Established in 2016 as a sister company to Saudi Airlines, flyadeal is the kingdom’s second venture into budget airlines, having already established flynas in 2007. Since its inaugural flight between Riyadh and Jeddah in 2017, the airline has grown to serve 13 destinations throughout KSA (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia) along with Dubai, using a fleet of 15 Airbus 320s. Having just received three brand new A320neos, after four years in the sky, flyadeal is being coined the fastest growing Middle Eastern airline.
Targeting young flyers since its inception, the airline announced its release solely on social media, a medium most familiar to the airlines target demographic. Furthermore, it employs a colour scheme of fluorescent green and purple further exemplifying its hope to fit in with a younger crowd. Of course this will be to no avail if the airline doesn’t follow up with its prices, and it certainly does, providing the cheapest flights in the kingdom that will please the undergrads and interns looking to take a trip.
Elaborating on flyadeal’s market strategy airline CEO Con Korfiatis expressed:
“We are designed for today’s price-conscious and tech-savvy customer and, in a market where 80% of the population is less than 40 and has at least two mobile phones. This is a country that is ripe for technological innovation and e-commerce.”
At its beginning flyadeal launched with a humble fleet of A320 aircraft that offered flights solely between its base in King Abdulaziz International Airport in Jeddah and King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh. Today the airline operates over 600 flights a week with its increased fleet of 19 A320 aircrafts. The airline is soon set to expand its international reach and touch down at more international destinations before the end of 2021, although plans have been hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Destinations on the horizon include India and Egypt along with Europe, including London Heathrow.
On the contrary Korfiatis has been heard calling the expansion stall a fortunate mishap, commenting “We thought we would fly internationally earlier than we have, but found that when we were taking deliveries, the market was just yelling for the capacity to be deployed domestically.” Even the Dubai route, which is the airline’s only route outside KSA airspace, was stopped just four days after its launch on July 1st, and did not return before the 16th of September.
For the time being, the CEO has denoted that the expansion will come gradually, adding regional destinations first before stretching their wings to other continents: “We've just a couple of direct flights to Dubai; we're far from having much of an international network yet. The early new routes would be closer to home, perhaps. Over time, we will go further away. We look forward to building that also, and having a pretty extensive international footprint. We're hopeful of having at least one, possibly two, more international destinations before the end of this year.”
Using a 186 seat configuration on their A320 aircrafts, flyadeal has been credited for using the densest seating configuration in the Middle East, and has had no trouble fully booking their planes.
The young budget airline is part of Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 project, as the kingdom plans to transition towards being a tourism-based economy over fossil fuels; the Saudi Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman enthusiastically announced the revamping of the economy to support a prominent tourism sector that welcomes 100 million tourists a year by 2030, six times the figures of 2019, when the Kingdom first opened its doors to foreign visitors. With such numbers KSA hopes to foster a 12 billion dollar tourism sector. A drastic transformation for a country that in the past was sealed off from the rest of the world, saw limited public entertainment, and took its revenue stream from annual pilgrims as an alternative to tourism.
Discussing the airline at an event commemorating the flyadeal’s reception of its third A320neo, Director General of Saudi Arabian Airlines - Ibrahim Alomar said
“flyadeal is a prime example of the Saudi vision 2030. It demonstrates the potential of the Kingdom’s aviation sector. Lower fares from flyadeal will enable more people to travel, encouraging trade and tourism.”
Indeed, flyadeal is a prime example of Saudi Arabia’s new direction; the days are long gone when the kingdom was a sealed religious nation basking in the wealth of its oil. Unleashing its unrealised potential in the years to come, the new Kingdom is set to play a new role in the region.
Employing its regional influence and unlimited financial capacity, KSA is set to repave the tourism industry in the region, bringing new competition to neighbouring Egypt and the UAE, who have both been monopolising the tourism industry in the region for decades. And the Kingdom’s expanded aviation infrastructure that includes new airports, along with flyadeal, will also revolutionise the aviation landscape of the Middle East, putting Saudi Arabia as a the new hub and superpower in the region.
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