Flyadeal CEO Outlines Saudi Arabia’s Low-Cost Potential

Con Korfiatis believes the market is still “very immature” from a low-cost perspective.

Credit: Amer Hilabi/AFP/Getty Images

Jeddah-based flyadeal is ramping up capacity in response to strong demand as Saudi Arabia continues to embrace the carrier’s low-cost offer.

Speaking at the CAPA Airline Leader Summit held in Manchester earlier this month, CEO Con Korfiatis said the potential of the kingdom’s aviation market is “mind-blowing,” highlighting that demand is recovering quickly following the pandemic. He added that the pace of change is rapid, and the country’s ambitions are “beyond anything that has been done before.”

Flyadeal plans to offer about 155,000 weekly seats by the peak northern summer season. That represents an increase of around 60% on 2019 levels. The LCC's network comprises 16 destinations, including a new link to Egypt’s capital Cairo (CAI) that launched in January.

Korfiatis said that the aviation market in Saudi Arabia and the wider Middle East is still “very immature” from a low-cost perspective. He highlighted that LCCs account for a smaller percentage of the market compared with regions such as Europe and North America.

However, he stressed that the dynamic is changing as passengers embrace the low-cost model.

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During the week commencing July 25, 2022, OAG Schedules Analyser figures show about 1.2 million departure seats will be available from Saudi Arabia—equivalent to 98% of the number offered during the same week three years earlier.

Flyadeal will have a capacity share of 12.3%, up from 7.3% in 2019. Flynas, the kingdom’s other LCC, will have a share of about 15.3%.

Korfiatis said that the type of destinations visited by citizens of Saudi Arabia is now “wildly different” from destinations visited in 2019. He added that COVID-19 travel restrictions played a part in this, explaining that travelers are preferring to fly short-haul in order to stay closer to home.

Flyadeal was launched in September 2017, offering low-cost domestic connections and providing feed for parent Saudia’s international operations. It opened its maiden international route between Riyadh (RUH) and Dubai International (DXB) in July 2021.

The LCC received six new aircraft during 2021, taking its fleet to 11 A320s and seven A320neos. It has received a further two A320neos this year, with 22 more on order.