Saudia Private Aviation (SPA), the Jeddah-based VIP charter provider, believes that exclusive access to ad hoc ‘sub-charter’ of the Saudi Arabian Airlines fleet puts it ahead of a growing field in the kingdom.
“We believe, given our strength, being part of Saudi Arabian Airlines, that we have at our disposal a full fleet, the Saudia fleet, where we can offer services that means that no one else can compete with us,” CEO Fahad Aljarboa told AIN at the Saudi Airshow at Al Thumamah Airport in March.
“We are maintaining our new strategy of looking for opportunities in the sub-chartering business. We don't believe we have to have a big fleet in order to be competitive. We're looking to add one or two aircraft, of different types. I'm not going to mention what they are, but basically we're trying to adapt to the needs of the market.”
Asked to specify OEMs, he said: “It's Bombardier, Gulfstream, Cessna, and others. In the end, we're looking for something that's easy to operate and well-liked by our clients. My team has been looking at multiple options. We don't have an OEM in mind.”
As a result, in recent months, SPA has been selling a number of the 10 original aircraft in its own-brand fleet, which included four Dassault Falcons—three 7Xs and a 900, and six Hawker 400XPs. It is understood to have sold at least three Falcons in the past seven months.
“As far as continuing to dispose of our fleet, the Hawker is not really a very suitable aircraft to operate commercially,” he said. “Maybe it's a good aircraft for private use, but to operate this type of aircraft on a commercial basis is a big challenge.
“The Falcon is a fantastic aircraft, but most suitable for long-haul flights, and so for the type of business that we have, we're looking for a new fleet, along with sub-chartering with Saudi Arabian. So we will continue to compete in the market and to reposition SPA as a premier provider of private charters.”
He said there was more demand for narrow-body charter flights in the kingdom and that 70 percent of SPA flights were domestic. “We are well positioned compared to our competitors. The fact that we operate four FBOs, [at Jeddah, which SPA claims is the biggest in Saudi Arabia, Riyahd, Dammam, and Medina], and have a presence in [luxury real estate megaproject] Neom, helped us.”
He said construction of a new FBO at Neom depends on demand. “Business is picking up slowly. It depends on the management of the Neom project. We are in the business. Wherever the opportunities exist, we'll go after them.”
However, asked about the addition of four new FBOs to an existing six at Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam, at the behest of PrivatAir Saudi Arabia, he cautioned that too many FBOs might be counterproductive.
“You have to look at the total movements in the kingdom, which are very low,” he said. “Maybe there are 16,000 movements, which is normally handled by one FBO in Europe. In Jeddah, the figure today barely touches 10,000. So having too many FBOs will just make it difficult to survive.”
Still, he said market conditions are improving. “Saudi Arabia is a big economy, driven by government spending. We see recovery across all sectors of the economy. So definitely, the transportation industry in general and aviation specifically, will benefit. More activity in the economy means more people traveling, business, leisure, the family, and relatives. So that's all good for the industry.”
Aljarboa also doffed his cap to the organizers of the Saudi Airshow. “For a first edition, the new Saudi Airshow [was] fantastic. I think Al Thumamah is an ideal location, away from the noise of a place like Riyadh Airport. I think this is an ideal location.”