Saudi Low Cost Carrier Ranks Philippines High on Future Destination List

Newly re-branded Saudi Arabian low-cost carrier flynas has embarked on an ambitious plan to fly 20 million passengers by 2020 and the Philippines ranks high on its future destination list.

flynas manila
Image Source: flynas
The airline was recently re-branded from Nas Air when former AirAsia X executive Raja Azmi took the helm of the budget carrier. It is the third largest low cost carrier in the Middle East presently operating a fleet of twenty-three A320 aircraft. In addition, the airline recently leased new A330 aircraft to begin flying to long-haul destinations. By May 2014, flynas plans to serve eight new destinations in five countries. 

The plan for long-haul low cost carrier service is reminiscent of the approach taken by Cebu Pacific that targets a large outbound market while catering to religious traffic. As Cebu Pacific has learned, the challenges are great with dramatic seasonal fluctuations and flows in very specific directions. But while Cebu Pacific learns the ropes of operating in the region, flynas is adopting a hybrid model incorporating Business Class onto its aircraft. In addition, all fares come with checked baggage. Economy Class passengers will receive one 30kg piece of checked luggage but must pay additional fees for meals and seat selection. 

Flynas will commence intercontinental flights in April to the following destinations:
  • Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur in Southeast Asia
  • London Gatwick and Manchester in the United Kingdom
  • Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore in Pakistan
  • Casablanca in Morocco
All of the flights will be operated from the flynas base in Jeddah. However, domestic connections will be offered to major Saudi cities such as Dammam and Riyadh. That should be somewhat welcome news to Philippine Airlines that just relaunched service to Saudi Arabia last December. PAL currently flies four times weekly to Riyadh and three times weekly to Dammam. When PAL announced that it would return to Saudi Arabia, it had originally planned to serve Jeddah as well but the route was never launched. That may have been a blessing in disguise as Philippine Airlines would not want to face yet another direct competitor much less a low cost carrier in an already highly competitive market. 

If flynas does launch service to the Philippines, it is likely that it will be from its base in Jeddah that PAL does not currently serve. In an interview with Bloomberg, Raja Azmi, flynas CEO indicated that the Philippines ranks high on the airline's list of roll-out destinations. However, Paris is likely to be the airline's eighth long-haul route followed by a ninth destination in India or Pakistan. Meanwhile, future expansion could also reach destinations in China, India, Nigeria, and South Africa.

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