CJI Middle East & Africa 2020: Saudi Arabia poised for growth after Covid-19



Business aviation in Saudi Arabia is poised for significant growth, despite the trauma caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Yosef Hafiz, Vice President Sales and Marketing, NASJET.

Hafiz highlighted updated aviation regulations and the development of key projects, such as the $500bn city of Neom currently under construction on the country’s north west coast, as helping to position the sector for growth

Government moves to regulate the aviation sector, in a bid to combat illegal charter, have introduced much-needed clarity into the country’s aviation sector, Hafiz told delegates at the online conference CJI Middle East & Africa. “10 years ago, about half of charter flights in Saudi Arabia were illegal and the other half were legal. But now 99% of flights are legal,” said Hafiz.

The growing problem of grey market charter was remedied by the country’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) requiring every aircraft owner based in the country, regardless of their country of registration, to join a local Saudi management company or set up an operator certificate. Aircraft owners now must have an AOC Commercial Operation or an Operator’s Certificate for Private Operation.

$200,000 to prepare documentation

Faced with bills of up to $200,000 to prepare documentation, significant numbers of aircraft owners have chosen to join management companies. NASJET reported gaining a number of new clients.

“GACA has really done a good job in clearing up the market and they do a lot of spot checks on aircraft coming in – not only on local operators – to make sure they are not doing illegal charters,” said Hafiz.

Also, big projects set out in the Saudi’s Vision 2030 project to reduce the country’s reliance oil, will stimulate economic growth, with significant growth in tourism and business aviation. This biggest project is the autonomous ‘digital city’ of Neom, including Neom Airport, which has a runway long enough to accommodate 747 aircraft. Also, 50% of Saudi Arabia’s population is less than 30 years old.

‘Digital city of Neom’

Meanwhile, business aviation in the country is picking up after the complete closure of its airspace from March 15th. Domestic travel didn’t re-open until May 31st. And only yesterday (September 15th) was an announcement made that international travel will be permitted with many exemptions.

“So we are seeing a little bit of a pick up in flights and some newcomers to the industry as well,” said Hafiz. “But, in general, it’s been a lot quieter than last year and people are not flying as much as they used to.” (Image courtesy of NASJET).

Fellow conference speaker Mohammed Al Husary, Executive President UAS Trip Support, highlighted how business aviation was coping in the post Covid-19 landscape.

Meanwhile, you can listen to the free access conference by registering here.