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Saudi to enter Gulf aviation industry 18, April 2010

Posted by thegulfblog.com in Saudi Arabia, The Gulf.
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As if Middle Eastern skies were not full enough, Saudi Arabia has announced plans to become a “major international aviation hub by 2035”. These kinds of slightly bombastic statements have been heard before with the various launches and relaunches of Gulf Air, Emirates Airlines, Qatar Airways and with Etihad Airways.

Some interesting points to note:

  • Even though Saudi may well be undertaking a “comprehensive overhaul” it is a decade behind the regional curve. The afore mentioned airlines will be hundreds of aircraft, tens of billions of dollars worth of investments and numerous world-class airports ahead of Saudi Arabia. Saudi will not only not have the luxury of a relatively free international aviation market to grow into, but instead they will be seeking to grow as Emirates, Qatar and Etihad are maturing into ever more competitive, world-spanning airlines.
  • However, MEED sagely notes that Saudi will base their growth not as much on the frightfully competitive international market per se, but on domestic aviation (something no other GCC states can do) and on religious pilgrims.
  • This unique market will have to do for Saudi Arabia. I can not foresee how they could possibly compete with the established GCC and other carriers on Europe to Asia flights, barring an unsustainable and epically costly slashing of ticket prices. Without a positive aviation reputation and certainly without alcohol, such markets will prove, I believe, outwith their reach.
  • Saudi hopes that King Abdulaziz International in Jeddah will be one of the largest airports in the world handling 80 million passengers a year by 2035.