Wednesday, February 28, 2024

KSA unveils big aviation reforms in $100bn investment drive

Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) has announced landmark reforms to help its aviation sector boost competitiveness, attract investors and increase transparency as part of a transformation plan that aims to attract $100 billion in private and public investments by 2030.

Key reforms by GACA include the introduction of competition standards at airports, anti-competitive pricing measures, streamlining the economic license for air transport operations, as well as expanding the qualifying rules for airport operators to help privatize more of kingdom’s airports.

 According to GACA, the new economic policy framework is designed to boost competition, create open markets for growth and innovation, increase transparency in commercial relationships and pricing, delivering better resource allocation, investment, and financial sustainability across the sector.

New opportunities for investors and operators will be created through the policy framework by leveling the playing to drive more competition, it added.

Unveiling the key reforms, GACA President Abdulaziz Al Duailej said these align with global best practices and are aimed at driving further investment, growth and performance across the aviation sector.

“These economic regulations will enable the realization of the Saudi Aviation Strategy, which is mobilizing $100 billion in investment from public and private sector sources by 2030,” he stated.

“The regulations create an open, dynamic and competitive market, setting a level playing field for global operators and investors in the Kingdom. These changes will create more competition, choice and value for passengers and consumers,” he added.

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

“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 linked to a new incentive scheme,” explained Al Duailej.

He pointed out that ground handling services and air cargo will be opened to competition, with a ‘general freedom of access’ principle being supported by competition levels across the kingdom’s airports.

License processes for ground handling and air cargo service providers is also being streamlined, he added.

According to GACA, foreign carriers will benefit from streamlining the processes including removal of economic license requirement for charter flights, thus reducing the cost of doing business.

General aviation operators will benefit from the removal of ‘empty-leg’ restrictions, giving more flexibility when operating international flights to enhance network connectivity. A new certificate will also be introduced to allocate international traffic rights on constrained routes for national carriers to ensure equal opportunities, it added.

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