By Arab News
By P.K. Abdul Ghafour
Saudi Arabian Airlines signed yesterday a landmark agreement with SkyTeam, the second largest global alliance, offering its passengers access to 14,700 daily flights operated by the alliance’s member airlines to 958 destinations in 173 countries.
Prince Fahd bin Abdullah, President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation, and chairman of Saudia’s board of directors, unveiled two Saudia aircraft decorated with the SkyTeam livery in the presence of top executives of alliance member airlines.
“We are confident that this meeting would herald a big turning point in the history of SkyTeam,” Prince Fahd said, addressing the ceremony at King Abdulaziz International Airport.
“We all know that SkyTeam has established its strong presence all over the world, from the east to the west and from the north to the south. Until now it was absent in the heart of the world…the connecting point between the east and the west, the meeting point of civilizations and cultures…Saudi Arabia.
“Today, Saudi Arabian Airlines’ joining of the alliance has a strategic dimension. It would enable Saudia to provide unprecedented and unlimited services to its passengers around the world,” he said.
Saudia’s Director General Khaled Al-Molhem, who signed the historic deal with SkyTeam Managing Director Michael Wisbrun, emphasized the importance of Saudi Arabia being one of the largest economies in the world and the largest supplier of energy. “The Kingdom attracts huge domestic and international investment as a result of its ambitious development programs,” he added.
The national flag carrier becomes SkyTeam’s first member airline from the Middle East and gives the alliance a strong foothold in this important economic region.
“Joining SkyTeam is an integral part of Saudia’s long-term transformation strategy, which includes rebranding our airline, restructuring core operations and enhancing onboard products and airport services,” said Al-Molhem.
“Saudia’s membership adds value to the alliance by opening up the considerable Saudi Arabian market to our customers,” said Wisbrun. “We are responding to passenger demand for increased travel choice within the Middle East by adding a significant player from the region.”
From its hubs in Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam, Saudia operates a comprehensive network throughout the Arabian Peninsula, the Indian Subcontinent and Northern Africa. Saudia adds 51 new destinations to SkyTeam’s global network, including 23 within Saudi Arabia.