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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

The Association for Consumer Protection has called for Saudi skies to be opened to all Gulf-state airlines. It is a call that frequent flyers within the Kingdom will heartily endorse.

Air travel in Saudi Arabia, particularly between Riyadh and Jeddah, can be a nightmare — and increasingly so. All too often customers trying to book a fight on Saudia are told that there is no seat available for days ahead and that even the waitlist is full. But they are also told that if they turn up at the airport they may be lucky. Those that do then often find the supposedly full aircraft half empty or alternatively have to endure the misery of waiting for hours in the hope of a seat. As for those with confirmed reservations, that is no guarantee. They can find themselves being told when checking in that because of overbooking they have to take a later flight or, if traveling first or business class, that they have been downgraded.

The Saudi skies desperately need full-blooded competition. To be fair, the Kingdom is committed to both it and the privatization of Saudia. But the gestation of the latter is taking an extraordinarily long time while the former is still in its infancy. True, there is Nasair — but it is so small compared to Saudia that it has little effect as a competitor — and what competition there was suffered a serious blow when Sama went out of business amid claims that Saudia was being unfairly favored with subsidized fuel. The reality is that Saudia retains a near monopoly within the Kingdom and customers consequently get a raw deal.

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