30 Oct, 2023

GACA unveils an economic policy transformation to unleash the Kingdom’s aviation sector, in a move to attract investment, boost competitiveness, increase transparency and enable the realization Saudi Aviation Strategy objectives.


Key reforms include the introduction of competition standards at airports, anti-competitive pricing measures, Streamlining the economic license for air transport operations, as well as a relaxation of requirements of airport operators and investors.


Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, 30 October 2023: The Saudi Aviation sector has reached another milestone today as the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) published the most significant transformation of its economic regulations since the launch of Vision 2030.


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 levelling the playing to drive more competition.


GACA President His Excellency Abdulaziz Al-Duailej said the changes align with global best practice, stating:


“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 $100 billion in investment from public and private sector sources by 2030. 


“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 .” Al-Duailej added.


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.


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.


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 streamlined.


Foreign carriers will benefit from streamlining the processes including removal of economic license requirement for charter flights, 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.


To ensure the readiness of the sector for this transformation, the regulations were developed and approved following an extensive consultation process with aviation sector stakeholders, with some provisions being phased over 18 months. The regulations will be supported by an implementation plan communicated by GACA to sector operators.
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