KAIA capacity to reach 80 million, says Prince Fahd |
Arab News - 31 May, 2012
The capacity of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, which is currently undergoing a massive expansion, will be increased to 80 million passengers in 20 years, Prince Fahd bin Abdullah, president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), and chairman of the board of directors of Saudi Arabian Airlines, announced here Tuesday.
Addressing a ceremony to mark Saudia’s joining of the 16-member SkyTeam alliance, Prince Fahd said the new Jeddah airport is designed to become one of the largest hubs in the world. Covering an area of 670,000 square meters, the new airport will have 82 domestic, international and VIP lounges in addition to 96 air bridges.
Prince Fahd emphasized the importance of joining an alliance of international airlines in this age of globalization and said it would enable Saudia to provide unlimited services to passengers around the world. He urged SkyTeam to make use of their strong points to increase its market share.
There was a big celebration at KAIA’s Saudia Terminal to mark the national flag carrier joining the alliance, opening a new chapter in its 67-year history. Two Saudia aircraft painted in SkyTeam livery appeared in front of the participants as they were watching Saudi folk dances and acrobatic performances by experts, giving the event a festive look.
Khaled Al-Molhem, director general of Saudia and Michael Wisbrun, SkyTeam’s managing director, signed the historic agreement in the presence of Prince Fahd and top executives of the alliance’s member alliances. The membership will enable Saudia to offer 14,700 daily flights being operated by alliance members to 958 destinations in 173 countries.
Speaking at the ceremony, Al-Molhem highlighted his airline’s efforts over the past years to modernize its technical infrastructure, renovate its fleet and upgrade its passenger management systems. “We have bought 90 new aircraft, of which we have already received 54 Airbus and Boeing 777 planes,” he told the gathering.
The Saudia chief disclosed plans to purchase 50 more new advanced aircraft to beef up its domestic and international flight network. He also noted Saudia’s efforts to enhance the capabilities of its staff by providing them with advanced and intensive training, either at its facilities or sending them to reputable international institutions of higher learning.
Al-Molhem described Saudi Arabia as one of the growing travel market in the world. "At present, annual domestic and international travelers in the Kingdom are estimated at more than 54 million," he said.
Saudi Arabian Airlines transported a record 21.5 million passengers in 2011 against 19 million in 2010, with an increase of 2.5 million passengers in a single year.
Referring to Saudia's prestigious privatization program, Al-Molhem said, "We have privatized catering, cargo and ground services. The privatization of Saudia Aerospace Engineering Industries will be announced shortly.” Efforts are under way to transform Prince Sultan Aviation Academy into a major international center in the Middle East for aviation training and air safety systems, he pointed out.
Wisbrun welcomed Saudi Arabian Airlines to the global alliance. “Saudia’s membership adds value to the alliance by opening up the considerable Saudi Arabian market to our customers,” said Wisbrun. “We are responding to passenger demand for increased travel choice within the Middle East by adding a significant player from the region.”
Later addressing a joint press conference, Al-Molhem and Wisbrun explained the benefits Saudia passengers would be receiving as a result of SkyTeam membership. “The signing of SkyTeam agreement today proved that Saudi Arabian Airlines is capable of meeting the alliance’s conditions,” said Wisbrun.
The SkyTeam chief said his organization would continue its efforts to bring more airlines to the team to fill the white spots and focus more on improving passenger care and services.
“We are confident that if passengers feel that they are taken care during their travel and transit, they would surely prefer SkyTeam for their journey,” he added.
Asked about price agreement among members, Al-Molhem said every airline would have the freedom to charge the price it wants. “The SkyTeam membership will definitely improve Saudia’s services as the alliance would not accept below standard services,” he said. The agreement would boost Umrah traffic as member airlines would give good connections to pilgrims intending to reach Saudi Arabia.
Top executives of SkyTeam member airlines attended the ceremony. They were: Dominique Patry, VP International Affairs and Alliances, Air France; Andrea Tucci, VP Alliances & Network Agreements, Alitalia; Wang Chia Chuan, General Manager, International Affairs & Alliances, China Airlines; Liu Shaoyong, Chairman of China Eastern; Zhang Lin, EVP China Southern; Perry Cantarutti, SVP Europe, Middle East, & Africa, Delta Airlines; Jimmy Kibati, Head of Networking Planning & Airline Strategy, Kenya Airways; Bruce Donszelmann, Vice President of Alliances, KLM; and Yong-Soon Park, SVP International Affairs & Alliances, Korean Air.