Stock flynas
The company’s all-Airbus fleet has expanded 96% in about two years, growing from 26 aircraft in the first quarter of 2021 to a current fleet size of 51. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Saudi Arabia’s low-cost carrier flynas is on the cusp of a major expansion as it prepares to introduce new routes, establish a new airport base, and seize a larger share of the region’s growing demand for budget air travel.

And airline CEO and Managing Director Bander Almohanna is determined to grow at a rapid pace, despite the stiff competition flynas could potentially face from two soon-to-launch Saudi carriers – Riyadh Air and Neom Airlines.

“Our ambition is to be the leading airline in short- and medium-haul flights in the MENA region,” said Almohanna. In response to the expected competition from other Saudi airlines, he said: “We are aware of the entry of two new airlines into the market, Riyadh Air and Neom Airlines. We also believe that our LCC strategy can be an effective tool for enhancing Saudi Arabia’s competitiveness in the global aviation market,” he said.

“We welcome the competition and believe it will drive us to continue to improve and innovate. We have set a course that goes in parallel with the announced official plans, whether in the civil aviation strategy (linking the Kingdom with 250 destinations and reaching 300 million passengers) or in the tourism sector (reaching 100 million tourists),” he said.

Bander Almohanna, CEO and Managing Director of flynas
flynas CEO and Managing Director Bander Almohanna Image Credit: Supplied

Fast-expanding fleet

Almohanna said the company’s all-Airbus fleet has expanded 96 per cent in about two years, growing from 26 aircraft in the first quarter of 2021 to a current fleet size of 51.

Following the Paris Air Show in June, flynas firmed up an order with Airbus for 30 new A320neo family aircraft valued at SAR 14 billion at the current list price, taking the airline’s total order with Airbus to 120 A320neo aircraft, in alignment with the Board of Directors’ approval to increase aircraft orders to 250. “Our strategic expansion plan aims to make flynas the largest LCC airline in the MENA region by 2030,” said Almohanna.

The airline also has no concerns when it comes to aircraft deliveries. “We have a long-standing and strong partnership with Airbus, and we are confident in their ability to deliver on our firm fleet orders.”

Almohanna said the airline is working with Airbus to mitigate any potential impacts. “We also expect to receive 19 A320neo aircraft from Airbus in 2023, which is a testament to their commitment to delivering on our orders.”

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A brand new base

After its recent growth into the Balkans, Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and parts of Western Europe, flynas is also planning to open a brand new base in Saudi Arabia later this year, confirmed Almohanna. “We have bases in Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam, with part of our network strategy to link as many of our destinations to each. Our strategic plan also includes launching a new hub in KSA in the foreseeable future,” he added. Almohanna said flynas also set its sights on growing its international footprint by establishing operational units in two additional countries.

He revealed that the airline plans to pursue Air Operator Certificates (AOCs or a certificate authorising an operator to carry out specified commercial air transport operations) in two undisclosed countries, effectively doubling the scale of their operations. The specific details regarding the locations remain confidential for now, he said.

UAE, GCC expansion plans

Almohanna said: “We are connecting Dubai to three cities in KSA (Riyadh, Jeddah, and Dammam) with 164 weekly flights, the highest operator frequency between UAE and Saudi Arabia. We will continue to develop new routes to meet the increasing demands from both markets.”

New routes

The airline connects more than 70 domestic and international destinations, with more than 1,500 weekly flights. “By 2030, we plan to more than double the number to at least 165 domestic and international destinations,” said Almohanna. “We are constantly evaluating new routes and destinations that will enhance our connectivity and meet the evolving needs of our customers,” he added.

In the coming weeks, flynas will launch several new destinations from Jeddah to central Asia, including Almaty, Bishkek, Osh, and Tashkent. “We are also excited to announce that we will be launching a new destination to Casablanca in Africa, with more destinations to be announced in the last quarter of 2023,” he added.

This summer, the airline launched 10 new destinations and routes and became the first Saudi air carrier to launch direct flights from Riyadh and Jeddah to Sphinx International Airport in Cairo. The airline is now eyeing new routes in the Balkans, more comprehensive Central and Eastern Europe, Central Asia, and Western Europe. “These have been essential for growth in recent times,” said Almohanna.

“Building on the success of our recently launched route linking Tashkent with Jeddah, we will be increasing the number of direct flights between the two cities to three per week, starting August 20,” he added. The airline will also start direct flights from Osh, followed by Bishkek, bringing the total weekly flights between the two countries to six.

5 million passengers

According to its half-yearly report, the airline’s revenues soared by 46 per cent in the first half of 2023 compared to last year. This growth was fuelled by a 26 per cent increase in passenger numbers, reaching approximately five million passengers. The airline has flown more than 60 million passengers since its launch in 2007.

“Hajj and Umrah is a strategic sector for us,” said Almohanna. Before this year’s Hajj season in early May, flynas took delivery of its fourth wide-body Airbus A330 aircraft. “This boosted operational capacity and increased the number of passengers on new medium-to-long-haul destinations,” said the CEO. “We have transported more than two million Hajj pilgrims and Umrah performers since inception. This year alone, flynas transported more than 101,000 pilgrims from 13 countries during the Hajj season,” he added.