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Saudi low-cost airline budgets for expansion

Flyadeal Saudi airline Flyadeal
Flyadeal flies to destinations in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa, and plans to launch in South Asia
  • Flyadeal adds more international flights
  • Expects domestic growth as country develops tourism
  • Kingdom launched Riyadh Air and Neom Airlines this year

Saudi Arabia’s Flyadeal is set to add four new aircraft to its fleet this year as it realises its international ambitions.

The budget carrier, owned by Saudia, the kingdom’s flagship operator, was launched in 2017 to serve the domestic market and is now the second largest operator in the country behind Saudia.

Flyadeal launched international operations at the tail-end of the coronavirus pandemic and currently flies to destinations in the Middle East, Europe and North Africa. It has plans to launch in South Asia later this year.

CEO Con Korfiatis said Flyadeal will add five new aircraft this year and is expected to take its fleet size of A320 aircraft up to 32 by the end of the year, serving 36 cities in total.

Korfiatis told AGBI: “Internationally we’re barely scratching the surface. This year we’ll be doubling down more on that space as we go forward into next year and beyond.”

In 2019 Flyadeal carried around 4 million passengers, which increased to 6 million last year and is expected to hit the 9 million mark by the end of this year, serving 18 cities in total.

Saudi Arabia has set itself ambitious tourism targets to increase the tourism sector’s contribution to 10 percent of GDP by 2030 and to attract 100 million visitors to the kingdom.

In March the country announced the creation of two new airlines: Riyadh Air, which is wholly owned by the kingdom’s Public Investment Fund, and Neom Airlines, a dedicated fleet to serve the $500 billion Neom city in the north west of the kingdom.

As competition increases in the kingdom and across the Middle East, Korfiatis insisted that there is still growth potential in the low-cost market.

He said: “We haven’t got the millions of customers we have through stealing from other airlines. We’ve actually come in and grown the market.

“The product is nowhere near mature in the kingdom and obviously we want to take it to the next level.”