• Saudi Arabia licenses pilgrimage airline


    Sept 5, 2009
    Saudi-based pilgrimage airline Alwafeer Air has obtained an operating licence and is expected to start flying during the haj season in November, an official said on Sunday.
    The Jeddah-based airline is the kingdom's fourth after state-owned Saudi Arabian Airlines [SAUD.UL] and low budget carriers Nas Air and Sama.
    "Today they received their Air Operation Certificate (AOC) but they will not start yet," said Abdulhalim Felemban, supervisor of economic planning at the General Authority of Civil Aviation.
    "It will take time but it will definitely operate in haj," he told Reuters.
    The charter airline will focus on flying pilgrims to Saudi Arabia, home to Islam's holiest sites in Mecca and Madina, starting with three Boeing 747 aircraft, and may expand its fleet to eight planes within three years.
    More than two million pilgrims from around the world flock to Mecca to perform the annual haj. Umra, the minor pilgrimage, can be done throughout the year.
    Alwafeer aims to attract "the largest share of the haj and umra transportation", the carrier said on its website without giving details. Company officials were not immediately available for comment.

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