The Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Qatar Airways (QR, Doha Hamad Int'l), Akbar al Baker, has formally confirmed that the Qatari carrier has dropped plans to launch its Saudi start-up carrier, Al Maha Airways (Riyadh), following protracted delays in its licensing.

“Yes, I’m disappointed that we were not able to launch that airline," he told Arabian Aerospace in an interview. "We hope we will have another opportunity to fulfil our wish to serve the Saudi nation.”

According to al Baker, despite Al Maha's demise, Qatar Airways will still consider entering the Saudi market albeit once capacity improvements at Saudi airports have been put in place to cope with increased traffic flows.

“Once all those problems are resolved, we will reinvigorate our interest in operating a domestic Saudi airline,” he added.

Al Maha was one of two start-up carriers awarded business licences to operate in Saudi Arabia back in 2012 to help increase competition in the kingdom's market. However, while SaudiGulf Airlines (6S, Dammam) went on to secure its AOC from Saudi Arabia’s General Authority for Civil Aviation (GACA) and launch operations in October last year, Al Maha Airways has languished in limbo.

It was to have operated an initial fleet of nine A320-200s on flights between Jeddah and Riyadh initially before branching off into Saudi Arabia's second-tier cities.