Qatar Airways gave up plans to commence Al Maha, a domestic airline in Saudi Arabia. According to Forbes, this announcement was partly expected due to persistent delays of the final approval.
In 2013, the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) gave initial approvals to two airlines – Qatar Airways and Gulf Air – to launch two subsidiaries – Al Maha and SaudiGulf. The goal was to help meet rising domestic demand in Saudi Arabia.
However, while SaudiGulf received a license to operate in the kingdom last summer, Al Maha did not. Akbar Al Baker, CEO of Qatar Airways, confirmed the withdrawal while stating the disappointment of such an act and the aspiration of new opportunity.
Al Baker added that future opportunities might arise based on the growth of Saudi Arabia’s airports and a recent change in leadership within the country’s transport ministry.
“Once all those problems are resolved, we will reinvigorate our interest in operating a domestic Saudi airline,” he said.
Al Maha Airways was ready to start its services. It even had Airbus A320 planes coloured white and green to match Saudi Arabia’s national colours. The aircraft were delivered in 2015 and the airline’s parental carrier Qatar Airways has been using the planes on some regional routes since.
Other new Saudi Arabian airlines
Al Maha was to be based in Jeddah, which has had a large recruitment drive over recent years. Now another carrier Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) is set to base its new budget carrier Flyadeal in the same location. The airline has not started its service yet but it is due to receive aircraft from Airbus later this year. The carrier is already the fifth to be announced in Saudi Arabia in less than a decade, although the success rate among them has not been encouraging.
The budget carrier Flynas started flying in 2007 and keeps on successfully going by launching 260,000 flights carrying more than 30 million passengers in the last ten years. On the 17th of January, the airline signed an agreement for 80 A320neo family aircraft from Airbus.
However, another Saudi Arabia low-cost airline launched in 2007, Sama Airlines, closed its doors on in 2010 due to mounting debt and their inability to get government and private support.