The future of aviation after Covid: Saudi Arabia wants to take off

After two difficult years, the global aviation industry gathered at the first Aviation Future Forum in Riyadh to discuss post-pandemic issues and shape the future of aviation.

The two-day event was inaugurated by the Saudi Minister of Transport, Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser, which attracted more than 120 speakers and more than 2,000 participants from the aviation industry.

“This forum will provide an opportunity for industry leaders and all stakeholders to discuss common issues around the upcoming or current challenges we are collectively facing to bring the industry back to normal. Long-term issues such as sustainability, innovation and new technological developments will also be addressed,” Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser said.

Despite the relaxation of travel restrictions, airlines are still struggling to gain a foothold in passenger numbers. A recent survey by YouGov shows that two-thirds of people are not planning to travel in 2022.

The same survey found that 46 percent of Gulf residents, 32 percent of Americans, 40 percent of Italians and 40 percent of Britons believe confusing health regulations will prevent them from traveling in 2022.

The Civil Aviation Authority of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia announced at the forum its vision to facilitate travel for passengers, airlines and governments.

The “Air Travel Policy Coordination” was developed in cooperation with the International Civil Aviation Organization of the United Nations (UN). It aims to provide clear information online explaining entry requirements for participating countries.

“I think the recent Covid-19 pandemic has shown us that the world is really torn. Families have been separated, people have stopped traveling, airports and borders have been closed. We need to coordinate air transport requirements. We need to clarify how we are doing that,” said Mohammed Al-Khuraisi, deputy Head of Strategy and Business Intelligence at the General Civil Aviation Authority (GACA) told Euronews, “Such a crisis will deal with such a crisis if it occurs in the future.”

In addition to the challenging period following the pandemic, another major topic at the forum was sustainability as airlines come under increasing pressure to reduce carbon emissions and protect the environment.

Henrik Hololi, Director General of Mobility and Transport at the European Commission, told Euronews:

“Sustainable aviation fuel is definitely the future. It’s part of the solution and a big part of the solution. But what kind of sustainable aviation fuel is it? Again, the decision hasn’t been made yet. If aviation becomes more sustainable, it just doesn’t have a license to grow in the future. And I think Everyone in the aviation sector is starting to realize that and do more.”

Saudi Arabia has big ambitions

The World Travel and Tourism Council expects the Middle East’s travel and tourism business to reach €233 billion this year.

As part of Saudi Arabia’s efforts to improve its position in the global tourism market, the National Aviation Sector Strategy of the General Civil Aviation Authority (GACA) aims to increase the Kingdom’s connections to 250 destinations and reach 330 million passengers.

“The strategy has very ambitious goals to boost tourism and support national strategies for transport and logistics. It aims to triple the number of passengers by 2030,” Mohammed al-Khuraisi explained.

“To achieve this, we need to increase capacity by expanding our existing national airlines, inviting more foreign airlines to travel to the Kingdom, and establishing a new airline,” he added.

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