JEDDAH: Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) is optimistic about reaching its goal of 200 aircraft by the year 2020 and aims to have 100 percent Saudi pilots, Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, director general of the airline, said Friday.
Addressing a press conference upon his return to Jeddah after taking the delivery of the new Airbus A330 in France, he said Saudia is expected to receive 25 such aircraft within a few months.
The aircraft is the first of the A330-300 Regional aircraft ordered at the 2015 Paris Airshow and joins Saudia’s existing Airbus fleet.
Elaborating on the pilots issue, which was highlighted by Arab News, Al-Jasser said: “Saudia is training about 3,000 Saudi pilots. They have been sent abroad for the best education and to fulfill the future demand for pilots and copilots.”
Asked if Saudi women were included in Saudia’s recruitment program, he said the Ministry of Education or the Ministry of Labor and Social Development would be able to answer that query.
Asked if the aircraft replaced with the new ones would be transferred to Flyadeal, a Jeddah-based low-cost airline owned by Saudia, Al-Jasser told Arab News that Flyadeal is aiming to acquire new aircraft. “The old aircraft will be sold to other airlines or used as scrap.”
The number of aircraft that Saudia currently operates includes 35 Airbus A320-200, 15 Airbus A320, 12 Airbus A330-300, 22 Boeing B777-268L, 4 Boeing B787-9 and 11 Embraer 170.
According to him, two thirds of Saudia’s operating capacity is in domestic flights as it is the only airline that operates at all the 27 airports in the Kingdom. The Airbus A330 will help cut operating cost by 20 percent per seat.
Asked if the cut in operating costs would result in a decrease in ticket prices, Al-Jasser said: “For domestic flights, the prices are fixed by regulations and hence not a fitting economic return for the airline. In terms of international flights, the prices are affected by supply and demand. Even the domestic airline market will one day come under the supply and demand category.”
Earlier, during a press conference in the French city of Toulouse, on the occasion of receiving the aircraft, Al-Jasser said the company should be able to fly around 45 million guests by the year 2020.
“The company has the encouragement and support of various sectors, and it has put its strategic plans for the coming years into operation,” he said.
He thanked those who criticized Saudia, saying that they did it out of loyalty and their desire to make the national carrier the best.
Al-Jasir said the company carries out training programs to develop the human element and invest in national cadres. He said the company acquired 5,000 scholarships in coordination with the Ministry of Education, as part of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques Scholarship Program.
“Around 3,000 scholarships were designated to study aviation sciences, while 2,000 were allocated to aircraft maintenance. The company continues to attract young Saudi men and devises training programs to prepare them to work at the company in its various sectors,” he added.