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Saudia aims ever higher

Article - February 1, 2013
The airline has played a vital role in the Saudi Arabis’s development and is now looking to privitisation to further bolster growth.
Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) is flying high in the right direction, making the right decisions and adopting the right strategies to become a world leader in the industry. It has been making intensive efforts for the privatization of the core airline, which will have a dramatic impact on Saudia’s overall performance and growth. The airline is now focusing on how to enhance customer satisfaction by introducing a variety of attractive services.
To meet its present and future requirements, Saudia has given top priority to manpower training, as it believes that well-qualified and well-trained manpower is the backbone of any organization. Prince Sultan Aviation Academy in Jeddah plays a significant role in training the staff of Saudia and other airlines. Saudia has sent some of its staff members to reputable international universities and colleges abroad on scholarship to pursue their higher studies in aviation sciences and technology.
Saudia has been playing a significant role in the Kingdom’s social, educational, economic, commercial and industrial growth. Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, who is a great visionary, has been steering the Kingdom to greater progress and prosperity. Ever since he ascended the throne in 2005, he has brought about remarkable social and political reforms and carried out massive projects in economic, health, educational, and industrial sectors. 
Saudi Arabia has now become the largest economy in the Middle East and a member of G20. Saudi Arabian Airlines is growing with the Kingdom, making considerable contributions to the country’s development. 
King Abdullah wants to make Saudi Arabia a knowledge-based economy and has adopted a number of measures to realize this goal. He opened new government universities in all regions of the Kingdom and licensed several private universities and colleges. King Abdullah University of Science and Technology in Thuwal, near Jeddah, is a world-class research university and was the King’s dream project. More than 150,000 outstanding Saudi students have been sent abroad to study at reputable universities and colleges under the King Abdullah Foreign Scholarship Program. The Madinah Knowledge Economic City was also established to realize the goal.
Saudia plays an important role in transporting millions of pilgrims who come to the Kingdom for Haj and Umrah (the greater and lesser pilgrimages) every year. It considers the service to the guests of God as a great national and religious responsibility, and mobilizes all its resources to render this service in the best possible manner, rising up to the expectations of the Saudi government as well as pilgrims. Saudia has set up a strategic unit for Haj & Umrah Service. It transports more than 3 million Umrah pilgrims and about 1 million Haj pilgrims every year.
Saudia makes advance preparations for the massive Haj and Umrah operations and deploys additional staff for ground services. It holds meetings with the various government departments at airports to ensure smooth handling of pilgrims and Haj flights. Customer Care Centers at airports have been instructed to take care of the pilgrims and their requirements with urgency. 
The tremendous progress achieved by the Kingdom’s aviation sector will have a big impact on Saudia’s services. The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has embarked on a number of massive projects including expansion of King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Muhammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah, two main gateways of foreign pilgrims. 
The expansion of Jeddah and Madinah airports would cater to the needs of the growing numbers of pilgrims who come for Haj and Umrah. The expansion of King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh is another major project being carried out by GACA. A number of regional airports in Tabuk, Hail, Qassim, Abha, and Yanbu have been developed recently and have started receiving international flights.
At present the air traffic in the Kingdom is focused on four airports: King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah, King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, King Fahd International Airport in Dammam and Prince Muhammad bin Abdulaziz International Airport in Madinah. GACA intends to reduce pressure on these airports by expanding nearby airports. The expansion of Madinah airport, which now receives a large number of foreign Haj flights, has reduced the pressure on the Jeddah airport. The Taif Airport, which is located close to Makkah, is currently undergoing expansion to increase its capacity from 350,000 to 550,000. It has also started receiving Haj flights and other international flights. New airports at mega economic cities will also boost the Kingdom’s aviation sector.
It is worth mentioning here that Saudi Arabia has adopted an open-skies policy. More than 54 million passengers passed through the Kingdom’s 27 airports in 2011, 13.6% more than the figure of 2010.  GACA offers a lot of incentives to attract foreign airlines. Its airport expansion projects are designed to turn King Abdulaziz International Airport, King Khalid International Airport and King Fahd International Airport into major regional hubs. A lot of new and attractive plans are in the pipeline to attract passengers and tourists. The number of passengers transported by Saudia is growing year after year. In 2012, it carried more than 23.7 million passengers.
The Saudi government is encouraging private investment in aviation projects. GACA has signed contracts with private companies to implement a number of airport expansion projects in recent years. It has also signed contracts with specialized international firms for the operation and maintenance of major airports in the country. It intends to privatize domestic and international airports gradually to ensure its commercial and efficient operation, reducing spending. GACA has recently licensed Qatar Airways and Gulf Air to operate domestic flights. 
During the past five years, Saudia has made remarkable progress, in terms of upgrading its technical infrastructure; shifting to the most advanced Amadeus passenger management system; modernization of its fleet by purchasing 90 new the state-of-the-art aircraft from Airbus and Boeing; joining the global SkyTeam alliance, which has now 19 premier airlines as its members; improving customer services; and completing privatization of Catering, Cargo and Ground Services units.
May 29, 2012 is an important date in the history of Saudi Arabian Airlines when it officially joined the global SkyTeam Airlines. Saudia’s management and staff have made a lot of efforts to fulfill the conditions set by the alliance. These efforts such as the upgrading of technical infrastructure, the modernization of fleet, and the restructuring of administration were instrumental in further strengthening the organization.
The airline’s different strategic units such as Catering, Cargo, Ground Services, Maintenance, and Private Airline are competing with one another to provide excellent services to the clients and make good profits. These entities have achieved considerable experience to confront market challenges, especially regional and international competition.
Saudia plans to operate flights to more international destinations. It currently covers most continents including Asia, Africa, Europe, and Americas. Saudia operates flights to more than 100 destinations and intends to further expand its operations to new markets after studying market potentials. Its membership in SkyTeam Alliance, which has 19 leading airlines as members, supports Saudia’s drive to go more global, meeting the requirements of passengers.
Saudia participates actively in regional and international aviation organizations. It is one of the founders of Arab Air Carriers Organization (AACO) that serves Arab airline companies, represents their common interests, and strengthens their cooperation to improve operational efficiencies. It has now 28 members. 
Saudia plays an important leadership role in the organization being the largest airline in the region. It has hosted AACO’s annual general assembly meetings a number of times as part of its efforts to strengthen the Pan-Arab body and adopt joint strategies to confront challenges facing the industry. Khaled Al-Molhem, the Director General of Saudia, has been re-elected to the board of governors of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).
Saudia is deeply concerned with global warming and other environmental issues. It has been trying its best to protect the environment by purchasing the most advanced and environment friendly aircraft to reduce carbon emission.
Saudia has given utmost importance to the media being a strong vehicle for marketing and public relations. It has been making use of media organizations to market its products and services as well as to project its image. Its officials meet with reporters of national and international print and electronic media organizations and answer their queries. Saudia has a strong media department led by the executive vice president for public relations.
Saudia has been making use of all modern media outlets including the satellite channels, the social media, electronic newspapers and the print media to highlight its services. It is now in the process of making its customers speak on behalf of the airline, by winning their hearts through excellent services. 
Saudia has made unprecedented progress during the past seven years as a result of the combined efforts of its management and staff. Despite all its great achievements over the past years, Saudia management believes that this is no time to rest and merely be satisfied with what has been gained. The airline sees big challenges as well as a lot of opportunities around it, and the management is committed to make Saudia one of the best airlines in the world, meeting the requirements of Saudi Arabia and its global passengers.