Dr. Saeed Al-Suraihi
A few years ago obtaining a landline or a mobile phone was an extremely difficult and exasperating ordeal. This difficulty today is only matched by the enigma of booking a seat on a Saudia flight from Jeddah to Riyadh or to any other Saudi city.
The Ministry of PTT, being the sole supplier of landline phones, had no concern with the customers at that time. The Saudi Telecommunications Company, which took over from the ministry, also had no pressure as it was the sole company providing services to citizens and residents who, after submitting their applications for fixed or mobile phones, would pray to Allah to bless them with a speedy service.
This is exactly similar to finding a seat on board a Saudia domestic flight these days. The airline has been incapacitated for many years. It is unable to work with the required efficiency and facilitate the travel of individuals between the various cities of the Kingdom. The other budget airline company is still struggling although it has been established several years ago. It has been unable to control its schedules or upgrade its services.
The predicament of the citizens with telephones only came to an end when the market was opened to other telecom companies. These companies did not only succeed in providing complete services to the customers but also forced the STC to upgrade its services. The company realized that if it was not able to cope with customers’ demands, it would definitely die a certain death. The citizen is no longer a captive in their hands. He now has many options open before him.
Therefore we must realize that the predicament of the traveler with Saudia will never end unless its complete hegemony over our domestic air space is terminated. The breaking of this monopoly cannot be accomplished by airlines that are incapacitated by the lack of equal facilities and concessions as Saudia, including the subsidized fuel.
The opening of the domestic air travel market to foreign companies will not only end the problems of travelers with their national carrier but may also compel Saudia to promote its performance and services. It would then wake up from its long-held illusion that it is the legitimate national carrier and travelers have to accept it as it is.