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When SaudiGulf Airlines applied for an operating licence in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in 2012, owners Al Qahtani Group believed that a winning bid would grant them access to a heavily under-served duopolistic market.
By the end of the year, it was clear that SaudiGulf would not be the only company emerging from the tender process with flying rights. Al Maha Airways, a subsidiary of Qatar Airways, was also approved to launch operations. And while its plans ultimately came to naught, two other market entrants were waiting in the wings: Nesma Airlines, a regional carrier formerly based in Egypt; and Flyadeal, a low-cost subsidiary of flag-carrier Saudia.
Together with privately-owned Flynas, five separate carriers now ply routes across the kingdom. Though fantastic for passengers, this explosion of competition has left SaudiGulf re-evaluating a business model that presupposed rapid growth and untapped demand...