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Saudia reports 14% hike in passenger traffic

Global traffic up 11%, domestic market represents 65% of operations.
NEWS, Aviation

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Saudi Arabian Airlines saw a 14 percent rise in passenger traffic in the first half of 2011, with the domestic market accounting for 65 percent of total flights, the airline said Sunday.

The Jeddah-based airline carried 9,915,578 passengers on 73,544 flights between January and June 2011, compared to 8,712,668 passengers on 68,753 flights during the same period in 2010.

This equated to a 14 percent rise in passengers in the first six months of 2011 and a seven percent rise in the number of scheduled flights.

Khaled Al-Mulhem, director general of the airline, said domestic flights within the kingdom accounted for 65 percent of operations, with the daily service between Jeddah and Riyadh accounting for the bulk of the traffic.

“To avoid overcrowding between Jeddah and Riyadh, we scheduled a flight every hour on this sector — with a total of 18 flights daily in each direction. Traffic movement between Jeddah and Riyadh accounts for 25 percent of all Saudia flights during the summer of 2011,” Al-Mulhem was quoted as saying by Arab News.

International traffic increased by eleven percent in the first half of 2011, with 3,466,045 passengers travelling on 20,993 flights in and out of the kingdom. Asian locations proved to be the most popular destinations for Saudia’s overseas customers.

Earlier this year, Al-Mulhem called for more carriers to enter the kingdom's aviation market to bring great competition and improve efficiency.

Saudi Airlines and low-cost carrier National Air Services currently serve a domestic market of around 27 million people.

With a price cap on domestic flights, private airlines in Saudi Arabia have struggled with their profit margins, leading a third carrier Sama Airlines to suspend its operations last year.

Al-Mulhem said earlier this year the airline had incurred heavy losses as a result of low-ticket fares for domestic flights, which he claimed had not increased for 16 years.

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