Madinah-Cairo flights suspended after row
All flights between two cities cancelled following spat between Saudi and Egyptian aviation authorities.
April 5, 2010 8:17 by Ben Flanagan
Passenger flights in the Madinah-Cairo sector have been suspended following a dispute between the Saudi General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) and its Egyptian counterpart when the latter refused to allow two Saudi-based private airlines to land at Cairo International Airport.
In spite of an existing agreement to remove all restrictions in the air space between the two countries, the NAS and SAMA planes were recently denied clearance to carry passengers to Cairo.
As a result of the dispute, Saudi Arabian Airlines was also disallowed from transporting Egyptian Umrah pilgrims from Cairo to Madinah’s Prince Muhammad Airport last week. GACA reacted instantly by denying permission to EgyptAir to land in Madinah, Al-Eqtisadiah daily reported on Sunday.
According to an informed source, GACA had granted Egyptian companies permission to operate 200 flights from Cairo to various airports in the Kingdom a week. These include 98 flights to Jeddah, 25 to Riyadh and 17 to Dammam in addition to three weekly flights to Madinah. The Saudi authorities also granted permission to Egyptian budget airlines to take passengers from Egypt at the rate of two flights a day to Yanbu, three weekly flights to Abha and one daily flight to Jeddah.
The two sides also signed an agreement removing all restrictions in operations between the two countries in February 2006. However, the agreement was not implemented properly because of EgyptAir’s fear that budget airlines would dominate the industry, said an industry source.
The source added that NAS and SAMA had agreed to keep their fares to Cairo identical with the normal fares of Saudi Airlines and EgyptAir.
Senior officials from both airlines are expected to sort out the difficulties soon. The discussions in Jeddah last month did not produce any positive result. Any denial of landing permission to budget airlines is against international regulations, an International Air Transport Association (IATA) source said.
The number of air passengers between the Kingdom and Egypt stood at 3.2 million in 2009, which is considered the highest among Arab countries.