There were some positive signs yesterday that Saudi Arabia may be ready to embrace more private sector involvement into its airports' infrastructure when Crown Prince Sultan, Deputy Premier and Minister of Defence and Aviation showed
his support for such an initiative.
Speaking at the first meeting of the newly formed General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), an independent body empowered to operate on a commercial basis, Prince Sultan urged businessmen to make more use of the flexibility offered by the Kingdom's new Civil Aviation Law.
He also emphasised the private sector's future role in developing the Kingdom's 27 domestic and international airports, which currently handle 33m passengers a year. He said that private sector involvement was important if the country's airports were to rival the facilities offered by competing foreign airports.
Subjects discussed at the meeting included air transportation strategy, the expansion of King Abdul Aziz International Airport, the organisational structure of GACA, licensing of airlines, the commercial operation of King Fahd International Airport in Dammam and a potential reduction in fees for airlines using the Kingdom's airports.
The Business reliably understands that the General Authority of Civil Aviation already has ready access to various proposals for the commercial and retail enhancement of its big international airports at Jeddah and Riyadh, including various duty free models it could adopt if it so chooses. Whether it will opt to seek foreign involvement in any tender process in future still remains open to question however.