Saudi will require 8,800 pilots by 2024 – official

Saudi Arabia’s aviation market is seeing strong growth



Saudi Arabia will require 8,800 pilots and 11,700 aviation technicians by 2024 to meet growing demand in the industry, a senior official has said.

The remarks were mde by Bander Khaldi, managing director of the kingdom’s National Aviation Academy at the Middle East and North Africa Business Aviation Association (MEBAA) conference in Jeddah.

He attributed the need for thousands of pilots to attrition replacement and fleet growth.

During his presentation, Khaldi described the development plans for the academy, with a focus on how it will aim to meet the country’s needs.

Also read: Saudi aviation regulator issues licences to five female pilots

Saudi Arabia’s aviation market is seeing strong growth on the back of the kingdom’s ambitious Vision 2030 programme, which aims to diversify the economy.

The country’s airports recorded 8 per cent passenger growth in 2017, to reach 91.8 million, with numbers anticipated to hit 100 million in 2018, according to the General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA).

Five airlines now serve the domestic market, compared to only two airlines two years ago.

“Intensifying competition has led to lower fares, simulating demand and leading to faster growth, although overcapacity is a potential concern,” the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) said in a recent report.

National carrier Saudia, the biggest in the market, has been focusing on expanding in the overseas market, and has seen international passenger growth of 14 per cent in 2017 and 12 per cent in the first half of 2018.

Saudia is planning to further expand operations as it grows its fleet and moves into a new terminal at Jeddah.

The airline plans to grow its fleet to 200 aircraft by the end of 2020, up from around 150 aircraft at present.

“It’s an exciting time for Saudi Arabia as a country”, Saudia director general Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser told CAPA on the sidelines of the June IATA AGM in Sydney.

“The whole country is transforming and exploring opportunities for growth and getting to its potential. Saudi Arabian Airlines is going through a major transformation programme where we are building on the strength of our market. There are very clear growth objectives for the years to come supported with strong fleet expansion programme.”

Meanwhile the Saudi government has also approved an expansion plan for the country’s airports, which will see old airports renovated and new ones constructed.

There are 26 airports in Saudi Arabia with commercial services, with Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam and Madinah handling more than five million passengers each in 2017.

The planned expansion includes the redevelopment of the airports in Abha, Al Ahsa, Al Qassim, Arar, Hail and Jizan, as well as new terminals at the King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. There are also plans to develop new airports in Al-Qunfudah, Farasan Island and Taif, Riyadh North and Riyadh South.