Saudi Arabian national carrier Saudia is to launch non-stop flights to Spain from the start of the 2013/2014 northern winter schedules at the end of October but will cut frequencies on its flights to the capital, Madrid from four to three rotations per week. The airline currently serves Madrid via Milan Malpensa Airport in Italy.
Saudia first launched operations to Spain in 1981 with two daily flights between Madrid and Jeddah. In March 2007, it launched a new route linking Riyadh and Jeddah with the Spanish capital, via Milan on a mixed scheduled and charter basis. It currently operates two weekly flights from Riyadh and two weekly services from Jeddah on this routing.
As it seeks to expand its European activities, Saudia confirms that these two routes will now operate as terminator services, with departures from Milan moving from afternoon to morning hours due to the revised operational routing. A new three times weekly flight between Jeddah and Madrid will be introduced from October 27, 2013, with connection options to and from Riyadh being provided by Saudia’s existing domestic schedule.
According to Abdulrazaq Al-Bahar, Manager - France, Spain and Portugal, Saudia, the new three times weekly link to Madrid will be operated by an Airbus A320 configured with 20 Business Class seats and 96 Guest Class (Economy) seats. According to the executive Saudia transported 5,070 passengers from Madrid to Saudi Arabia in 2012 while total passengers carried until June 25, 2013 reached 4,349, significantly up on last year.
The new service will be the first non-stop flights between Spain and Saudi Arabia since Saudia operated a series of seasonal summer services between Jeddah and Malaga between 2006 and 2009. According to MIDT data, an estimated 63,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew between the two countries in 2012, up 8.3 per cent on the previous year.
Despite the availability of the direct, albeit not non-stop service, Saudia recorded just a 13.3 per cent share of this traffic in 2012, down from 23.9 per cent in 2011 and increased competition in a growing market would have played a role in its revised network plans. According to our analysis Turkish Airlines (THY) is now the leading carrier between the two countries with a 25.9 per cent share of the traffic – EgyptAir (13.2 per cent), Lufthansa (11.1 per cent) and Qatar Airways (10.1 per cent) also carry notable flows of traffic.