Saudi Airlines Catering domestic in-flight service soars, but international growth remains anchored
DJEDDAH: Saudi Airlines Catering is experiencing remarkable national revival following the effects of COVID-19, but the same cannot be said of the company’s international operations, according to company president Mohammed Al-Sarhan.
Speaking to Arab News on the sidelines of the SACC 40th anniversary celebration, held at the Saudia Club in Jeddah on Sunday, Al-Sarhan said aviation is the sector which has been hit hardest by the pandemic.
“All domestic and international flights have been cut off and all companies that relied on aviation for their main income have been hit hard,” he said.
“As for us, about 70% of our income came from the aviation sector. In fact, all of the company’s profits depended on aviation, ”Al-Sarhan said, adding that when air traffic was suspended the damage was immense and greatly affected the company’s cash flow.
Al-Sarhan said his company responded to the unpleasant situation by taking a number of measures to stay put.
“One of those measures was to cut costs in several areas. We have also benefited from government programs like SANED, which was started for Saudi workers by the Ministry of Labor. In addition, we reduced the number of foreign workers, however, the damage was still enormous. Therefore, we have launched a strategy focused on income diversification by providing food to other sectors, such as healthcare, sports, entertainment, education, military sector and paramilitary sectors, such as prisons, ”he said.
Al-Sarhan added that all of these sectors hold great promise and his company has the full capacity and infrastructure to serve them.
The president said that many workers lost their jobs after the company was restructured again and were subsequently re-qualified for new positions. But the company was unable to requalify some 440 other employees, he added, and so a gold check settlement was reached with them and their service ended.
He noted that some of those dismissed employees were Saudis, but the majority were expatriates.
Al-Sarhan told Arab News that the restaurant industry in Saudi Arabia has yet to fully recover from the shocks of the pandemic. However, he said, the sector is experiencing a significant recovery, especially for domestic flights.
“In terms of domestic flights, the sector has recovered by 90%, but in terms of international flights, we are still experiencing a recovery rate of less than 40%. With the omicron COVID-19 variant, only Allah knows what will happen. Some countries have suspended flights, so we can’t say what the future effect would look like, ”he said.
Al-Sarhan added that what was once a strategic option has now become a matter of life and the company is advancing on a solid foundation that enables it to enhance its strategic growth as the demand for air traffic and tourism in the Kingdom is coming back.
“In the meantime, we continue to invest in digital transformation and automation to build a more resilient and efficient business for the future. We will continue to work together to diversify our business and accelerate the recovery to create added value for our customers and the national economy of the Kingdom and contribute to the achievement of Saudi Vision 2030. ”said Al-Sarhan.
SACC CEO Wajdy Al-Ghabban said the catering company looks to the future with hope and determination to provide the best services.
“Through our new corporate strategy, we will focus on achieving a better balance between in-flight catering and other commercial activities by improving catering services, expanding the catering business and facility management, transforming retail operations and exploring new opportunities for organic products. and inorganic growth that will further increase the reach and strength of our business, ”Al-Ghabban said.