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Open-sky policy

Open-sky policy

Saudi desperately needs competition in its air industry, says Arab News. But if Gulf airlines are to operate in the Kingdom, it has to be done on a fair basis.

January 5, 2011 1:10 by

Were they to enter the Saudi market, airlines such as Etihad or Qatar Airways would certainly give Saudia a run for its money. Indeed, given their reputation, Saudia would be hit painfully. Passengers would desert in their droves — and stay away until it improved its service.

But there lies the crux of the matter. While opening the Saudi skies to GCC airlines would vastly improve air travel in the Kingdom, there is a basic unfairness to it. It cannot be a one-way street.

All the GCC skies should be open to all GCC airlines. If airlines such as Emirates and Gulf Air are to be allowed to operate between Jeddah and Riyadh or even Jeddah and Paris or Riyadh and Rome then Saudia and all the other Gulf airlines should be allowed to operate not just between Kuwait and Dubai or Bahrain and Muscat but between Amsterdam and Abu Dhabi, between Dubai and Delhi. That would be true competition.

In any event, is this not part of what the GCC is supposed to be moving toward — a harmonized economy like that of the European Union? If that is to happen, then sooner or later there will have to be a common aviation policy under which all GCC airlines are treated as equals in terms of where they operate.

This may seem to confuse two issues — the need for more competition and better services in the Saudi skies and the need for greater GCC cohesion and integration. But if Gulf airlines are to operate in the Kingdom, it has to be done on a fair basis.

–          Arab News

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