Qatar Airways and Emirates boost connectivity into Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia’s continued economic diversification, growth of the private sector and increasing popularity as a destination for the Middle East MICE industry is directly translating into increased demand for business travel within the region and Emirates Airline and Qatar Airways aim to be well-positioned to boost their positions in this market.

Qatar Airways will this month significantly boost its activities into Saudi Arabia as it attempts to position itself as the prominent provider of air services into the Kingdom. The airline will boost its weekly offering by 42.9 per cent as it introduces an additional 39 weekly flights to a network that encompasses eight destinations across the country.

Saudi Arabia’s continued economic diversification, growth of the private sector and increasing popularity as a destination for the Middle East MICE industry is directly translating into increased demand for business travel within the region and Qatar Airways aims to be well-positioned to boost its position in this market.

“The commercial growth and investment seen there over the past few years will undoubtedly precede an increase in demand for travel to and from these cities. It is always our prerogative at Qatar Airways to be ahead of the curve and to go beyond the expected,” said His Excellency Akbar Al Baker, Chief Executive Officer, Qatar Airways Group.

Qatar Airways has been continuously expanding its services to Saudi Arabia since it began serving the Kingdom in 1997 with non-stop flights to Jeddah. Since then the airline has added Riyadh, Dammam, Madinah and Gassim, Ta’if and Al Hofuf to its portfolio of destinations, introducing flights to Abha, the capital of Asir, a south-western province in the Kingdom, in September this year.

It currently operates around 90 flights per week into the country, but will grow this to 130 weekly services from this month as it introduces a further 39 weekly frequencies to its network from December 11, 2015 through to March 2, 2016.

This will include the introduction of a third daily flight on its routes from Hamad International Airport in Doha to both King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh from December 16, 2015 and December 18, 2015, respectively.

These additional rotations will be flown using a 40-seat Premium Airbus A319LR offering only First Class availability having successfully trailed the use of the aircraft on flights between Doha and Jeddah for a four week period between June 18, 2015 and July 16, 2015 to coincide with Ramadan. This said, the airline, highlights clearly the evolution of the country into a commercial hub.

Qatar Airways currently operates two A319-100LRs which were incorporated into its fleet in February 2003 and December 2004 and which are originally configured in a conventional two-class, 110-seat arrangement with eight Business Class and 102 Economy seats. They are now fitted with an all Business Class, single aisle, 2–2 seating configuration offering this premium First Class experience and have been used on flights to London, UK and to Yangoon, Myanmar.

Our analysis shows the growth of Qatar Airways’ activities in the Saudi Arabian market over the past ten years. The airline boosted annual capacity from Doha to the Kingdom by 436.4 per cent between 2005 and 2014, an average annual rise of 48.5 per cent.

Gulf hub rival Emirates Airline is also boosting its services to Saudi Arabia with the addition of a third daily flight to Riyadh and an additional four weekly rotations to Jeddah from December 15, 2015. This will increase its activities into the country to 70 weekly flights across a network that also encompasses Dammam and Medinah.

In 2014, Saudi Arabian visitors to Dubai topped more than 1.5 million, according to a Deloitte Quarterly Middle East Hotel Market Insight Report and the metropolis continues to be an attractive destination for Saudi visitors, offering them both luxury and value with an extensive array of leisure and family activities.

This third weekly Dubai – Riyadh flight will be serviced by Airbus A330-200 equipment in a combination of a three class and two-class configuration. So far this year, over 450,000 passengers have travelled on the route, according to the carrier.

“There are clear traffic flows between Riyadh and Dubai therefore boosting our services and increasing our capacity with a third flight makes business sense,” said Sheikh Majid Al Mualla, Divisional Senior Vice President Commercial Operations, Centre.

“Emirates’ expanded schedule to Riyadh will offer more seamless connections for our customers but most importantly will broaden travel options for business travellers and families alike who are looking to visit Dubai,” he added.

The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is the UAE’s largest trading partner in the region, with non-oil trade reaching an estimated AED 256 billion in the first quarter of 2014, according to Saudi Arabian Federal Customs Authority data and as a business hub, Dubai has become a springboard to emerging eastbound markets and Africa and is an ideal destination for doing business.