Saudia Aims At Fleet Of 286 Aircraft By 2025

July 18--JEDDAH -- Skytrax, a UK-based international aviation industry consultancy that runs an airline and airport review, has raised the ranking of Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) from three-star to four-star considering the remarkable improvement of the national flag carrier's passenger services.

Saudia also won three international awards from Skytrax for the best economy (guest) class seat, best first class comfort amenities and the best airline to improve its services, products and performance in a year. The awards were announced during a ceremony in London recently.

Abdul Aziz Al-Hazmi, acting director general of Saudia who received the three awards from Skytrax CEO Edward Plaisted, said his company has a plan to double its fleet strength from 131 to 286 aircraft by 2025.

"We'll present this proposal to the board of directors for approval," he said.

After receiving approval from the board, the airline would decide on the type, size and seat capacity of the aircraft it wanted to purchase, he said.

"The number of passengers rose 8 percent in the first quarter of 2014 and revenues increased 10 percent," he pointed out.

Skytrax said it selected the airlines for its awards after an independent review of their services and performance and considering the opinion of passengers.

More than 19 million passengers participated in the selection of award winners as they voted through the group's website.

They belonged to 105 nationalities and the review covered 245 airlines.

Al-Hazmi congratulated Prince Fahd bin Abdullah, president of the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and chairman of Saudia, for the awards and said it was the result of the development programs implemented by the airline over the past years under Prince Fahd's leadership.

Speaking to reporters, he said Saudia has no plan to increase its domestic fares.

"Passengers who book their seats 10 days before the departure of flights will be able to get tickets at lower rates," he pointed out.

"We are doing our best to improve our services to win customer satisfaction and only sky is the limit of our ambitions," the acting Saudia chief said.

Saudia has increased seat capacity in the domestic sector by one million since the beginning of 2014 after receiving newly ordered Airbus and Boeing aircraft.

"There is tremendous increase in the number of domestic passengers," Al-Hazmi said, adding that the airline operates flights to 28 cities within the Kingdom in addition to serving international destinations.

Al-Hazmi is optimistic about the good future of Saudia.

"Opportunities are growing as a result of airport expansions and opening of new airports," he said, adding that the newly expanded King Abdulaziz International Airport would be opened in the middle of next year.

Copyright 2014 - Arab News, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia