Flight of travellers to Bahrain 'threatens Saudi air revenue'

The King Fahd Causeway allows Saudis access to flights departing from Bahrain.

Residents of Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province continue to use the King Fahd Causeway to access flights departing from Bahrain, according to a press report.

Although the Presidency of Civil Aviation seeks to put an end to the practice, international law makes it impossible for it to do so, the report said.

"In January 2002, the kingdom's civil aviation authority asked airlines to desist from issuing boarding passes and checking in luggage at offices and hotels in the Eastern Province for passengers departing through international airports neighbouring the Eastern Province,'' it said. ''Such practices are inconsistent with the Kingdom's rules and regulations and could result in security problems,'' it said. ''It was also pointed out that these arrangements contributed to diverting business from King Fahd International Airport (KFIA).''

''While all airlines in the Eastern Province have complied with the request this has not stopped their Bahraini-bound operations. Now, tickets are issued showing the first leg of the journey as road transport being provided through the Saudi-Bahraini Transport Company (Sabtco),'' the report said. ''All foreign airlines have set up transport to Bahrain on a contract basis through Sabtco, which is licensed to carry all properly documented individuals on the King Fahd Causeway. All other passenger formalities are carried out at the Bahrain International Airport.''

The dearth of flights, poor connections and poor services at KFIA has contributed to the problem, it said.

''Additionally, Bahrain has won another operator with Thai International about to start flights. Even airlines that want to operate from KFIA are being refused.

''Industry sources say that Emirates Airlines wanted to increase flights to KFIA, but it was turned down on the grounds that the civil aviation authority was only interested in increased flights from non-Gulf carriers. It is feared that Gulf-carriers would just use flights from KFIA to feed their primary GCC hubs, siphoning off international passengers from Saudi Arabian Airlines.

''In order to improve the flight situation at KFIA, industry sources suggest that the authority follow the example of Bahrain and Sharjah. Fees for airlines starting operations to Dammam should be suspended or reduced.

''One airline executive said that a taxi to KFIA from Alkhobar costs the same amount as sharing a car to Bahrain, from where flying out costs less,'' the report added.