RIYADH: Private and foreign investment is needed to bolster Saudi Arabia’s aviation industry even as the country aims to reach 330 million passengers and 250 international destinations by the end of this decade, a senior civil aviation official said.
“Public Investment Fund is our main partner. We are very happy to have such an investment powerhouse. But not only PIF; we need everyone’s cooperation. We need the private sector. We need the foreign investors as much as we need the PIF,” said Mohammed Alkhuraisi, head of strategy at the General Authority of Civil Aviation, in an exclusive interview with Arab News.
Regional logistics hub
During the call, Alkhuraisi revealed that GACA has solid plans to turn Saudi Arabia into a logistics hub as it targets 4.5 million cargo shipments by 2030.
He added that of the 4.5 million cargo shipments targeted, 2 million are transshipments only.
Outlining GACA’s plans regarding logistics regulations, Alkhuraisi said: “There is a clear roadmap of what we will do in terms of relaxing regulations, streamlining processes and building specialized economic zones with specialized warehouses and facilities, etc.”
He added: “With the help of the services of the Ministry of Transport and Logistics, we are marching towards the implementation of these regulations and making them known.”
GACA is no longer an operator
During the interview, Alkhuraisi made it clear that GACA is no longer an operator but a regulator.
“So today GACA is purely a regulator and no longer an operator. GACA has operated airports for the past few decades, and now we’ve separated that completely. All airports and operations are within companies that focus on operational matters, while GACA only focuses on regulatory matters,” he added.
During the interview, Alkhuraisi also highlighted the steps that should be taken to revitalize the airline industry, which has been badly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“To smooth the airline business recovery, you need to optimize the cost environment. And that is what the regulator is responsible for. So we need to make sure we have the right regulations and incentive systems in place to have a cost structure that conforms to best practices.”
However, he acknowledged that there are several other things over which the regulator has no control, including the cost of owning aircraft, labor and human capital.
More partnerships with foreign airlines
Alkhuraisi added that Saudi Arabia wants to link more foreign airlines to the Kingdom through bilateral deals.
“We would like to connect more foreign airlines to the Kingdom as part of our bilateral agreements. KLM for example. They served the routes from Amsterdam. Other airlines would be encouraged and welcomed; Whether Asian, Latin American, North American or any other part of Europe, all are welcome to come and start operating point-to-point services in the Kingdom.”
Alkhuraisi also confirmed that a new national airline will soon be launched in Saudi Arabia, previously announced by Saudi Transport Minister Saleh Al-Jasser during the recently concluded Future Aviation Forum.