Flydubai Expands Saudi Arabia Network As Part of Tourism Push

After receiving international flights for the first time in November, the ancient city of Al Ula in Saudi Arabia has secured another new overseas connection.

Credit: Getty Images/Frizi

Flydubai is the latest airline to add flights to Al Ula, a city in northwestern Saudi Arabia that is seeking to transform itself into an international tourist destination.

The carrier will become the first airline from the UAE to serve the ancient city, offering two flights per week between Dubai International (DXB) and Al Ula’s Prince Abdul Majeed bin Abdulaziz Airport (ULH). The route will run from March 2.

Located on the "Incense Road"—the route for trading spices and luxury goods between South Asia and the Mediterranean—the walled city of Al Ula is often regarded as an unseen wonder of the world. Hegra, Saudi Arabia’s first UNESCO World Heritage site, opened to global travelers for the first time in 2020 and visitors can now explore and view the remains of the archaeological site.

“This route will be popular for our passengers from the UAE, as well as for travelers from the GCC, Russia and Central Asia,” flydubai SVP of commercial operations Sudhir Sreedharan said.

“Al Ula offers passengers great options for seeking immersive cultural and historical experiences as well as outdoor adventure activities, especially in the cooler winter season.”

Flydubai’s planned entry to the market comes less than three months after the Saudi airport received its first-ever direct international flight, operated by Flynas. The Saudi LCC launched operations from Dubai on Nov. 22, 2021, and currently offers two round trips per week.

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Since then, Flynas has provided a limited scheduled service from Kuwait (KWI), while national carrier Saudia has added a one-way direct route from Paris Charles de Gaulle (CDG). The latter will operate once a week through March 20, becoming Al Ula’s first direct connection from Europe.

The growing international interest in Al Ula follows the launch of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030, a strategic framework to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and diversify its economy. The nation hopes to attract 100 million annual visitors by 2030.

As part of the plan, Al Ula will undergo a $15 billion transformation with the aim of turning it into “the world’s largest living museum.” The first phase has included expanding the city’s airport so it is able to handle 400,000 passengers per year, up from 100,000 previously.

As well as launching flights to Al Ula, flydubai plans to resume operations to Yanbu International Airport (YNB) on Feb. 24. The route from Dubai will run three times per week. Flydubai also serves the Saudi cities of Dammam, Jeddah, Madinah and Riyadh.