Saudi Arabian Airlines (SAA) has cancelled its contract with a Portuguese firm after the latter flew an empty Airbus A330-322 CS-TMT plane bearing the Saudi logo to Ben-Gurion international Airport in Israel for maintenance.
The landing touched off a sensation on social media and may have been the first time a Saudi aircraft landing in Israel has been seen by the public. Saudi Arabia immediately denied the report and stated, “It’s untrue that a Saudi Airlines plane landed at Ben Gurion international airport.”
SAA issued a statement stressing that the plane in question did not belong to its fleet, but is owned by the Portuguese Hi Fly company, which was contracted by SAA to provide aircraft and crews for commercial operations if and when needed. The statement was released after Israeli media reported that a Saudi passenger plane had landed at Ben-Gurion on Tuesday night for technical maintenance.
A photo of the plane carrying the SAA logo at the Israeli airport created a major stir on social media. The Saudi airline said that the plane was out of service when Hi Fly took it for repair in Brussels before the photo in question emerged.
It added that it had decided to cancel the contract with the company after the latter violated the terms of the contract, which stated that SAA must approve in advance the airports where the planes carrying its logo are to land. Saudi Arabia does not recognise Israel and has no diplomatic relations with the self-proclaimed Jewish state.
Hi Fly is a wet-lease specialist A “wet lease” is when an airline—the lessor—leases an aircraft and its crew to another airline—the lessee. The lessor takes care of maintenance and insurance costs, while the lessee pays for fuel and airport taxes. The two crew members on Airbus A330-322 that landed at Ben Gurion Airport would therefore have been Portuguese, if a Portuguese company in fact owned the aircraft.