Saudi aviation authority: open-sky policy caused Egypt row
Row over landing spots for KSA budget airlines caused suspension of flights between Cairo and Madinah.
May 13, 2010 2:31 by Ben Flanagan
The dispute between Saudi and Egyptian aviation authorities over airlines from both countries landing at their airports is a disagreement over the open sky policy, said GACA spokesman Khaled Al-Khaibari.
Al-Khaibari made the comments while responding to an article published in a local newspaper on Sunday about disagreements between the Saudi Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) and the Egyptian Civil Aviation Authority (ECAA).
He said disagreements between the two bodies had not reached a crisis stage.
In the article, ECAA’s head Sameh Hanafi said the stop in flights between Cairo and Madinah was because of a disagreement between the two countries.
He added that King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah receives 21 Egypt Air flights a week.
Commenting on this, Al-Khaibari said Egypt Air flights reach 56 a week during the Umrah and Haj seasons, adding that this demonstrates that the Kingdom is properly adhering to the open sky policy, which covers Egypt Air and other Egyptian budget airlines.
He said GACA is moving forward in allowing Egyptian companies to operate in the Kingdom as long as they adhere to Saudi safety requirements.
The article also quoted Capt. Alaa Ashour, chairman and CEO of Egypt Air Holding Company, who said the reason behind the disagreement was ECAA’s decision not to allow the Kingdom’s two budget airlines, SAMA and NAS, to land in Cairo, as their cheap prices negatively affect Egypt Air.
GACA, said Al-Khaibari, is seeking to apply the open sky policy between the two countries to benefit both Saudis and Egyptians, especially people with limited income. He added that this would increase travel between the two countries, reflect positively on the tourism sector and create new jobs.
Al-Khaibari said two Egyptian private airlines — Cairo Aviation and Air Cairo — are waiting for permission to begin operations to the Kingdom and that the delay is on the Egyptian side.
He added that GACA has no problem in giving permission to Egyptian airline companies that want to operate to the Kingdom, including Riyadh.
Almasria Universal Airlines, another Egyptian private airline, is already flying to Yanbu with two flights a day and a weekly flight to Abha, said Al-Khaibari, adding that SAMA and NAS are allowed to fly only to El-Nouzha and Burg Al-Arab airports in Alexandria and prevented from landing in Cairo.
The air route between Egypt and the Kingdom is very busy with over three million passengers traveling between the two countries annually.
Allowing new airlines into the sector will create some 4,000 job opportunities, said Al-Khaibari, adding that it would also help boost business as flights would be able to leave from Riyadh, Jeddah, Qassim, Tabuk and Abha.
Private local airlines refused to comment on the matter, saying they prefer to leave the matter in the hands of the aviation authorities.