Cebu Pacific May Partner with Saudi Budget Carrier FlyNas

As Cebu Pacific aims to strengthen its position in the Middle East, the carrier may look to expansion through partnership opportunities. Most recently, Cebu Pacific enjoyed a successful partnership with low-cost carrier Air Arabia, when it temporarily flew to Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. But now it seems a Saudi budget carrier may be interested in becoming Cebu Pacific's second partner in the Middle East.

Image Source: The Borneo Post
Saudi low-cost carrier flynas has been focusing this year on building its core domestic market. It is Saudi Arabia's first and only budget airline. The budget carrier is the third largest low-cost carrier in the Middle East region with a fleet of twenty-four Airbus A320 aircraft. Like most carriers, flynas is eagerly searching for new partnerships that can help grow its business.

According to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, flynas is currently evaluating the possibility of a partnership with Cebu Pacific. With the Philippine budget carrier operating flights three times weekly to King Khalid International Airport in Riyadh, a flynas hub, there is a synergy between the two carriers that could be mutually beneficial as both carriers seek to capture connecting traffic.

A partnership between flynas and Cebu Pacific could be as successful as the partnership between Cebu Pacific and Air Arabia. Both carriers worked on a co-operative basis last year to market Cebu Pacific flights from Manila to Sharjah with connections beyond Sharjah aboard Air Arabia flights.

Although Cebu Pacific currently has a minor presence in the Middle East market, the budget carrier could stretch its footprint with minimal risk and drive traffic to its Manila flights with partners such as Air Arabia and flynas, which have a dominant presence in the region.

The partnership with both carriers is complementary in that there is no risk at this point of either Middle Eastern budget carrier launching their own direct flights to Manila as neither flynas or Air Arabia operate wide-body aircraft capable of flying the distance to the Philippines. Flynas did have previous intentions to serve Manila when it had long-haul ambitions. But it has since withdrawn all long-haul flying to concentrate on its domestic network.

A prospective partnership with a budget carrier in the Middle East will help overseas Filipinos, who live in cities throughout the Middle East with relatively small Filipino populations that aren't big enough to support non-stop service to Manila. If a partnership is realized, these Filipino workers will have the option of connecting through Riyadh or Sharjah depending on whether Cebu Pacific partners with one or both of the budget carriers.

According to Cebu Pacific, destinations in Saudi Arabia were some of the most popular connecting markets when Cebu Pacific was partnered with Air Arabia, while operating out of Sharjah Airport. Partnering with a Saudi carrier like flynas could lead to even more opportunities as flynas offers more frequencies and destinations in Saudi Arabia.

Meanwhile, Cebu Pacific is hoping to rekindle its partnership with Air Arabia if it can obtain additional traffic rights to the United Arab Emirates. Air Arabia currently operates nearly 1,000 weekly flights to about 60 destinations, representing 83 percent of all flights from Sharjah Airport.

During its recent partnership with Cebu Pacific, Air Arabia promoted connecting flights to the cities of Riyadh, Gassim, Hail, and Dammam. The promotional fares included checked luggage and a meal.

According to Alex Reyes, General Manager of Cebu Pacific's Long-Haul division, the budget carrier was pleasantly surprised by the transit traffic generated during its temporary operation at Sharjah. Reyes confirmed that the budget carrier wants to serve Sharjah on a permanent basis to leverage the connection opportunities with Air Arabia.


  1. Operating an airline business in sparsely-populated places is definitely courting economic disaster! Alex Reyes should know this by this time!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


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