Etihad Adds Flights to Holy City of Medina

United Arab Emirates (UAE) national carrier, Etihad Airways, will launch non-stop flights to Medina, the regional capital of the western Saudi Arabian province of Al Madinah and the second holiest city in Islam after the Holy city of Mekkah.  The new daily link will be flown with an Airbus A320 fitted with 16 Pearl Business Class and 120 Economy Class seats, offering a total 1,904 seats per week.

With the addition of the new scheduled service, which will start on February 1, 2014, Etihad will now offer 50 weekly flights to four destinations in Saudi Arabia which, along with Medina, include Dammam, Riyadh and Jeddah. 

The new services are set to meet growing demand from religious Hajj and Umrah travellers wishing to visit this Holy city which is the home of Prophet Mohammed’s Mosque and burial site.  They will also allow maximum connectivity over Abu Dhabi for flights between Saudi Arabia and the Indian Subcontinent, Asia, GCC and Europe, as well as serving strong point-to-point traffic.

“Saudi Arabia has always been a key market for Etihad Airways and Medina is therefore an important strategic destination for the airline,” said James Hogan, president and chief executive officer, Etihad Airways.  “Our new flights will cater to the Saudi Arabian population living in the UAE, as well as to the growing numbers of business and religious travellers looking to fly to the city.”

The new service to Medina will be Etihad Airways’ ninth destination in the Arabian Peninsula, joining Dammam, Jeddah, Riyadh, Kuwait, Bahrain, Doha, Muscat, and Sana’a.  “The demand for the Umrah flights has always been very strong and with plans for the expansion of the Prophet Mohammed Mosque underway, we expect this demand to continue to grow in the future,” added Hogan.

Up until the mid-2000s international operations at Medina were almost exclusively controlled by Saudi national carrier, Saudia, but since then a number of foreign rivals have introduced new connections from abroad.  These have included Etihad’s big Gulf hub rivals Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways, while Air Arabia also links the UAE to the holy city with low-cost services from Sharjah.

According to MIDT data, an estimated 148,000 bi-directional O&D passengers flew between UAE and Medina in 2012, with approximately 94,000 thought to have connected on Emirates Airline’s flights to other destinations from its Dubai International Airport hub.  Likewise, around 46.7 per cent of the total traffic on Qatar Airways’ flights between Medina and its Doha hub was estimated to be transfer passengers.  In the table below we highlight the ten largest O&D markets from Medina in 2012, based on bi-directional O&D passenger demand.

SCHEDULED INTERNATIONAL PASSENGER DEMAND FROM MEDINA (bi-directional O&D passengers; 2012)

Rank

Destination

Estimated Passengers

% Total Traffic

1

Cairo (CAI)

283,692

16.2 %

2

Istanbul (IST)

229,611

13.1 %

3

Dubai (DXB)

91,580

5.2 %

4

Karachi (KHI)

82,803

4.7 %

5

Amman (AMM)

69,404

4.0 %

6

Jakarta (CGK)

62,084

3.5 %

7

Sharjah (SHJ)

43,313

2.5 %

8

Tehran (THR)

43,072

2.5 %

9

Kuala Lumpur (KUL)

41,212

2.4 %

10

Dhaka (DAC)

39,009

2.2 %

TOTAL

1,750,365