Wizz Air is to launch 20 new routes to Saudi Arabia from 11 European cities as part of plans to ramp up its operations in the kingdom.
The network expansion comes less than four months after the ULCC signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the Saudi investment ministry to explore airline market development opportunities in the country.
In June, the airline confirmed that its first routes to Saudi Arabia would start in September, connecting Dammam (DMM) with Rome Fiumicino (FCO) and Vienna (VIE). A Dammam-Abu Dhabi (AUH) route will also start in November.
The latest network expansion will see Wizz open new routes to Saudi from Bucharest (OTP), Budapest (BUD), Catania (CTA), Larnaca (LCA), Milan Malpensa (MXP), Naples (NAP), Rome Fiumicino (FCO), Sofia (SOF), Tirana (TIA), Venice (VCE) and Vienna.
“Saudi Arabia is one of the most exciting countries in the world for aviation portraying an eclectic mix of travel opportunities with unmissable destinations, countless exciting attractions, and a thriving cultural scene,” Wizz CEO Jozsef Varadi said.
“I see the kingdom as a long-term strategic market for Wizz Air where we will continue to innovate and carry the flag of low-cost flying for the benefit of Saudi residents and visitors as well as the country’s diversifying economy.”
Saudi Arabia sees the growth of its aviation industry as an essential component of the Saudi Vision 2030, a strategic framework to reduce the country’s dependence on oil and diversify its economy.
Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman believes the kingdom has the potential to become global aviation hub with investments of $100 billion by the year 2030. A new mega airport in Riyadh has been proposed, in addition to eight other airports distributed across the country.
The Saudi Air Connectivity Program was also launched earlier this year to support the establishment of new international routes and increase the number of direct international destinations to 250 by 2030.
“We are pleased to have been able to work with Wizz Air to grow its network to Saudi Arabia; the announced routes are a testament to the strong traffic potential that the kingdom has to offer,” said Khalil Lamrabet, CEO of the Air Connectivity Program.
Of the 20 new routes being launched, analysis of OAG Schedules Analyser data shows that seven are currently served nonstop. During the week commencing Aug. 25, Saudia operates to Milan Malpensa, Rome Fiumicino and Vienna from both Jeddah and Riyadh, while Flynas serves Riyadh-Vienna.
Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, said: "Today's announcement of 20 new routes to Saudi is one of the largest such announcements anywhere in the world. It is a real first for Wizz Air and for Saudi and opens a new and affordable gateway for visitors from Europe that will allow everyone to come and explore the world's most exciting new destination.”