A senior official of Saudi Arabian Airlines has said that the national carrier has laid off more than 5,000 staff as part of its ongoing privatisation programme.
Abdullah Al Ajhar, assistant director general of public relations at the airline, noted the employees were eased off through a golden handshake programme. "We take such steps only after protecting full rights of the staffers," he said.
Speaking to reporters here on Wednesday, Al Ajhar also denied reports that the airline had refused to employ Saudi pilots who had completed courses at their own expense. "They are not pilots but only trainees.
"They may have submitted their applications just like others. We employed some of them, and turned down some applicants who received their flying certificates from unrecognised aviation institutes," he said.
The official was referring to the demand made by a group of Saudi pilots who have launched an online campaign to highlight career problems.
They said that the national carrier refused to employ them and was putting conditions on them that were impossible to meet.
In a press briefing, the unemployed pilots said that they had incurred huge financial liabilities due to going abroad to complete their pilot's course.
Al Ajhar also highlighted the programmes being pursued by the national airline in giving training to Saudi pilots which will enable them to fly a new generation of aircrafts over the coming years.
He said the appointment of pilots was done according to rules, which do not differentiate between foreigners and Saudis.
Al Ajhar had earlier noted that the number of Saudi pilots working in the airlines have exceeded 90 per cent.
"This percentage is the highest level of national pilots working for any airline in the region," he said.
Al Ajhar also turned down the idea of comparing Saudia with any other airlines in the region such as Emirates.
"Comparing the national carrier with any other Gulf airlines is unjust. When we do such comparisons, we must have also taken into consideration of several other factors, such as the size of the kingdom, its airports and the like," he said.
A Saudia official apologised for serving donkey meat to passengers on board its international flights.
While blaming the foreign catering officials for the aberration, he said the airline does not have full control over the catering unit after its privatisation.
The apology during a programme called Ya Hala on the Rotana channel, according to a report on the Sabq website.
In a reply to clarifications sought by the channel presenter Ali Al Olyani, Abdullah Al Ba'ba', senior inspector at the catering unit of Saudia, apologised for having served contaminated meat, including meat of donkey, to passengers.
Giving more clarifications, the presenter said: Saudi Food & Drug Authority had warned the carrier against importing meat products and eggs from Tunisia three years ago.
From / Gulf News