Saudi Arabia to remove ‘empty-leg’ restrictions


An aeroplane taxis at the King Khalid International Airport, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) announced new regulations to reform the country’s aviation sector. 

Key measures include removal of ‘empty-leg’ restrictions, streamlining economic licenses for air transport operations and relaxation in requirements for airport operators and investors. 

“By removing the empty-leg restrictions, the new economic regulations provide more flexibility to general aviation operators, expanding and enhancing the network connectivity to the Kingdom. The increased connectivity to the Kingdom, in combination with these new rules, provide an enhanced competitive environment for existing and new general aviation investors,” said the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) spokesperson while speaking to Corporate Jet Investor.

Among the reforms, qualifying rules for airport operators have been expanded to support the privatization of the Kingdom’s airports alongside streamlining processes for new entrants to conduct business.

“We have reformed licensing rules to not only align the Kingdom’s regulation with global best practice, but ensure these measures reduce the cost for corporate jets and charter operators, providing the basis for new entrants into the market while boosting the overall competitiveness of the sector,” the spokesperson said.

Airports will be enabled to propose charges in line with GACA’s policy frameworks and will have more flexibility to diversify revenues by growing non-aeronautical revenues. Airport performance will also see a significant overhaul, with airport quality targets will be linked to incentive scheme.

The regulations were developed in consultation with stakeholders and will be phased over 18 months.

Saudi Arabia eyes investment of $100bn in private and government investment across the airports, airlines and aviation support services.

GACA president Abdulaziz Al-Duailej said: “GACA’s transformation of Saudi Arabia’s aviation economic regulations will drive further investment, growth, and performance across the aviation sector. The regulations will enable the realization of the Saudi Aviation Strategy, which is mobilizing $100bn in investment from public and private sector sources by 2030.”

The new rules are part of the Saudi Aviation Strategy under the Kingdom’s Vision 2030. 

The strategy aims to increase the kingdom’s connectivity from the existing 99 destinations to more than 250 across 29 airports, triple annual passenger traffic to 330m, establish two global long-haul connecting hubs in Riyadh and increase air cargo capacity to 4.5m tons.