In a surprise move, Saudi Arabia’s National Air Services (NAS), well known for its executive and VIP operations, yesterday unveiled plans for establishing a low-cost carrier. The airline should commence flights by next summer, Mohammed Al Zeer, president and CEO of NAS, announced during a press conference here at the Dubai airshow. The new domestic service is still to be named.
“Our five-year business plan calls for a four-aircraft fleet at the beginning, gradually increasing to 16. We will start with an Airbus A320 family aircraft,” Al Zeer said. According to the company, the acquisition will be financed by an international lending institution and likely backed by export credit agencies.
The service is to begin as a purely domestic operation. “Saudi Arabia is the largest domestic market in the region, passenger traffic stands at 15 million in the country’s 26 airports,” Al Zeer explained. The country has roughly 25 million inhabitants and covers a surface comparable to that of western Europe. Destinations served will include major cities Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam as well as links between the East and South borders.
“We plan to fully implement the low-cost concept with a few modifications on the passenger service side to adapt it to the Saudi market,” Al Zeer said. That includes maximum aircraft use, point-to-point service, on-line payments and so forth. Fares will be all the lower because reservations are made early, he said, pointing out that, until now, only fixed fares have been available for domestic flights in Saudi Arabia. NAS is taking advantage of the deregulation under way in Saudi Arabia.