After years of delays, Qatar’s national carrier has given up on plans to launch Al Maha airline in Saudi Arabia, its chief officer has confirmed.
In an interview with Arabian Aerospace this month, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker said that he was “disappointed that we were not able to launch that airline.”
The comment was the first public confirmation that the project has been dropped.
Five years ago, Qatar Airways and GCC rival Gulf Air were awarded the right to operate new airlines within Saudi Arabia. The goal was to help meet rising domestic demand there.
But while SaudiGulf – Gulf Air’s off-shoot – was granted a license to operate in the kingdom last summer, no license for Al Maha was ever awarded.
Not giving up
However, Al Baker does not seem to have given up entirely on the idea of expanding into Saudi Arabia.
In the interview with Arabian Aerospace, he said that he hoped his airline would have “another opportunity to fulfill our wish to serve the Saudi nation.”
He added that a recent change in leadership within the Saudi transport ministry and the expansion of the country’s airports might pave the way for future opportunities.
“Once all those problems are resolved, we will reinvigorate our interest in operating a domestic Saudi airline,” he said.
Aircraft in use
Although Al Maha Airways never operated a flight, four of Qatar Airways’ A320 aircraft are painted in its livery, in white and green to match Saudi Arabia’s national colors.
Since they were delivered in 2015, Qatar Airways has been using some of them on short-haul regional routes.
And one of these, A7-LAA, was photographed last year leaving Shannon in Ireland after being repainted in Qatar Airways’ colors.