Following Saudi Arabia’s move to allow the partial resumption of international flights, plane operators have been running limited-capacity services for expats with Ministry of Interior approval to fly home.
But there have been complaints from passengers about the high prices being charged for one-way flight tickets.
Mohammed Aslam Jameel, supervisor at a travel agency in Riyadh, told Arab News: “Ticket prices are not as expensive as people are assuming. They could consider it as similar to booking tickets during high season.”
He said that one-way airfares were generally always more expensive than round-trip tickets. “In fact, one must appreciate that the aviation industry and travel companies have kept fares at a reasonable range, considering the six-month lull over aviation business.”
Despite holiday bookings being down, Saudi travel firms are hopeful of an uptick in business if regular flights get back to near normal in January.
“Currently, with Saudis not allowed to travel outside the Kingdom, apart from in exceptional cases with government approval, we cannot expect any boom in holiday business until the middle of next year,” Jameel said.
Feroz Khan, vice president of sales in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for WebBeds, the world’s second largest accommodation supplier to the travel industry, told Arab News: “With flight suspension removed partially by the Kingdom, Indians are looking forward to seeing airlines operating inbound flights to Saudi Arabia from India.
“With people stranded, limited flight availability, and small-bodied aircraft, demand is expected to be very high, fueling airfares to some extent.
“However, practically speaking and as per prices circulating on social media, I see it is still reasonable though on the higher side, considering the nature of the operations,” he said.
Airlines were charging the equivalent of a high-season round-trip airfare for a one-way ticket, Khan said, with, for example, a Delhi to Riyadh flight averaging SR2,000 ($533).
International flights to and from the Kingdom were suspended on March 15 as part of preventive measures to contain the spread of COVID-19.
Where the health situation has improved, countries are beginning to relax certain travel restrictions.


Saudi health minister promises to procure tested vaccine

Saudi Health Minister Tawfiq Al-Rabiah. (AP)
Updated 20 October 2020

Saudi health minister promises to procure tested vaccine

  • COVID-19 cases continue to decline in Saudi Arabia

JEDDAH: Saudi Health Minister Dr. Tawfiq Al-Rabiah on Monday said the Kingdom will procure vaccine for the novel coronavirus once it is confirmed to be safe and effective.

He said research on the vaccine is underway in a number of countries and the Saudi health authorities are following the developments.
The number of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) cases continues to decline in the Kingdom with the recovery rate from the illness rising to 96 percent. The minister attributed the decline on the “commitment to health precautions.”
“I also thank my fellow health practitioners for their wonderful efforts,” Al-Rabiah said.
Commenting on the second and stronger wave of COVID-19 in some countries, he said it was due to a lack of “commitment to social distancing” and failure to wear masks and taking other precautions.
He ruled out any leniency on part of the government in its fight against the virus. The minister said it is necessary to abide by precautionary measures to keep the virus at bay.

FASTFACTS

• Saudi Arabia recorded 381 new infections on Monday.

• With 16 new fatalities, the virus-related death toll has risen to 5,201.

“We (all) are in one boat, and the failure of some affects everyone, so we must work together” to check the spread of the virus.
He also advised people who show COVID-19 symptoms to visit Tetamman (rest assured) clinics.
“Appointments can be made through the ministry’s Sehaty app, and anyone who has any questions or wants to consult a doctor can call 937,” the minister said.
Saudi Arabia recorded 381 new infections on Monday. The total number of COVID-19 cases has reached 348,583 since the beginning of the outbreak in the Kingdom.
The Health Ministry said 16 more people died due to complications caused by the virus raising the death toll to 5,201. The ministry also reported 357 new recoveries. The total number of recovered cases has now increased to 328,895.