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Saudi reports 20% rise in aviation-related firms

Aircraft, Airplane, Transportation Neom
1,443 businesses now operate across the Saudi aviation sector, which has recently seen two new airlines launched: Neom Airlines and Riyadh Air
  • Kingdom aims to treble air passenger numbers to 330m by 2030
  • Air cargo volumes grew by 7% last year
  • Riyadh airport logistics zone is targeting global giants

Saudi Arabia reported a 20 percent increase in the number of companies involved in its aviation industry last year.

Figures in the Air Transport Statistics Publication (ATSP) from the kingdom’s General Authority for Statistics show that there were 1,443 businesses operating across the sector.

These included companies covering air transport of goods and passengers, cargo handling and other transport support activities and services.

“This growth has implications not only for Saudi Arabia but also for the wider GCC region, as it can contribute to the increased regional competition, strengthen cooperation, economic integration and knowledge sharing,” said Linus Benjamin Bauer, founder and managing director of Dubai-based Bauer Aviation Advisory.

One of the aims of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 is to transform the kingdom’s aviation and logistics sector, increasing annual cargo capacity from around 1 million tonnes to 4.5 million tonnes by the end of this decade.

Riyadh has also set itself a target of boosting the city’s transport and logistics sector’s contribution to national GDP from the current 6 percent to 10 percent. This would help to boost the sector’s non-oil revenues to about SAR 45 billion ($12 billion) a year by 2030.

Total international and domestic air freight traffic in 2022 increased by 7 percent over 2021.

International air freight reached around 559,000 tonnes, up 12 percent from the previous year. Domestic freight hit 58,000 tonnes, a 26 percent drop year-on-year, according to the ATSP report.

Last year Saudi’s General Authority for Civil Aviation (Gaca) launched the Special Integrated Logistics Zone, a 3 million sq m area within King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh.

It was announced that tech giant Apple would be one of the global anchor investors in the zone, while it was reported that brands such as Amazon, Alibaba and DHL were among the types of companies it was looking to attract.

“The zone is not targeting smaller businesses. This is targeting the 100 leading companies within global supply chains,” Gaca’s vice president of strategy and business intelligence Mohammed Alkhuraisi told AGBI in November.

Jeddah’s King Abdulaziz Airport was the busiest last year, with 32 million passengers

The ATSP also showed that the number of passengers through Saudi airports in 2022 reached almost 88 million, an increase of 82 percent over 2021.

Saudi Airlines recorded the highest market share in terms of the number of flights with about 283,000 flights, followed by foreign airlines (173,000) and then flynas (104,000) and flyadel (77,000). 

The number of countries connected to the kingdom’s airports in 2022 reached 56, an increase of 10 from 2021.

By 2030 Saudi Arabia plans to increase the number of international aviation routes to over 250 and more than triple total annual passenger traffic from 109 million in 2019 to 330 million by 2030.

John Grant, partner at UK consultancy Midas Aviation, said: “Their growth targets mean that they will be looking to develop connecting traffic that previously flowed through Dubai and Doha, something hugely disruptive to the wider market.

“Although it won’t really impact the big airlines, the smaller regional state-owned airlines may find life pretty tough.”

In March Saudi Arabia announced the launch of two new airlines. Riyadh Air is expected to create more than 200,000 direct and indirect jobs and add $20 billion to the kingdom’s non-oil economy. Neom Airlines, meanwhile, will solely serve the $500 billion Neom city in the northwest of the kingdom.