- CAPA Analysis
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- International Airlines serving this country (excluding codeshares)
Aviation in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is dominated by the national carrier, Saudi Arabian Airlines, which once enjoyed monopoly status. However, more recently the sector has been opened to competition with the entrance of two privately owned LCCs Sama Airlines and NAS Air. The country’s main international gateway is the Jeddah King Abdulaziz International Airport, which is also the major hub for Saudi Arabian airlines.
The General Authority of Civil Aviation of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is responsible for regulating the country’s aviation sector while also providing air navigation services.
Airports in Saudi Arabia
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nasair has long been the junior partner in the Saudi Arabian aviation market, but five years into operations its fortunes have begun to change. In 3Q2012, the airline reported its first-ever quarterly profit. It also managed to breakeven in the final quarter of the year, ending 2012 with a small loss. Load factors have hit a record 75% and nasair has turned its operational performance around to generate more revenue.
With the improving financial momentum and promising passenger traffic, the carrier is optimistic about its prospects for 2013. Sulaiman Al-Hamdan, Group CEO of NAS Holding – the parent of nasair – has announced the carrier is targeting a 50% increase in passenger traffic for 2013. As if that wasn’t ambitious enough, the carrier is also targeting a 100% increase in revenue and its first ever full-year profit.
EgyptAir continues to make massive losses as the carrier and Egypt struggle to recover from the Jan-2011 revolution which resulted in the airline moving into crisis mode for two months when it was forced to temporarily ground up to 40% of its fleet and as 80% of revenue evaporated.
Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation Wael al-Maddawy reportedly told the Shura Council Transportation Committee in Mar-2013 that losses at the national carrier had reached more than EGP6 billion (USD885 million) since the revolution. EgyptAir is yet to publicly release its annual report for FY2012 which ended 30-Jun-2012, but Mr Maddawy said EGP650 million (USD95.7 million) of the losses were due to the weakening of the EGP to the USD.
“EgyptAir’s losses are huge, but not catastrophic, [as they won’t] lead to the closure or selling of the company,” Mr Maddawy said. The carrier is burdened with 32,000 employees, when it needs just 12,000 to operate the carrier. Some 20,000 more employees than it needs. However, the carrier is prevented from reducing its headcount due to the prevailing social circumstances, according to Mr Maddawy.
Cebu Pacific’s new low-cost long-haul unit plans to initially focus on Middle Eastern and regional markets as it works towards launching services with 436-seat A330-300s by Jul-2013. Dubai will be the Philippine carrier’s first long-haul route and will likely be followed by service to Abu Dhabi, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait in 2014. But Cebu Pacific over the medium to long-term also aims to use its new fleet of A330s to serve Australia and potentially Hawaii.
Cebu Pacific will become Asia’s fourth low-cost long-haul carrier, joining Jetstar, AirAsia X and Scoot. But Cebu Pacific is implementing a different strategy with an all-economy product and focus on point-to-point traffic. This reflects the different dynamics of the Philippine market, particularly its large overseas population.
With little fanfare, Etihad Airways has notched China Eastern as codeshare partner number 37. At first glance, benefits may seem limited: Etihad has services to China Eastern's hub at Shanghai but China Eastern's only services to the Middle East are twice-weekly from Kunming to Dubai, close but not at Etihad's hub of Abu Dhabi. Yet the partnership has potential to develop powerfully and be one of the most important to each carrier.
It is a long-term possibility. China Eastern has a number of initiatives and not always enough support to see them through as quickly as Etihad can. Further cooperation will also depend on how markets develop. Unlike bullish China Southern, China Eastern is conservative with its long-haul growth and is not certain on the long-term prospects of Europe. Reducing direct long-haul exposure via a partnership with Etihad, which could also reach other markets, could be ideal. Etihad stands to receive further access to mainland China, which will one day be the largest domestic market and which it cannot serve entirely on its own, due to fleet, demand and bilateral restrictions.
After several years of sagging performance, Saudi Arabia’s aviation market reported its strongest growth in passenger traffic in more than a decade in 2011, even against the background of the Middle East’s regional social unrest. Despite the Arab Spring uprisings in North Africa and some of the Gulf states, Saudi Arabian passenger traffic boomed in 2011, up 13.6% year-on-year in 2011, to just over 54 million passengers, as the national economy expanded 6.8% (real GDP estimate) on expanding oil output and renewed government and private sector investment. Large infrastructure investments are fuelling high movements of migrants workers from around the Gulf as well as India, Southeast Asia and China.
Saudi Arabia’s newly independent General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has confirmed that it will go ahead with a radical move to open its domestic skies to foreign carriers as its seeks to breathe new life into the country’s moribund domestic air travel market and increase the Kingdom’s air transport links with the rest of the world.
In a 25-Dec-2011 statement, the GACA announced it would seek applications from both Saudi and foreign airline companies, as well as foreign investors, for licences to operate domestic and international flights from Saudi airports. The GACA hopes to launch the tender process in late Jan-2012, the end of the Islamic calendar year.