Saudi Arabian low-cost carrier, flynas, has inaugurated its new long-haul network as it adds a new dimension to its flight offering. The carrier, which describes itself as Low-Cost Carrier Plus, offering customers added value, has wet-leased Airbus A330-200s from ACMI provider HiFly and launched flights to Kuala Lumpur on April 6, 2014, while also introducing the type on its scheduled charter link to Jakarta, Indonesia.
It will add flights to Karachi and London Gatwick from April 8, 2014 with links to Casablanca, Lahore and Manchester following from May 2, 2014: Paris, France will be added to the network soon after.
The airline’s director of commercial strategy, Clayton Ulisses Begido, highlighted some of the aspirations of the carrier during the ‘Low-Cost Carriers – The next frontier for innovation’ panel discussion at this year’s Strategy Summit at Routes Europe in Marseille, France. According to Begido, the expansion into the long-haul market has resulted in it developing a hybrid business strategy.
“The expansion of our network to include destinations that are seen as high-growth markets is a key element of our strategy to lead the airline into a new chapter of aggressive development. The destinations chosen as part of our global flight routes programme underscore our commitment to make flynas a leading airline in the high value, low-cost segment of the market,” he told The HUB Daily.
Ahead of the launch of the long-haul network, The HUB spoke to Raja Azmi, chief executive officer, flynas, to learn more about this ambitious growth strategy and the selection of its initial markets. “Malaysia is popular as an inbound and outbound destination for Saudi Arabia and the broader Middle East region and Indonesia also is considered as the most populous Muslim country in the world and is therefore a key growth market for all inbound tourism into Saudi Arabia,” he said.
“Moreover, the Indonesian government recently has been actively targeting the Saudi leisure market with attractive travel packages and promotions held in the Kingdom, we expect to capture the air passenger segment from both countries that appreciates a high value offering through the introduction of our Low-Cost Carrier Plus (LCC+) concept,” he added.
Our own analysis shows that over one million people performed Hajj & Umrah pilgrimage last year from Indonesia and Malaysia the largest markets of inbound tourism to Saudi Arabia. Malaysia also continues to be an extremely popular tourism destination for Saudis with more than 73,000 nationals visiting the country between January and September 2013 according to figures quoted by Tourism Malaysia.
It’s no real surprise to learn that the UK market has been selected for the European debut of flynas. According to the national tourism agency VisitBritain, by 2020 Saudi Arabia is predicted to have the highest projected value percentage growth of 181 per cent amongst the twenty major and emerging markets in its tourism strategy. The country also features among the top five highest spending markets for Britain, with an average spend per visit of £2,354 compared to an all-visitor average of £600 per visit.
flynas’ flights are also expected to serve the high volume of business travel between the two nations as well as offer affordable fares to the UK’s significant Muslim population, for whom Saudi Arabia continues to be a key destination for religious tourism. “We are lucky as we have the World Cup and Olympics in Saudi Arabia every year with our religious traffic levels,” said Azmi.
In addition, Saudi students heading to the UK for higher education are expected to be well served by this route, especially the Manchester link. Manchester University – with its diverse and inclusive student culture - continues to be a popular choice for Saudi students studying Petroleum, Mechanical, Aerospace, Civil and Electrical Engineering and Medicine.
“The expansion of our network to include destinations that are seen as high-growth markets is a key element of our strategy to lead the airline into a new chapter of aggressive development,” said Azmi.
The long-haul network is to be served using A330 equipment, selected due to its commonality with the A320s currently utilised on the flynas regional network. The airline is receiving two aircraft this month and one more in May, but could grow to 12 units by 2017 when other markets like Africa and North America, will likely be served.
“We see opportunities across a number of markets, perhaps India will be the first but more will follow in Europe, while China is also an option,” said Azmi. The aircraft will be configured with 12 Business Class, 40 Economy Plus and 279 Economy seats.