Saudi Aviation records strongest year in 2023

The General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) and aviation sector leaders gathered yesterday at the quarterly Saudi Aviation Strategy Steering Committee.

Image: Saudia

Several aviation milestones were announced during the event, including 2023 being the highest-ever year in passenger traffic in Saudi Arabia’s history – with 101 million passengers carried through to November 2023, surpassing the 2019 total of 99 million passengers. GACA also announced that Saudi Arabia is now connected to 149 destinations globally, a forty-one percent increase on 2019. These results align with the Kingdom achieving the highest-ranking increase in global connectivity in the International Air Transport Association’s 2023 Air Connectivity Index.

Formally opening the event, the Kingdom’s Minister of Transport and Logistics Services, His Excellency Saleh bin Nasser Al-Jasser said: “Saudi Arabia is leading globally through aviation, achieving the highest increase in connectivity out of any country and outperforming global aviation growth rates. The aviation sector is making a significant contribution to the Kingdom’s National Transport and Logistics Strategy, connecting Saudi Arabia to the world in support of Vision 2030.”

Commenting on the day, GACA President Al Duailej said: “2023 has been a record-breaking year for Saudi aviation – with the Kingdom carrying more passengers and connecting with more destinations than ever before. This transformation is being led through the Saudi Aviation Strategy, targeting 330 million passengers, connectivity with 250 destinations, and a cargo capacity of 4.5 million tons by 2030. The achievements are a testament to the work of the entire aviation sector and to the alignment achieved through the steering committee.” 

Further achievements reviewed in the steering committee meeting included airport, airline, cargo, and logistics sector milestones of 2023. Airport achievements included the launch of Riyadh’s King Salman International Airport Masterplan, the Abha International Airport Masterplan, and the opening of Red Sea International Airport. Airline achievements included the granting of a commercial license to Riyadh Air and more than 150 aircraft ordered by national airlines. Cargo and logistics achievements included further investment secured in the Riyadh Integrated Logistics Zone, following the zone’s opening in 2022.

In October, GACA implemented the largest aviation economic reforms since Vision 2030 and strengthened rights protections in November to support passengers affected by travel disruptions and delays. The Kingdom also hosted the largest-ever International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) civil aviation negotiation conference [ICAN 2023] in December and opened Airports Council International’s Middle East-Asia Pacific Regional Office in Riyadh earlier in the year.