Saudia Outlines North American Growth Aspirations

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Richard Maslen

Richard Maslen,
Editor, Routesonline

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Saudia Outlines North American Growth Aspirations

Saudi Arabian national carrier Saudia has revealed it will launch flights to Toronto in Canada and Los Angeles in the US over the coming two years as new aircraft deliveries enable it to expand into additional markets.  The planned network expansion of the SkyTeam alliance member has been approved by HH Prince Fahd bin Abdullah, President of the General Authority of Civil Aviation and Chairman of Saudia’s Board of Directors, and plans will now begin for the launch of services.

“We’ll operate flights to the Canadian city of Toronto in the third quarter of 2013 and Los Angeles in the second quarter of 2014,” added HE Eng. Khaled Al-Molhem, Director General of the carrier.  Saudia already operates flights to two destinations in North America, the US cities of Washington and New York.  The New York market, formerly also served by Pan American World Airways, was linked to both Dhahran and Jeddah in the first half of the 1980s, but Riyadh replaced Dhahran on the transatlantic network from 1986.  Washington flights from Riyadh commenced in June 1999, initially on a short series basis, but where operated on a year-round schedule from March 2007.

Saudia currently offers up to six non-stop flights per week to New York and Washington with direct services from both Jeddah and Riyadh.  According to a company statement the carrier will boost its schedule to North America to 14 weekly flights from April 2013 with a likely daily service to both destinations.

The network growth is possible due to the arrival of more of the 20 Boeing 777-300ERs that Saudia is due to receive.  The airline placed an order for 12 aircraft in April 2010 and subsequently committed to a further eight in November 2011.  It already operates five examples having taken delivery of aircraft in January (two), February, March, June and December 2012 alongside 23 smaller 777-200ER variants which have been in service since 1997.

According to HE Eng. Khaled Al-Molhem, Saudia will receive four aircraft before the end of 2013.  “We’ll use this aircraft for our Los Angeles flights,” he said, outlining that the capacity growth in North America would support Saudi scholarship students in Canada and the US as well as business and leisure demand.

Alongside the expansion in North America, HE Eng. Al-Molhem also disclosed plans for Saudia to operate eleven weekly flights to Paris (seven from Jeddah and four from Riyadh) using B777-200 aircraft, and 14 flights to Geneva (seven each from Jeddah and Riyadh) from the peak of summer.  The executive said huge investment on aircraft and IT infrastructure had yielded fruits in terms of increase in number of passengers and record rise in revenues in 2012. 

According to company literature there was a 36 per cent increase in revenue in 2012, compared with 2010 and a 32 per cent growth in passenger traffic over the two-year period.  “Seat occupancy on flights rose from 70 per cent in 2010 to 77 per cent while on time performance improved from 84 to 89 per cent,” added HE Eng. Al-Molhem.

In the table below we highlight the changes in capacity between Saudi Arabia and the US since 2000.  As can be clearly seen, capacity was in decline during the first half of 2000s but recovered in 2006 and has witnessed year-on-year growth in all but one of the subsequent years.  In the last four years departures and capacity have all grown at double-digit rates and in the past two years departures and capacity reached levels above those achieved before the decline.  In 2012 overall flight departures between Saudi Arabia and the US increased 43.8 per cent while capacity increased 46.0 per cent to more than 165,000 available non-stop seats between the two countries.

SCHEDULED AIR CAPACITY BETWEEN SAUDI ARABIA AND THE US (non-stop departures)

Year

Total Departures

% Change

Available Seat Capacity

% Change

2000

287

-

93,562

-

2001

231

(-19.5) %

75,306

(-19.5) %

2002

116

(-49.8) %

37,816

(-49.8) %

2003

110

(-5.2) %

35,860

(-5.2) %

2004

118

7.3 %

36,776

2.6 %

2005

116

(-1.7) %

26,912

(-26.8) %

2006

128

10.3 %

39,566

47.0 %

2007

169

32.0 %

55,094

39.2 %

2008

169

0.0 %

55,094

0.0 %

2009

288

70.4 %

72,608

31.8 %

2010

342

18.8 %

91,317

25.8 %

2011

418

22.2 %

113,278

24.0 %

2012

601

43.8 %

165,427

46.0 %

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